Nearly half the small businesses with GWAC not renewed

The General Services Administration did not renew option years in June for nearly half of the businesses on a GSA governmentwide acquisition contract set aside solely for 8(a) firms, an agency official confirmed today.

Of the original 416 companies, 197 businesses on the 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services (STARS) GWAC are no longer on the contract, said Mary Parks, GSA's director of small-business GWACs.

A clause in the contract required companies to reach $100,000 in sales in the contract's three base years. If a firm missed that mark, GSA would not exercise the contract's option years, which is what happened with those 197 companies, Parks said. The majority of companies that lost out on the contract had no sales, although she did not have a specific number. A few companies had made $50,000 to $75,000 in sales in those three years.

"The contract itself was developed to allow firms to self-market and basically eat what they kill," Parks said. The businesses had many opportunities to reach that threshold, but some did not.

"We wanted to make sure not only that we were marketing the contract through multiple channels but that the vendors were out there doing the same thing," she added.

Parks said GSA would consider how well such a provision has worked and then determine if it should be included in future contracts.

She said GSA had tried to help firms with low sales. After sending out reminders in January, the agency checked with its legal counsel to see if it could avoid cuts. The lawyers said dropping that provision would be a cardinal change to the contract. "We needed to enforce that provision," she said.

"The other thing is, we want contractors that are going to manage this contract as much as we are," Parks said.

The STARS GWAC is a small-business set-aside contract for technology solutions designed to encourage agencies to use small businesses when buying technology. It did almost $800 million in business on 1,300 task orders during the three base years.

Parks is an advocate for small businesses, so this was disheartening and frustrating, she said.

"It's tough," Parks said. "You don't want to get your emotions in the way because it was a business decision."

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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