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Wyoming Business Tips for Sept. 25-Oct. 1

September 19, 2011

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Amy Lea and Jeff Sneddon, Wyoming Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)

"I recently read a solicitation on FedBizOpps ( that said ‘All responsible small business sources may submit a bid (in a timely manner) that will be considered.'  What is a ‘responsible' source? Katie, Jackson

According to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR, a responsible prospective contractor is one that meets the necessary standards.

A responsible contractor must have financial capacity, adequate financial resources, technical capacity, the necessary experience, accounting and operational controls, technical skills, equipment and facilities to perform the contract. Also needed is a satisfactory record of past performance and ethics and integrity.

How does a contracting officer (CO) determine responsibility? Starting with ethics, the first question is whether the firm has been suspended or debarred from working with the federal government. FAR requires COs to review the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS, to ensure that no award is made to a listed contractor.

The CO will check the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS, Contractors also provide ethics information in their Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA, If no negative information is found, the firm will likely pass muster on ethics.

Next, the CO will evaluate past performance.  FAR states that "past performance shall be evaluated in all source selections for negotiated competitive acquisitions expected to exceed the simplified acquisition threshold." Past performance is probably also the best way for a CO to evaluate a firm's technical capability.

Why? If a firm has done a similar project before, it can probably do it again. The CO will check the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS,, which provides "report cards" on how contractors performed on most contracts of $100,000 or more. They also will check references.

To assess a firm's financial capability, a CO may consider the size of the projects it has completed, request financial statements, ask to speak to a banker, check bonding capacity (construction firms), or pull a business credit report from D&B (

If a CO determines that a firm is not responsible, it must refer the matter to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA will contact the firm and offer a chance to apply for a Certificate of Competency (COC) to show that it is capable of performing the contract. If the SBA issues a COC, the CO is generally required to accept it.

How do you become a responsible contractor?  Begin with smaller projects and develop a strong past performance record. Work with a lender to increase access to capital. Explore opportunities to joint venture with more experienced firms. Contact the Wyoming PTAC team for free and confidential assistance. Email Jeff Sneddon at, Natasha Stahla at or Amy Lea at

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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