NAWBO® Advocacy Pays Off: SBA Announces Contracting Program For Women-Owned Small Businesses
Women business owners can finally begin taking steps to participate in a federal contracting program that was enacted by Congress more than a decade ago.
Beginning February 4, the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program will allow contracting officers to set aside certain federal contracts for eligible women-owned small businesses or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. The first contracts expected to be awarded by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011.
The implementation of the program has been a struggle since 2000, when Congress authorized a “restricted competition” or set-aside program specifically for women-owned businesses, with a goal of 5 percent of federal contract dollars to be awarded to WOSBs. The 5 percent goal has never been attained, and women business owners have missed out on an estimated $5 billion in federal contracts per year.
NAWBO® has worked diligently to achieve implementation of the program. In addition to providing testimony at hearings of both the House and Senate committees on small business, NAWBO® leaders have met several times with key legislators and provided formal written comments critical of earlier proposals for implementation. In fact, the program being implemented on February 4 responds to a number of the concerns NAWBO® raised with a proposal made in 2007.
“The WOSB Federal Contract program gives women business owners much-needed access to opportunity,” said NAWBO® Board Chair Kelly Scanlon. “We’ve been hearing so much about access to capital, but NAWBO® believes that access to capital means more than having access to debt financing. It also means access to opportunity through growth in top-line sales. The federal contracting program for women is one of those opportunities. Enhanced federal contracting for women-owned businesses will help grow these businesses and in turn women owned businesses will create more jobs.”
Helen Han, President and CEO of NAWBO®, said, “We are finally optimistic that women business owners are on their way to getting their fair share of federal contracting dollars. NAWBO® appreciates the leadership that SBA Administrator Karen Mills and Director of the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership Ana Harvey have shown in moving this program forward.”
Federal contracting is a cornerstone of NAWBO® public policy agenda. Even with the implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract, NAWBO® continues to seek ways to ensure that women business owners have the opportunity to receive a fair share of federal contracting dollars. Currently, legislation co-sponsored by United States Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Kristin Gillibrand is pending that would expand contracting opportunities for women beyond the WOSB Federal Contract Program. The legislation was initiated as a direct result of meetings NAWBO® leaders held in Washington, DC, in April 2010, and NAWBO® wrote a letter of support that was introduced with the bill.
For more information on the Women-Owned Small Business Program or to access the instructions and application, please visit www.sba.gov/wosb.