|The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released their FY2017 Small Business Procurement Scorecard this week, which shows that the federal government failed to meet the 5% goal of prime federal contracts awarded to woman-owned small businesses (WOSBs). Only 4.71% of prime contracts – down from 4.79% in FY2016 – went to women-owned small businesses, though the amount of contracting dollars slightly increased from $19.7 billion to $20.8 billion.
The Small Business Procurement Scorecard is released annually by SBA as a tool to measure how well federal agencies reach their small business and socio-economic prime contracting and subcontracting goals as well as report agency-specific progress. The only year the federal government met the 5% goal of prime contracts awarded to WOSBs was in FY2015.
On a positive note, SBA highlighted that the federal government overall met its 23% small business federal contracting goal for the fifth consecutive year, awarding 23.88% in federal contract dollars to small businesses totaling $105.7 billion. Additionally, the 5% goal on subcontracting to woman-owned small businesses was exceeded, with 6.2% of subcontracts going to WOSBs, up from 5.7% in FY2016.
“Grow – Don’t Grow”
We’ve all experienced a difficult friend or boss who tells you “do this” and then when you do it, they say “no I didn’t mean it that way.” Then you spend the next hour trying to undo the thing they told you to do in the first place. Frustrating, right?
That is largely what the federal government has been telling small businesses who enter public sector contracting. The message to small businesses is “grow.” The SBA and its stakeholders pour significant resources into helping small businesses succeed. Those range from SBA District offices in every state, lending and counseling programs and support for programs like ChallengeHER that WIPP sponsors.
Organizations like WIPP encourage their members to think about federal contracting as a complement to commercial business. We have spent an inordinate amount of resources promoting policies such as the women-owned small business contracting program, subcontracting and acquisition strategies designed to provide more opportunities for the government to buy from women-owned firms.
But then, the government says “wait don’t grow” by implementing a pretty rigid system of determining when a company is too big to be small. SBA determines this by a system called size standards. The government determines the average size of business revenue in industry categories and sets a size that a business cannot exceed in order to take advantage of small business contracting programs. The SBA then takes the average of the last three years of your revenue, deciding whether you are small or have exceeded the size standard, bumping you into being a midsize company. Ouch.
This is exactly the position WIPP Chair, Lisa Firestone finds herself in. She testified at a House Small Business Committee hearing on the challenges larger small businesses face when approaching the top of their size standard. Lisa testified on behalf of WIPP, telling her story of watching her company, Managed Care Advisors go from a small boutique healthcare consulting company to the leading provider of Federal Workers’ Compensation Case Management Services. She grew a four-person company to facing a daunting dilemma of growing beyond the $15 million size standard for her industry.
Witnesses at the hearing, “No Man’s Land: Middle-Market Challenges for Small Business Graduates,” discussed the issue of options available to small businesses who reach the top of their size standard. Should they stay small, sell their business or venture into a midsize company that has to compete for government business with the 110 very large companies? According to Bloomberg Government’s recent report, Mid-Tier Market Report: 2018, only 325 companies have made the decision to be a midsize vendor to the federal government. This is in contrast to the 118,000 small businesses who sell to the federal government.
How can this trend be reversed? The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, a WIPP partner in the initiative, “Pathway to Growth” proposes the following recommendations:
- Agency: Bring Multiple Award Contracts (MAC) requirements in line with the capabilities of midsize firms. It is essential to sustain midsize businesses participation on these MACs to diversify the types of businesses engaging in the federal market.
- Regulatory: Require a five-year look-back for the purpose of Small Business Administration (SBA) size determination. Due to the long contract award process and significant size of task orders, small businesses can quickly outgrow their size standard without having the time and resources to invest in firm infrastructure. This change would allow businesses a smoother transition by changing the receipt calculation by using the lowest three of these preceding five years of receipts, to determine the average.
- Legislative: Deduct research and development (R&D) expenses and expenditures from total revenue for size determination. This recommendation supports the government’s initiative to stimulate innovation and allows companies to pursue and develop new products and processes, without undue penalty.
The execution of these proposals would set the record straight: small business owners should grow their business – and those that do should not be penalized for that growth but supported by our federal government. It’s time to end the mixed signals.
The first quarter of 2016 was big for us. The Federal Government met its goal of awarding 5% of all contracts – $17.8 billion – to women-owned firms. This was only possible because of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) procurement program which allows contracting officers to set aside contracts for women only to bid on.
In February, the FAR Council added sole source authority to the program. Now, contracting officers can use the program to award sole source contracts to women-owned businesses that are uniquely qualified to perform the work the government needs. All of the other small business procurement programs have sole source authority, so it was important to bring parity to the WOSB program.
In March, the WOSB program was expanded to include 113 industry codes. The same law that added sole source authority also called for SBA to update a study on participation in federal contracting by women-owned businesses. The last study was done in 2007. The new study found more industries where women are underrepresented and now those industries are part of the WOSB program – an expansion that will provide additional procurement opportunities.
While we have been making gains on that front, there is much more to do to open doors to federal agency contracts for women-owned companies. Never content to rest on our laurels, the WIPP policy team in Washington, DC is ready to tackle two new procurement issues.
First, we must increase access for women-owned firms to multiple-award contracts. The government increasingly buys its products/services through these ongoing contracts, like Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts, and other large contracts. Often, these contracts select vendors through an initial competitive process and then issue task orders to that group of vendors only. Some multiple-award contracts have a “track” for large businesses and a “track” for small businesses. Others, though, have different tracks within the small business track. For example, they may have a HUBZone track, an 8(a) track and a veteran’s track. In those instances, WOSBs should also have their own track. We will be asking for parity in these cases.
Second, there should be parity in sole source contract ceilings. Sole source contracts are capped – they are not unlimited. Every five years, the FAR Council adjusts the cap for inflation. In October, all the other small business programs’ caps were increased. The HUBZone program, for example, now has sole source awards capped at $4 million for most products/services and $7 million for manufacturing. Women did not get an increase — our manufacturing cap is a half a million less at $6.5 million. Again, the theme is parity. We will be pressing the FAR Council to adjust the WOSB sole source to match the increases of other programs.
WIPP’s advocacy is always in motion and in the federal contracting space, there is always much more to be done. So, join us in the effort. When talking to federal agencies or elected officials, echo our two asks. Everyone’s voice is important.
The SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition is open for applications and ready to award successful incubators and growth accelerators with cash prizes. This competition, which awards the most innovative and promising small business accelerators and incubators, was announced by the Small Business Administration this morning. These prizes will give the winning organizations additional capital and ultimately assist promising start-ups and entrepreneurs.
May 2016 WIPP Works In Washington
Small Things Come In Big Packages
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations Team
In an epic week fueled by bipartisanship, the Senate Small Business Committee and the House Armed Services Committee put small business issues front and center in a way that was nothing short of amazing. This just goes to show that the “do-nothing Congress” does in fact do plenty when it comes to small business.
Let’s first talk about the Senate Small Business Committee. Members of the Committee introduced and are expected to pass three bills important to WIPP. One bill would extend the Small Business and Innovative Research program (SBIR) and a related program the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) and included a mandate to do better outreach to women and minorities (thanks to Michigan’s Senator Gary Peters). The government funds innovative products and services through federal grants to bring the products to commercialization. Don’t know about it—look into it at: SBIR.gov. By the way, this is part of WIPP’s access to capital platform – so another accomplishment for our advocacy.
Are you a contractor? Then you might be interested in the introduction of The Small Business Transforming America’s Regions Act of 2016. If you aren’t aware of the HUBZone program, you should look into it. The government gives a bid preference to companies who invest in low-income areas. It could supplement the WOSB program you already belong to. At least check it out at SBA’s HUBZone Page.
Need capital? The Committee is expected to modernize the Microloan Program administered by the SBA. The program lends $50,000 and below to companies who need capital. In case you didn’t know it, there is a whole nationwide network of lenders who stand ready to lend, backed by the government’s guarantee against failure.
Now onto the House Armed Services Committee. This Committee and its counterpart, the Senate Armed Services Committee, prepare a bill each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that funds all military operations. It is a must-pass bill because the military requires certainty in funding. In order for the US to keep its competitiveness, it must have a strong and diverse industrial base. That’s where small businesses come in.
To that end, a whole section of the bill is devoted to small business contracting changes and strengthening resources for women entrepreneurs including women’s business centers. The bill:
- Requires an annual report on the share of contract dollars awarded to small businesses without any exclusions
- Establishes a pilot program that enables contractors to receive a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and/or prime contractor
- Requires the SBA to develop a list of no-cost programs that assist small businesses in compliance with Federal regulations.
- Strengthens agency small business offices to recommend which small business set-aside programs should be used for each contract at their agency.
- Requires commercial market representatives (CMRs) to assist prime contractors in identifying small business subcontractors and assess the prime’s compliance with their subcontracting plans
- Adds HUBZone and SDVOSB to small business office oversight (previously not listed in statute but already happening in practice)
In case you do not remember, the Women’s Business Center reforms would raise the funding authorization level by 50% from $14.5M to $21.75M and increase grants to individual centers as well as streamline the program. Better program, better training for women.
How did all of this happen? Champions. The leadership of the House Small Business Committee, which passed the provisions now part of the NDAA, worked together hand-in-glove to assist our businesses. Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) set the gold standard of getting things done without a partisan fuss. Similarly, the Senate Small Business Committee, under the guidance of Chair David Vitter (R-LA) and Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) worked together to introduce reforms good for small businesses.
The real story behind all of this activity is the power of small businesses uniting to ask for changes in contracting and better resources to succeed. Organizations, such as WIPP are the champions, walking the halls of Congress to press for better programs and fairness in contracting.
While I would agree that Congress is more partisan than ever before, there are bright spots. This past week was certainly one—all made possible by elected officials crossing party lines for the good of women-owned companies. If you ever wondered what your WIPP membership is paying for or if you need a reason to join WIPP, look no further. The advocacy WIPP provides on your behalf is the best return on investment you may ever find. It requires almost none of your time, requires a minimal monetary investment (dues) and you get a whole team dedicated to advancing your agenda to the Congress on a daily basis.
I call that value.
By: Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations
Tax Day is upon us and woman business owners have been working overtime. Not on growing their firms, planning investments or making important hiring decisions, but on tax compliance. At least, that’s according the House Small Business Committee, which took a look at the burdensome tax.
Forgetting tax liability – the amount a business owes – the Committee focused on how difficult it is for small businesses to satisfactorily comply with dense tax rules. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses spend 5.5 billion hours preparing and filing taxes – time that should be spent growing the business. The costs and complexity of calculating tax provisions makes it difficult for smaller businesses to take advantage of incentives designed to reward investment. As a result, larger businesses that can incur the costs of calculation reap the rewards.
As we’ve heard from WIPP members across the country, tax certainty is a top priority. Clarity on what provisions and incentives will be enacted would provide businesses with the ability to plan ahead, rather than adjust to a changing environment. For the last few years, Congress has passed legislation solely for “tax extenders” – deductions and credits that were set to expire at the end of the previous year, but were extended to cover the current tax year. While many of these credits could provide some relief for small businesses, firms spent the entire year without knowing if these provisions would be available. Hardly an efficient way to have to run your business.
A simpler tax code would reduce compliance time and allow owners to focus on their business – not the latest tax rules. Also, small businesses should be able to take advantage of the same incentives that larger businesses can. WIPP will continue to focus our advocacy on the two guiding principles of simplicity and fairness for women-owned businesses.
Could comprehensive reform – not seen since the 1980’s – be on the horizon? House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced last week that his Committee is planning to release a tax-reform “blueprint” this summer. Additionally, Members of the House and Senate have stirred over international tax reform in the wake of recent corporate mergers. While the conversations are ongoing, comprehensive tax reform in an election year, with an ardently divided Congress seems, at least in our view, unlikely.
If you are women-owned small business in the federal contracting arena, please take a look at the following critical updates to the WOSB Procurement Program.
- All WOSBs will need to create a new login for the new system. The new website is actually an entirely new system and as such all WOSBs will need to create a new account and login (but not reload all documents – see next). The SBA is also asking that after creating a new account, all WOSB/EDWOSB companies submit new Form 2413 (WOSB certification) and/or Form 2414 (EDWOSB certification) electronically. Businesses should do this as soon as possible.
- The repository is being migrated, but is currently closed. This is important for two reasons: 1) your documents previously submitted should move to your new account and not require resubmission (except as mentioned above a new electronic Form 2413/2414); and 2) Contracting officers will not be able to view your repository documents for WOSB awards. Instructions for you to provide to a CO about how they can confirm your eligibility is available at the end of this document. This only impacts WOSB/EDWOSBs about to win EDWOSB or WOSB set-aside or sole source awards.
- The new site supports self-certification. Self-certification for WOSB/EDWOSBs remains an option until SBA finalizes new certification requirements. The website supports companies electing this option by allowing for the electronic submission of required documents. Third-party certifications can be uploaded as well.
SBA ONE, located at certify.sba.gov, will eventually house all program certifications, but is beginning with the WOSB program. Additional programs will be incorporated onto the site on the following projected timeline: 8(a) Business Development Program (Fall 2016), HUBZone Program (Spring 2017) and Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) (Spring 2017).
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Information to Share with Contracting Officers
(Direct from SBA)
If you are working with a contract officer on a pending award requiring them to review your status, the following is information provided directly from SBA which you may share with contract officers.
Due to the system upgrade, access to the WOSB Federal Contract Program Repository will be temporarily unavailable for contracting officers (CO), starting on Wednesday, March 23 at 1:00 EDT. This may be down for several weeks. During this time, in order to comply with the WOSB Program requirements at 13 CFR 127.301 and FAR 19.1505(e) (specifying that a CO shall verify that an apparent successful offeror has provided all the required documents set forth in 127.300(e) to the WOSB Repository), SBA will review the Repository on behalf of a CO.
A CO may request that SBA review the Repository on their behalf by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) with the following in the subject line:
“PENDING AWARD UNDER FAR 19.505(e) VERIFICATION REQUEST- SOLICITATION NUMBER [insert solicitation number].”
In the body of the email, the CO should provide the following: provide the apparent successful offeror’s DUNS, EIN, FIRM NAME, OWNER NAME; indicate whether the pending award is a WOSB or EDWOSB set-aside or sole source award; specify the NAICS code assigned to the procurement; and identify the State where the CO is located. Within 2 business days, SBA will perform the necessary check to determine whether the apparently successful offeror has filed all the required eligibility documents and provide the CO with an email response which either: (a) notifies the CO that all required documents have been provided or (b) identifies which documents are missing in order to allow the CO to file a status protest in accordance with SBA regulations and the FAR.
Emails for this information will be processed only for Contracting Officers.
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- Upcoming Webinar: WIPP is working to arrange for a special webinar with experts from the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting to further review the new site and re-registration process. More details will follow.
Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is thrilled to celebrate the U.S. Government’s achievement of awarding five percent of its annual federal contracts to women-owned small businesses for the first time since the goal was set more than twenty years ago. The five percent goal was put in place as part of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and led to the creation of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program in the Equity in Contracting for Women Act of 2000.
WIPP, and our partner American Express OPEN are longtime champions of women entrepreneurs in the federal contracting space, creating the Give Me 5 program in 2008 to give women-owned small businesses access to knowledge and resources to help win federal contracts. At the time, just 3.4% of federal contracts were awarded to women-owned small businesses—roughly $13 billion of the approximately $400 billion awarded annually.
In April 2013, WIPP, American Express OPEN and the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched ChallengeHER, a national initiative to boost government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. ChallengeHER delivers free workshops, mentoring and direct access to government buyers. Now entering its fourth year, ChallengeHER has educated more than 5,400 women entrepreneurs at 39 workshops across the country and facilitated more than 1,900 meetings between women small business owners and government officials.
The contracting landscape for women-owned businesses has improved significantly as a result of strong public and private support and bipartisan efforts. In early 2013, due to the efforts of WIPP and their coalition partners, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which removed caps on eligible federal contract awards under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program. Before the law was put into place, awards to women-owned small business were capped at $4 million and $6.5 million under the program. WIPP had further success in improving the WOSB Federal Contract Program in 2014 with the passage of a new law that provided federal agencies with statutory authority to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses. The WOSB program was the only major small business contracting program without this authority at the time – putting women entrepreneurs at a distinct disadvantage.
A hearty congratulations and thanks to the folks at SBA, American Express OPEN, the WIPP team, and all of the organizations and women business owners that have helped improve and increase access to the federal marketplace for women-owned small businesses. Job well done!
WIPP submitted comments today to the SBA Office of Policy, Planning and Liaison on the SBA Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding certification in the WOSB Program that was issued on December 18, 2015. The WOSB Program is extremely important in assisting women entrepreneurs entering the federal contracting marketplace. WIPP highlighted the following principles to guide the SBA in their implementation of the changes to the certification process.
Please see a brief outline of the principles below:
- Third-Party Certification
-Keep the Integrity of the Program Intact – we are focused on making sure that the changes to the certification process do not result in the disruption of the program.
- State and Federal Agency Certification
-Expand Acceptable Certifications in a Uniform Manner – if certification is being accepted from multiple sources then we urge the SBA to have requirements set up so that there is as little duplicative paperwork as possible.
- SBA WOSB Certification Program
-Without Adequate Resources, SBA Certification Will Fail WOSBs
– Strengthen Compliance/Enforce Procedures
To see the submitted comments in their entirety, click here.
Last week the Small Business Administration published the first report in a series of trends in entrepreneurship by the Office of Advocacy’s Office of Economic Research, “The Missing Millennial Entrepreneurs” by Daniel Wilmoth, PhD. The report’s focus was on how Millennials reported less self-employment than prior generations. This 6-page report analyzes important trends amongst Millennial entrepreneurs, comparing them to Generation X and Baby Boomers – ultimately suggesting that entrepreneurship among Millennials will continue to be relatively low for decades.
Some other important key points highlighted in the report include:
- In 2014, less than 2 percent of Millennials reported self- employment, compared with 7.6 percent for Generation X and 8.3 percent for Baby Boomers.
- At age 30, less than 4 percent of Millennials reported self-employment in their primary job in the previous year, compared with 5.4 percent for Generation X and 6.7 percent for Baby Boomers.
To view the full report, click here.