Maximizing small business opportunity a priority

One of the key jobs of the U.S. Small Business Administration is to ensure that small businesses receive a fair portion of federal dollars.

The latest figures available indicate that in fiscal year 2003, the U.S. government met its goal of awarding 23 percent of prime contracts, more than $65 billion, to small businesses. If you count associated subcontracts, small businesses received over $110 billion in contracting dollars.

In 2002, President Bush, as part of his small business agenda, ordered that contract bundling be minimized. There is a widespread practice of consolidating contracts performed by small businesses into a single, larger one. The resulting contract is not suitable for small businesses to bid on.

Additionally, the SBA has improved the accuracy of its small business procurement database by purging businesses that may have been large.

Other steps include permitting small businesses to challenge any contract award where they may question the size of the winning firm.

One action that took effect last December requires small businesses to recertify their size when a contract they have is transferred to another firm. SBA will soon release final size recertification rules.

Contracting opportunities for small businesses are dependent on their size. Because of this, we’re re-examining what is actually defined as a small business. We’re seeking comments this month through hearings across the country. A hearing has taken place in St. Louis. Based on this input, we plan to propose new definitions later this year.

Something I know directly from having been a small business owner is that small businesses don’t expect anything to be handed to them. The actions of the SBA with respect to federal procurement will help to do exactly that.

Hector V. Barreto

U.S. Small Business Administration