But Wait – There’s More

 

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By Ann Sullivan, WIPP’s Chief Advocate

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.

Access to Angel Investors Just Got Easier

By: Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

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Seeking to clear up a gray area triggering securities registration, the House of Representatives passed The Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act pushed by Small Business Committee Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH).

Pitch events or demo days are common methods for business owners to showcase their companies and products to a room full of investors. Right now, there is confusion about whether these events are allowed because the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules prohibit “general solicitations.” The HALOS Act would clarify that pitch events hosted by angel investors are not general solicitations and do not require securities registration – a complex and expensive process for both angel investors and companies seeking investment.

Angel investment is particularly important for women-owned businesses. Recent data indicates that one in four angel-backed companies are led by women. The number of women-led companies receiving angel investments has increased by 234% in just the last decade. Since women-owned businesses receive only 4% of conventional small business loan dollars, it is vital to cultivate other sources of capital.

This bill will now move onto the Senate for consideration. WIPP will continue to engage Members of Congress on access to capital issues. An additional recommendation in WIPP’s access to capital platform, Breaking the Bank, urges Congress to incentivize angel investments with tax credits.

 

 

Critical Updates to WOSB Procurement Program

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.

You Need to Know: WOSB Program Update
SBA Certify.gov siteThe WOSB procurement program website is undergoing a facelift. A new website, called SBA ONE, will allow for the electronic submission of SBA forms, as well as a streamlined location to monitor all certifications for your company including the repository. With the change, there are three things you need to know:
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 wosb@sba.gov (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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LEARN MORE
  • 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.
  • If you have any questions about the certification program, or comments on improving the site, please email certify@sba.gov. More details on the transition of repository documents are available atwww.sba.gov/wosb.

Major Expansion of WOSB Procurement Program Starts Today

FB Cover photoBy: Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

A landmark week for women entrepreneurs just got better. Just a day after announcing that federal government had finally met their goal of awarding 5% of contracts to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs), the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a significant expansion of the WOSB procurement program.  When the last disparity study was completed in 2007, women were found to be underrepresented in federal contracting in 83 industries, thus making them eligible for participation in the WOSB program. In addition to pressing for sole source contracts, WIPP advocated for a new study to update eligible NAICS codes for the program. The study, completed by the Department of Commerce earlier this year, found that 113 industries and their corresponding NAICS codes are now eligible for the program. The changes take place immediately.

The study, The Utilization of Women-Owned Businesses in Federal Prime Contracting, found two very disturbing facts.  One, that women are 21% less likely to get a government contract after solving for factors such as age and size of the business. Second, the industries in which WOSBs are less likely to win contracts account for about 85% of both total contracts and dollars awarded.

Find out whether or not your business is eligible for participation in the WOSB procurement program by checking your NAICS codes. Even though the program has quadrupled since 2011, expansion of the NAICS codes will result in even greater gains for women-owned businesses to participate in the public sector.

 

 

Federal Government Meets 5% Federal Contracting Goal for Women-Owned Small Businesses for the First Time in Twenty Years

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!

From the Hill: Small Contractors Make Big Gains in New Legislation

By: Jake Clabaugh WIPP Government Relations

 

ChabotThe House Small Business Committee is leading off 2016 by continuing its
efforts to make federal contracting more accessible to small businesses. Committee Chair Steve Chabot’s (R-OH) legislation, Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016, makes an array of changes to procurement policy.

Although impossible to summarize all of the changes in a few paragraphs, which is why we have the link to the bill above, here are the highlights. The bill tackles transparency by rewriting – in plain English – the requirements for small business procurements. Since getting past performance is an obstacle for contractors getting started in federal contracting, the bill establishes a pilot program that enables them to get a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and prime contractor. Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBUs) will now have increased authority to recommend which small business set-aside programs are most appropriate for each contract at their agency. The Act even touches the Department of Defense (DOD) by requiring that Mentor-Protégé plans in DOD’s program be approved by SBA – an update aimed at adding consistency to Mentor-Protégé Programs government-wide – but controversial since the last time we looked the Defense Department does not generally defer to SBA.

If some of these changes sound familiar, it’s because Anne Crossman, a member of WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, proposed several of these improvements during a Subcommittee hearing last fall.  Specifically, Anne noted WIPP’s “if you list us, use us” policy for prime contractors’ subcontracting plans and in her testimony she advocated for prime contractors to be accountable to the subcontractors listed on their plans. This bill incorporates Anne’s recommendations by requiring commercial market representatives (CMRs) assist prime contractors in identifying small business subcontractors and assess the prime’s compliance with their subcontracting plans.

The intent of the legislation is to assist federal agencies in meeting their small business contracting goals. The goal for women owned companies of 5% has never been met. A continued push for data transparency surfaces in the bill as well, requiring agencies to do a better job of reporting the contracting dollars awarded to small businesses.

The Committee is expected to hold a markup to consider this legislation during the week of January 11.  The WIPP Government Relations team will continue to provide updates as the bill moves through Congress.

AT&T Announces Plans to Connect Everything We Own to Everywhere We Go

By Lynn Bunim, WIPP Membership & Special Programs Director

ATTAt its Developer Conference running in Las Vegas parallel to the Consumer Electronics Showcase, AT&T spent time talking up the potential of reaching its 132 million wireless customers and 45 million video customers. The change in the tenor, from showing off its newest phones or touting the latest upgrade that speeds up its wireless network, speaks to how AT&T plans to be a part of its customers new, more connected life. The carrier recognizes it is no longer enough to power your smartphone or home DSL connection. It wants to be the link that connects your car, the health devices that monitor your body and even the infrastructure in your city.

“This is a new AT&T,” Ralph de la Vega, CEO of the company’s mobility and enterprise business, said in his keynote address. The push is part of the Internet of Things trend. The idea is that every device — whether it’s a refrigerator or glucose monitor — talks to each other to better serve you, with AT&T angling to become the bridge between things. Those connections are going in everywhere, including coolers built by Red Bull that enable the company to track their location, state and temperature.

AT&T offered new information about its smart cities initiative, through which it promises to bring everything from traffic monitoring to electric grid management to gunfire detection into one comprehensive ecosystem. The program’s initial cities will be Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago, and it involves a huge range of partnerships, with giants including Cisco, Ericsson, GE, IBM, and Qualcomm. “We are going to go up the stack,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie. “We are going to bring things that are complete solutions.”

WIPP’s membership and WIPP’s Coalition Partners comprise thousands of entrepreneurs and women owned small businesses, all of whom are on the move all the time.  Improved connectivity could bring improved productivity for this important segment of the business community.

Resources:

 

Celebrating National Women’s Small Business Month

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by AnnaKate Moeller, WIPP Programs Manager

This October we are particularly excited to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month because of the release of the results of the 2012 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) and the SBA issuing the final rule on Sole Source Authority. It has been a big year for women in business to say the least.

The theme for this year’s National Small Business Month is “10 Million Strong” recognizing the 2012 SBO results of the nearly 10 million women-owned businesses currently in the United States. This is a 27.5% increase from 2007 survey results, showing that women-owned businesses are growing and in turn boosting the economy.

We also have cause to celebrate as the Small Business Administration issued the final rule improving access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses with Sole Source Authority. This rule is expected to be effective and available for use by federal agencies on October 14, 2015.

As we celebrate 10 Million Strong this October, WIPP will be highlighting women business owners on our boards, throughout our member base and networks. Please check out our twitter, Facebook and blog throughout the month to hear the stories of these female leaders.

From The Hill: Dodd-Frank’s Impact on Small Business Lending

By Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

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Women entrepreneurs face unintended consequences of wall-street reform. According to a House Committee hearing yesterday, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, introduced in an effort to prevent another financial crisis, is contributing to small businesses’ inability to access capital from banks.

WIPP’s Access to Capital Platform has cited some of Dodd-Frank’s regulations as a contributing factor to the decrease in small businesses lending. Capital access is a lifeline for small businesses. It is essential for entrepreneurs to have access to sufficient capital to found and grow businesses.

DF picThe House Committee on Small Business convened lenders and experts to discuss how Dodd-Frank has affected the ability to provide entrepreneurs with critical capital. Access to private capital, including bank loans is a primary concern to women entrepreneurs as women-owned small businesses receive only 4% of private sector lending dollars. Additional regulatory burdens could be exacerbating this problem.

The hearing touched on many of the difficulties WIPP members have experienced when trying to access to capital. The Committee cited increased administrative burdens as a significant cost for small and community banks, a primary lender to small businesses. These regulations have increased the cost of making loans and therefore made it more difficult for banks and borrowers. The result is less capital for entrepreneurs.

The hearing also cited the direct impacts on borrowers. Many that would have qualified pre-recession are no longer able to obtain loans from banks due to tighter lending standards. WIPP’s platform advocates for modernized credit scoring that would level the playing field for women business owners.

Until Dodd-Frank is fully implemented, its complete impact will remain unclear. WIPP continues to review ongoing regulations as well as work with Congress to scale back unnecessary barriers to capital access for women entrepreneurs.

Success: Sole Source Finalized

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by Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations 

When you’ve been working on a program for 15 years, it’s almost anti-climatic when you realize you won and it’s over. I suppose lawyers feel this way when they win a big case, or business owners when they close a major contract.

For me, the SBA announcement integrating a sole source component into the WOSB procurement program on October 14, 2015 marks the end of a long campaign by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). First, we fought for eleven years to establish a program that gives a government buying preference to women-owned companies whose industries have been underrepresented. Not an easy fight – we had plenty of Congressional and White House opponents—it wasn’t until the Obama Administration came into power that the program was established. At the time, SBA Administrator Karen Mills made it her number one priority, which we will always be thankful for. We had strong Congressional proponents – Senators Cantwell and Shaheen and Representatives Speier and Graves.

Then, we had to make the program work. That required two major changes to the program in 2013 and 2014. The first change required lifting the award caps the law imposed on the program. The WOSB procurement program limited contract awards through the program to $4 million ($6.5 million for manufacturing). In 2013, Congress helped us get rid of those caps. The last big piece was the sole source piece—allowing contracting officers to award sole source contracts to women-owned companies through the program. This major change gives the program parity with other small business programs and again, required Congressional action. Effective October 14, agencies will be able to use this mechanism to award contracts to women whose companies offer innovative products and services.

As with all government programs, the rules are a little complicated and the ability to self-certify as a woman owned business will eventually have to change, due to Congressional direction in 2014. But for now, self-certification remains the law and women should be actively pursuing contracts through the WOSB procurement program whether or not they are self-certified or certified by a third party.

It is important to note that not all industries (NAICS codes) qualify for the program. You can find a list at http://www.SBA.gov/WOSB. We have developed a one pager that go through the rules of the sole source portion of the program and our GiveMe5 program has comprehensive information on the WOSB program. In addition, our ChallengeHER events are all over the country so that women can find out more about the program. The information can all be found at www.wipp.org.

The WOSB procurement program is in good hands. All the major pieces to make it successful are in place. When we started this effort in 2002, women received 2.7% of government contracts. Since the program has been in place, more than $500 million has been set-aside for women- owned companies. In fact, in 2014 the government awarded 4.7% of its contracts to WOSBs –a 75% increase since 2002. Now women business owners need to know how to use it with the help of SBA, the federal contracting community and organizations, such as WIPP.

Fifteen years seems like a long time, but when you are fighting for something—somehow it doesn’t seem that long. WIPP members and coalition partners were with us every step of the way. For this, I am exceedingly grateful.