For the first time in eight years, the federal government has achieved its goal to award at least 23 percent of all federal contracts to small businesses, SBA announced yesterday. Just over 23 percent of contracts, accounting for $83.1 billion, were awarded to small businesses in 2013. Of 24 federal agencies, only 4 failed to meet their agency-specific goal.
An SBA statement noted that, "while contract dollars have gone down in all categories as a result of overall reduced federal spending, small businesses still secured a greater percentage of the contracting dollars." On a scorecard ranking each federal agency's small business contracting performance, SBA awarded an "A" or "A+" to 20 agencies and an "A" to the federal government as a whole. The Department of Energy received an "F" for failing to reach its 7 percent goal; instead, DOE awarded 5.71 percent of contracts to small businesses. The Departments of Defense and Justice each scored a "B," as did the National Science Foundation.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa, an experienced small business contractor and the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting, calls the government-wide achievement "incredible news" and an indicator that "it is a great time for small business owners to consider government contracting as a way to diversify and grow their business." Martin-Rosa told Yahoo! Small Business in an email, "We need to continue this momentum and strive to move even further beyond it."
Martin-Rosa is particularly focused on the goal for contracting with women-owned small businesses, which was not met in 2013. Instead of 5 percent, government agencies as a whole awarded 4.32 percent of contract dollars—$15.4 billion—to WOSBs. Yet most individual agencies did meet their WOSB goals; only NASA and the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs failed.
"Although we missed the 5 percent procurement mark once again in the WOSB category, we have shown improvement," Martin-Rosa said. "When the WOSB program was implemented in 2011, there were caps on procurement for women-owned small businesses: $4 million in products/services and $6 million in manufacturing. In summer 2013, the caps were lifted and boom, agencies started posting WOSB set-asides greater than $4 million."
Martin-Rosa encourages small women-owned businesses to gain insight into government contracting at the August 14 American Express OPEN Summit for Success. More than 1,000 small business owners will attend the full-day event in Washington, where they will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with government procurement officials and learn about opportunities available before the government fiscal year ends on September 30.