SBA Set-Aside Proposal Falls Short for Women Contractors
Congressional leaders are concerned that the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) recent proposal to implement the Women’s Procurement Program will hinder women-owned firms from gaining access to federal contracts.
“In the last eight years, the SBA has consistently failed to meet its contracting goals for women-owned businesses,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Small Business Administration. “Female entrepreneurs drive job growth and economic expansion. There is no excuse for holding them back.”
In late September, the SBA published a final proposed rule in the Federal Register that would expand the number of industries in which women-owned small businesses can participate from four to 31. However, advocates for business women say this is not enough to meet the required goal.
Under the SBA proposal, less than half the opportunities sought by congressional advocates would be available to women-owned small businesses.
The Small Business Reauthorization Act of 2000 charged the SBA with developing set-asides for Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) in various industries where WOSB are substantially underrepresented — with a goal of at least 5% of U.S. procurement dollars going to WOSB.
Lawmakers have called for set-asides to include at least 70 industries, if not all the industries eligible under federal contracting regualtions. The government currently lists 140 industry codes in which companies could be eligible for set-aside contracts with little or no competition.
“Interpreting just 31 out of more than 100 industries as underrepresented is insulting and hardly an improvement from the SBA’s earlier ruling,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
“When Congress passed this law, our intent was to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. This ruling includes more roadblocks and does nothing to make it easier for women to compete,” Kerry said
Last year, SBA commissioned the Rand Corp. to research the existing contracting process and identify industry sectors where qualified female bidders won a low proportion of contract awards.
Under the agency’s proposed rule, contracting officers were alloed to consider applications from WOSB in four of the Census Bureau’s 140 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes:
- Household and Institutional Furniture and Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturing
- Coating, Engraving, Heat Treating and Allied Activities
- Other Motor Vehicle Dealers
- National Security and International Affairs
The final rule that was submitted establishes procedures for implementing set-asides in the eligible industries.
The final rule implements WOSB set-asides for these additional industries:
- Residential Building Construction
- Offices of Real Estate Agents and Brokers
- Architectural, Engineering and Related Services
- Specialized Design Services
- Printing and Related Support Activities
- Architectural and Structural Metals Manufacturing
- Business Support Services
- Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services
- Warehousing and Storage
- Business Schools and Computer and Management Training
- Technical and Trade Schools
- Other Schools and Instruction
- Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing
- Other Textile Product Mills
- Other Chemical Product and Preparation Manufacturing
- Boiler, Tank and Shipping Container Manufacturing
- Other Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
- Health and Personal Care Stores
- Direct Selling Establishments
- General Freight Trucking
- Other Telecommunications
- Scientific Research and Development Services
- Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
- Other Support Services
- Waste Treatment and Disposal
- Remediation and Other Waste Management Services
- Outpatient Care Centers
- Electronic and Precision
SBA is accepting public comment on the new proposal through the end of the month.