Businesses: Seeking Federal Procurements
no question about it: Women have made phenomenal strides in the
business world in the recent past, and we are changing the face
of America's economy-in very positive ways," said "Sherrye
Henry, Assistant Administrator for Women's Business Ownership, at
the Small Business Administration. "But there are still some
bastions of inequality we have yet to surmount; one of them is the
federal procurement market."
Businesses Get Few Federal Contracts
own nearly 40 percent of all U.S. businesses, women-owned firms
still secure less than 2 percent of the federal prime contracts
and less than 4 percent of the subcontracts. "Women can win
their fair share of this $200 billion market," Henry said.
The SBA is
forming alliances aimed at enabling the federal government to meet
the 5 percent contracting goal for businesses owned and controlled
by women that was set by the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act
of 1994. The agency has negotiated memorandums of understanding
with about a dozen large federal agencies to define their roles
and make commitments to increase the participation of women's businesses
in federal procurement. Plus, more than 20 large agencies or departments
have assigned women-owned advocates to act as liaisons with the
SBA and to provide outreach, training, and marketing assistance
to women business owners.
Can Help Women Win Their Share of Federal Market
backing up these alliances with a number of programs designed to
help women win their share of this large and lucrative market, such
as the 8(a) Program, the new Small Disadvantaged Business Program,
and, most importantly, the SBA's online procurement network, PRO-Net,"
information about women-owned firms directly in the hands of government
procurement officers. PRO-Net is the largest federal procurement
network; it also provides gateways to state, private and even international
procurement opportunities. "The world-is moving increasingly
to electronic commerce, and you begin to see how important PRO-Net
is," Henry continued.
that in mind, we are working hard to increase the number of women-owned
small businesses registered on PRO-Net. We want to make sure that
those registered get called for procurement opportunities. Already
a number of federal agencies use PRO-Net as their primary resource
Registering on Pro-Net
- Fill in
all the mandatory fields on the form (otherwise, the profile will
- Fill in
the optional fields because they may be just as important as the
mandatory fields. For example, the "performance history and references
section" is optional, but it provides current contract and reference
information valuable to a busy contracting officer. The easier
you make it for the purchasing agent, by providing a full profile,
the more likely you are to get the call-and the contract,"
- Don't wait
for purchasing agents to call you; do searches in the linked databases,
including the Commerce Business Daily, for opportunities you want
to bid on.
on Getting Government Business
The 8(a) Business
Development Program, named for a section of the Small Business Act,
has recently broadened its guidelines to include a more diverse
base of disadvantaged individuals. "This is good news for many
women entrepreneurs," Henry said, "since 8(a) certification
offers a strong advantage in securing federal contracts, with contract
set-asides, mentoring and other assistance to help ensure success."
certified in the 8(a) Program are automatically included in the
Small Disadvantaged Business Program. The new SDB Program has a
certification process designed to treat small companies equitably
and give them an efficient first step into the federal procurement
rules will also make it easier for businesses not owned by members
of minority groups to qualify as SDBs.
Once a business
is certified and listed on the public registry, it is eligible for
preferences, including a price evaluation adjustment of up to 10
percent for SDBs bidding as prime contractors. There are also preferences
for large businesses that use SDBs as subcontractors. The preferences
apply to those industries in which disadvantaged companies are underutilized.
Women's Business Center also has online procurement training, including
detailed information on these programs as well as links to their
web sites," Henry said. And here's important news: you can
now download a new PRO-Net tutorial from the Online WBC, making
it easier than ever to register!
Business--Applications and a list of licensed certifiers are
available at SBA district offices nationwide or by calling the Office
of Small Disadvantaged Business Certification and Eligibility at
Development--For information on the 8(a) Program or to receive
an application, contact your local SBA district office. Most district
offices have 8(a) orientation workshops to provide additional information
regarding the eligibility requirements and to review various SBA
Center Helps Women Start and Build a Business