SBA Expands Tour To Promote Certification

SBA Expands Tour To Promote Certification

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer

The Small Business Administration is expanding its efforts to get more small disadvantaged businesses certified so they can participate in government contracting programs.

Without the certification, larger contractors will not gain the small business participation points used in evaluating contract proposals when they have such businesses on their teams. Also, small businesses that act as primes will not get a 10 percent price evaluation adjustment on contracts which they bid.

In September 1998, SBA put out new regulations that required small companies not in the 8(a) program to go through an independent certification process to prove they were minority owned and disadvantaged, rather than self certifying that they meet the criteria.

But not enough companies have gone through the certification process, so SBA pushed back the effective date from Jan. 1 until July 1 for regulations that affect small businesses working as subcontractors, said Terri Dickerson, acting associate administrator for office of small disadvantaged business certification and eligibility for SBA. The regulations for small businesses acting as prime contractors went into effect Oct. 1, 1998.

After July 1, small disadvantaged companies that work as subcontractors to large companies will no longer be able to self-certify they are disadvantaged. Without certification, large contractors will not gain evaluation points for having small businesses on their teams, Dickerson said.

"I think all [large contractors] are concerned about it," said George Otchere, senior vice president of minority business development for Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. SAIC uses about 200 companies that would qualify for the program and is working with them to get certified, he said.

The regulations were written in response to the 1995 Supreme Court decision, Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Pena, which ruled that affirmative action programs had to be narrowly targeted to remedy only lingering effects of discrimination.

The agency expects 30,000 companies to go through the certification process. That process requires meeting six criteria, including proof that the company's ownership meets the legal definitions of socially and economically disadvantaged.

So far, less than 6,000 have gone through the certification process, Dickerson said. About 1,800 of those are information technology companies, according to SBA records.

"I think there is general lack of awareness of the program," said Robert Dornan, senior vice president of the market research company Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va. "It is a challenge getting the word out to these companies."

As a result, SBA will visit 26 cities rather than the tour of 13 first planned to promote the program, Dickerson said. So far, the agency has held conferences in eight cities.

Among the cities added to the tour are Research Triangle Park, N.C.; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; and Memphis, Tenn. No dates for the new destinations have been determined yet.

Left on the original tour are visits to Seattle, March 30 and 31; San Francisco, April 15 and 16; Cleveland, April 29 and 30; Chicago, May 13 and 14; and New York, May 27 and 28. Cities already visited include Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Boston.

Agency officials also are speaking about the certification process at other conferences, Dickerson said.

"We still have April, May and June to go through, so I really think we'll see the number of applications pick up significantly," Dickerson said.

Integrators also are picking up their efforts to get their small business subcontractors certified. "If they don't get certified, it will impact us," Otchere said.

The company is adding information about the certification process to regular meetings it holds with its small business subcontractors, he said. "We take this program very seriously, because it brings our company value," Otchere said.

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