The Small Business Administration is noting a decline in the number of government contracting firms in the 8(a) and HUBZone set-aside programs, said John Shoraka, SBA’s associate administrator of government contracting and business development.
In an interview with FedScoop, Shoraka said the agency is planning several targeted recruitment efforts in the coming months to increase the number of companies in the programs.
There are many reasons for the decrease, Shoraka said:
- There is an ebb and flow with small businesses in the set-aside programs based on the economy. The worse the economy, the more companies tend to take part, so the reverse is true as well.
- As a 9-year program, the 8(a) Business Development Program loses approximately 800 to 1,000 companies per year based on graduation. Shoraka said it is hard to keep the numbers level, let alone having them grow.
- The HUBZone areas get redistricted every few years based on data from the Census Bureau, so a recent update has led to some firms losing HUBZone status without their numbers being replaced yet.
“We oftentimes push agencies to meet their small-business goals, but we want to make sure we have a strong portfolio of firms for them to choose from,” Shoraka said.
That includes, he said, finding more firms for the women-owned small businesses set-aside program as well.
Shoraka said a recent rule change that removes the cap agencies can spend on the women-owned set-aside should help, but he also wants to increase the number of qualified and ready firms into the government contracting space.
Shoraka has also pushed contracting officers to use the women-owned set-aside more and has increased the information available to those businesses in the SBA’s Government Contracting Classroom.
“Our goal is simply to provide even more opportunities to both the businesses and other federal partners,” Shoraka said.
One of the ways SBA is doing that is through the American Supplier Initiative, which aims to get small businesses involved in the supply chains of larger corporations.
Shoraka said small businesses in that position tend to grow faster, employ more people and stay in business longer. He said SBA is working with its sister agencies across the federal government and will be rolling out that program over the coming months, with companies such as UPS and Coca-Cola taking part.
“In general, contracting dollars are going down, but the Obama administration has shown a real commitment to small business,” Shoraka said, pointing to Joe Jordan’s appointment as administrator of federal procurement policy as an example.
Jordan previously held Shoraka’s job at SBA.
“The White House is very focused on working with agencies and putting pressure on them to meet small-business goals,” Shoraka said. “That emphasis shows a very positive trend toward small business, including those in government contracting.”