Georgia Tech hosting Atlanta Women’s Economic Summit on June 24

“Driving Opportunities and Influence” is the theme of an event being held in Atlanta on June 24, 2015 by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC) and hosted by Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy.

uswccThe event is an effort on the part of the USWCC to work with the women of Atlanta to advance economic opportunities and influence.

“Working together,” states USWCC CEO Margot Dorfman, “we will gain a good understanding of our current economic position, centers of influence within the region and steps we can take together to drive progress.  Please join us and be part of a strong economic future for women in Atlanta — and across the U.S.”

CEO Dorfman and Co-Founder Terry Williams will lead the Atlanta Women’s Economic Summit.

Agenda items on the morning of June 24 include: Women’s Economic Priorities, State of the State of Georgia Women in Business, Finding Centers of Influence for Economic Development, Tapping in to Secure Business Opportunities, Driving Opportunities and Influence, Success Strategies, and Cornerstones for the Future – Taking the Lead.  The event concludes after a lunch break, with a discussion of Opportunities and Strategic Planning for Those Interested in Leadership.

This summit will be held in Technology Square in Midtown Atlanta at the Centergy Building, 75 Fifth St, NW, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Pre-registration is required, and is open to USWCC members and non-members alike.  Registration may be accomplished at: https://uswcc.org/events/atlanta-womens-economic-summit.

Defense Act causes SBA to lift dollar limits on WOSB set-asides

Women-owned small businesses will have greater access to federal contracting opportunities as a result of changes included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.

“This new law is a prime example of how the Obama Administration is embracing a more inclusive view of entrepreneurship, helping small businesses and America succeed,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “Today, women own 30 percent of all small businesses up from just 5 percent 40 years ago. As one of the fastest growing sectors of small business owners in the country, opening the door for women to compete for more federal contracts is a win-win.”

The NDAA removes the anticipated award price of the contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) to allow them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract. Prior to the new law, the anticipated award price of the contract for women-owned and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts.

The Women’s Federal Contract Program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs.

The law also requires the SBA to conduct another study to identify and report industries underrepresented by women-owned small businesses. As a result, more eligible women-owned businesses may be able to participate in SBA’s Women’s Federal Contract Program and compete for and win federal contracts.

These changes have not yet taken effect.  The SBA is working with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under the President’s Office of Management and Budget on the implementation including changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification. There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additional information and links about approved third-party certifiers are available at www.sba.gov/wosb. To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least fifty-one percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women. The women must be U.S. citizens and the firm must be considered small according to SBA size standards. To be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” a firm’s owners must meet specific financial requirements set forth in the program regulations.

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

For more information on the Women-Owned Small Business Program or to access the instructions, applications or database, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.

COs must verify WOSB/EDWOSB status independent of SAM info

Ever since last year’s launch of the System for Award Management (SAM) — the federal database that replaced Central Contractor Registration (CCR) — there have been a myriad of problems involving system stability, data entry by vendors, access by users, and data migration from CCR to SAM.  Over time, some of these issues have been resolved.  However, new problems have arisen, and the latest one that has come to our attention could effect the eligibility of women owned businesses for federal contract set-asides.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech has learned that SAM may not correctly display a company’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Small Business (EDWOSB) designation. This means some small businesses that are legitimate WOSB/EDWOSB concerns are unable to visibly display their status in SAM at this time.   Reports indicate that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has called this latest challenge to the attention of the General Services Administration (GSA), SAM’s administrator.

While this problem is resolved, Contracting Officers are reminded that the identification of a woman-owned small business in SAM is not the authentication source required by regulations at 13 CFR 127.300(c).

The Code of Federal Regulations at 13 CFR 127.301(2) indicate that a Contracting Officer may accept a concern’s (bidder or proponent) representation as a WOSB or EDWOSB if the apparent successful offeror provides the appropriate documentation, as described in §127.300(e) at the time of initial offer.

Here are three ways a Contracting Officer can verify a WOSB/EDWOSB concern’s legitimacy:

  1. If an WOSB/EDWOSB concern has a valid certificate from one of SBA’s four approved third party certifiers (i.e., El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council), the concern can submit the certificate along with a signed copy of SBA form 2413 Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or SBA form 2414 (EDWOSB) form to the Contracting Officer to validate the concern’s eligibility status.  Furthermore, the WOSB/EDWOSB concern must have the same documentation uploaded into SBA’s WOSB Repository at the time of initial offer.  (Under no circumstances are certifications to be accepted from parties other than the four organizations approved by the SBA; in other words, state certifications or any other forms of certification are not to be considered or accepted.)
  2. The WOSB/EDWOSB concern may submit a hard copy (signed) of all the required documents mandated by in the Code of Federal Regulations 13 CFR 127.300(e) and a signed copy of SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414,  for verification of WOSB/EDWOSB status.  These records are to be maintained for six years in the contract file.
  3. If the WOSB/EDWOSB concern is also an SBA-certified 8(a) concern, the concern may submit a copy of the SBA 8(a) BD Participant certificate and the signed SBA WOSB form 2413 or to the EDWOSB form 2414.

In all instances, Contracting Officers are required to verify a concern’s status in SBA’s WOSB Program Repository.  It is the obligation of the WOSB or EDWOSB to provide current, accurate and complete documents to the Contracting Officer for each contract award, via the Repository.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Contracting Officer to verify WOSB/EDWOSB status.  If the Contracting Officer has information that calls into question the eligibility of a concern as an WOSB/EDWOSB, or the concern fails to provide all of the required documents to verify its eligibility, the Contracting Officer is to not award a WOSB/EDWOSB contract to that business concern.

In summary, regardless of how a business concern is listed in SAM, Contracting Officers should affirm the status of WOSB and EDWOSB concerns by checking their documentation online in the WOSB Program Repository per 13 CFR 127.300(c).  Apparent awardees can only provide access to those Contracting Officers who are registered for the WOSB Program Repository.  Contracting Officers should go to: https://eweb.sba.gov/gls/dsp_login.cfm and click on “Request SBA User ID” to establish an account.

To access a copy of the Contracting Education Academy’s presentation on various issues involving the System for Award Management (SAM), including helpful tips and work-arounds for both the vendor and acquisition communities, please click here.

Women-owned biz bill slashes dollar limit on contracts

The Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2012 was introduced on March 7, 2012 by seven senators in a bipartisan effort to eliminate dollar-amount restrictions on contracts that WOSBs can compete for.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), speaking to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said the purpose of the bill is to remove inequities that exist in the women-owned small business contracting program, when compared to other socio-economic programs.

Sen. Snowe co-sponored the bill with senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The proposed legislation would remove contract-award limitations as well as provide tools women need to compete fairly in the federal contracting arena by allowing for non-competitive contracts, when circumstances allow, the Congressional Record said.

“Women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of the federal marketplace,” said Sen. Snowe. “In fact, our government has never achieved its goal of five percent of contracts going to WOSBs, achieving only 4.04 percent in fiscal year 2010. Our bill would greatly assist federal agencies in achieving the small business goaling requirement for WOSBs,” she added.

The proposed legislation has received letters of support from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women Impacting Public Policy and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

“Women make this country run as business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more, but women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of federal contracting dollars,” Sen. Mikulski said.

In 2010, the Small Business Administration rolled out the WOSB Procurement Program, but the sponsoring senators and many women’s groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

The biggest complaint is that it still contains barriers that prevent women-owned businesses from fully developing.

“For 11 very long years, we urged the Congress and the federal agencies to put the WOSB program into place. Now that it has been implemented, our work has turned to improving the program and making it a vehicle for business growth for women business owners,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP, a national nonpartisan public-policy organization that advocates on behalf of nearly one million women-owned businesses.

“Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy but they remain woefully underrepresented in small business contracting,” added. Sen. Bennet.

The senators proposed the bill to coincide with National Women’s History Month.

It also comes out on the heels of the House Small Business Committee clearing the way for six pro-contractors bills.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology. This article appeared on Mar. 9, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/09/2012-wosb-bill-introduced.aspx?s=wtdaily_120312.

Small-biz set-asides may harm firms, expert says

There may already be too many set-aside categories for small businesses, according to at least one expert. The sheer number of categories, and the targets set for agencies to award certain numbers of contracts to each, has the unintended consequence of squeezing some small businesses out of the game, he said.

The plethora of small business programs “has disenfranchised many of those who are not eligible to the extent that they no longer back the very programs they once were glad to support,” Scott Bellows, a program manager at the South Carolina Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Columbia, S.C., said Nov. 7.

And yet, the government is now considering creating yet another category, for businesses that employ military veterans.

During a hearing, Bellows told the House Small Business Committee’s Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee that the small-business programs, such as those helping companies owned by service-disabled veteran and women, and the 8(a) companies, don’t do as much as most people think to help small businesses at large.

Many of the same contractors tend to get the work over and over. That makes it hard for other small companies to break into the market, he said.

To break in, business owners “soon realize that it’s a long, uphill battle,” he said.

Bellows said the government, along with the Small Business Administration’s annual small business score card, should take a different look at the awarded set-aside contracts.

“If one asks how many ‘unique’ vendor contracts were awarded during a certain period of time, you might just come away with a different impression of how these programs are promoting small business development and helping to revitalize our economy,” he said.

The score card gave the government overall a B in awarding contracts to small businesses in fiscal 2010. The government has a goal to award 23 percent of contracts to small companies. In 2010, it reached 22.7 percent. It missed many of its goals for the specific categories of small businesses.

President Barack Obama’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development has recommended the government should consider giving companies with at least 35 percent of its employees as veterans a special status in federal contracting. They likened the new category to the Historically Underutilized Business Zone small business program. For HUBZone status, 35 percent of a small firm’s employees must live in an economically depressed zone.

The task force said the new small-business category would not take too much regulatory efforts. The task force wants the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as SBA and the Office of Management and Budget, to further explore the idea.

The task force is interested in the hiring aspect of creating the new category.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement at Federal Computer Week. Published Nov. 9, 2011 at http://fcw.com/articles/2011/11/09/set-aside-small-business-programs-other-small-business-effects.aspx.