Wyoming Business Tips for May 30

May 24, 2010

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

"I have a small construction company and am starting to get into government contracting. I have heard there are some advantages out there for women-owned construction firms. Are there?" Sarah, Casper

When a government contracting question arises, the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) are a good place to begin looking for the answer. FAR subpart 2.1 defines terms used in government contracting.

A "women-owned small business concern" is one and can be defined in two parts:

-- That at least 51 percent of the business is owned by one or more women; or in the case of any publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more women.

-- And whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more women.

For government contracting purposes, identifying where the control of the firm rests is crucial. In determining control, several aspects of management are considered, including whether the woman is the highest officer, if she is working full-time in the business and if she has the experience to manage it. Women-owned firms may self-certify their status in the Central Contractor Registration and the Online Representations and Certifications (ORCA) database.

What are the benefits?

The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994 established a government-wide goal that not less than 5 percent of the total value of all prime and subcontract awards should go to women-owned small businesses. However, this goal has never been met, perhaps because contracting officers have not had tools to set aside contracts for women-owned firms, which would limit the competitive pool and ensure that the award goes to a women-owned firm.

Congress passed the Equity in Contracting for Women Act of 2000 to create a framework for this program and the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been working to implement it ever since. The SBA last March issued a press release about a proposed rule to expand federal contracting opportunities for women. The SBA accepted comments for 60 days and once it considers them, it is expected to publish a final rule.

If and when that happens, contracting officers may begin setting aside contract opportunities for women-owned small businesses. They still will be able to self-certify their status, but also will need to submit supporting documentation to a new, not-yet-established online repository.

If your firm is women-owned, there could not be a better time to get started in government contracting. The SBA has a great online training course "Winning Federal Contracts: a Guide for Women Entrepreneurs." The Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC provides free assistance with government contracting. We can help your firm get started.

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 wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.

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