Federal Contracting – Are you ignoring this business opportunity?

When AWC was started in 1995, a handful of the membership was bidding and performing on federal contracts. This number has completely dwindled over the past decade – while membership has increased exponentially. To clarify, I am not talking about work utilizing the DBE certification due to federal dollars. I am talking about working on projects that are directly contracted by federal government agencies. In Minnesota these include Department of Defense, Corp of Engineers, Veteran Affairs, FBI Department of Agriculture, and others. 

The Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) and the Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) program was authorized on December 21, 2000. However, it took the Small Business Administration (SBA) nearly 10 years to issue a final rule for the program in October 2010 and was fully implemented February 2011. AWC worked with then Senator Al Franken to push the implementation of this rule with Past President Dianne Holte and I focusing on this initiative. To review the Small Business Administrations information on the program click here.

Contracting under the program, began with businesses working in one of the eligible 83 NAICS codes identified. Side note – the women’s program is the only program that limited the eligibility to selected NAICS codes. The program expanded its industry codes to 113 eligible in 2016. The narrow admissibility caused many women owned businesses to not follow through with the process since so few fit the parameters.

Currently the program has expanded significantly, and the SBA has identified 646 NAICS codes in which WOSB/EDWOSBs are substantially underrepresented, meaning that federal contracting officers may award set-aside and sole source contracts to WOSBs (including EDWOSBs). With the expansion many who didn’t qualify just a few years ago now could be eligible in the program.

So where do you start?

We recommend that you work directly with PTAC the Procurement Technical Assistance Center at Minnesota’s Department of Administration. The counselors there can help you with determining if you qualify for your WOSB/EDWOSB, assist you with the certification process, help you navigate the contract and bid portals, and assist you in steps to win the contract. You can reach a  PTAC counselor or learn about their services at their website.

If you have met with me about business strategy you have heard me advice on how you need to stay focused on where you want to do business and where you want to grow. Targeting Federal contracts opens opportunities for you in a place where there is a 5% WOSB goal and sole source contracting. Contracting officers are statutorily obligated to pursue WOSB contractors and are currently not achieving their contracting goals. 

We saw in the 2009 recession that the only construction that was occurring was government projects, so if anything, be prepared. Sometimes taking the road less traveled can be a win in the long haul. It might be worth a visit with PTAC to discuss how the program could benefit you since it has changed and take that turn. 

— B