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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Amy Lea, Wyoming Entrepreneur Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) program manager
"When I am researching federal government contract opportunities, I have noticed some opportunities that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned firms and other opportunities that are set aside for socially and economically disadvantaged 8(a) firms. Are there any contracting opportunities that I should be aware of if I'm not a veteran or minority?" Bob, Evanston
Yes, there is. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program is a place-based, race-neutral program designed to help stimulate the economy in areas with high unemployment or lower-than-average wages. It provides federal contracting preferences to businesses in these areas.
If the firm is a small business, and the main office is located in a HUBZone, it may qualify. Other factors must include 35 percent or more of its employees live in a HUBZone and is owned and controlled at least 51 percent by U.S. citizens.
Albany, Fremont, Hot Springs, Lincoln, Niobrara, and Uinta counties and the Wind River Indian Reservation qualify; a number of additional census tracts are eligible, too. To find where a local business is located in a HUBZone, go to the SBA's HUBZone map Web site at http://map.sba.gov/HUBZone/.
A HUBZone certification may give a small business owner a competitive advantage in obtaining federal contracts. The government's goal is for 3 percent of its contract dollars go to HUBZone firms. Consider that the federal government spent more than $500 billion on contracts in fiscal year 2009, this translates to more than $15 billion in opportunities last year alone.
Contracting officers want to meet this goal, and if they conduct market research and find that two or more HUBZone firms are likely to submit offers for a particular opportunity, they may set it aside. This reduces the competitive pool of firms eligible to bid on the opportunity to just HUBZone-certified firms.
HUBZone firms, socially and economically disadvantaged 8(a) firms, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses all have parity -- or equal priority -- when contracting officers are considering setting aside these opportunities. If two HUBZone firms want to create a joint venture to respond to a solicitation, they also can without having to submit it to the SBA for prior approval.
Three steps to applying for HUBZone certification are required.
First, make sure the firm is registered in the Central Contractor Registration database and that all necessary information is updated. Second, assemble supporting documentation. This information is needed to complete the application. Third, complete the online HUBZone application. Once the SBA reviews the initial application, the applicant will be asked to submit all supporting documentation.
The review process currently is taking several months, but it could be an advantage to apply now before new census data potentially redefines qualified areas. The Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC provides free, confidential assistance with HUBZone applications and other aspects of government contracting.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
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, e-mail email@example.com or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.