Of the contracting pie, that is.
When I was in Washington, DC, in November for national NAWBO board meetings,
I had the opportunity to meet Ana Harvey, the SBA’s assistant administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership. One of the things she is passionate about is strengthening the 8(a) Business Development program.
In fact, the SBA has announced proposals designed to do just that. The proposed 8(a) regulation changes are the result of the first comprehensive review of the 8(a) program in a number of years. The rules cover a variety of areas of the program, ranging from providing further clarification on determining economic disadvantage to requirements on Joint Ventures and the Mentor-Protégé program.
The 8(a) program is a nine-year business development program for small businesses that fit the SBA’s criteria of being socially and economically disadvantaged. The program helps these firms develop their business and provides them with access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace. It also provides specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance and high-level executive development to its participants.
The 8(a) program has been instrumental in helping a number of small socially and economically disadvantaged companies grow, but it has had its issues. Some of the proposed changes are designed to clarify certain aspects of the program as well as mitigate incongruities and the potential for abuse.
Some of the components of the 8(a) program that the proposed changes will affect include:
- Joint Ventures – qualifying that 8(a) firms are required to perform a significant portion of the work to ensure that these companies are able to build capacity;
- Economic Disadvantage – providing more clarification on economic disadvantage as it relates to total assets, gross income, retirement accounts and a spouse of an 8(a) company owner in determining the owner’s access to capital and credit;
- Mentor-Protégé Program – requiring that assistance provided through the Mentor-Protégé relationship is directly tied to the protégé firm’s business plan;
- Ownership and Control Requirements – providing flexibility in admitting individuals of immediate family members of current and former 8(a) participants;
- Tribally-Owned Firms – seeking public comments on the best way to determine whether a tribe meets the criteria of being economically disadvantaged for the 8(a) program;
- Excessive Withdrawals – amending regulations on what is considered excessive as a basis for termination or early graduation from the 8(a) program; and
- Business Size for Primary Industry – requiring that a firm’s size status remain small for its primary industry code during its participation in the 8(a) program.
If you want to comment on the proposed changes, time is running out. Small businesses may submit comments to this proposed rule on or before Dec. 28, 2009, to www.regulations.gov, where they will be posted or mailing them to 409 3rd St. SW, Mail Code: 6610, Washington, DC 20416 or via e-mail at: 8aBD2@sba.gov.