DOT, SBA and others team up to attract new entrants to the federal market

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo briefs reporters at the White House on Sept. 6, 2022.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo briefs reporters at the White House on Sept. 6, 2022. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A new interagency collaboration to promote opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses featured in the new infrastructure bill is "vital" to federal equity goals, officials said.

The federal government launched a new set of strategic partnerships this week aimed at bolstering support for small and disadvantaged businesses attempting to access programs within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

The Department of Transportation Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) kicked off a series of initiatives designed to engage with the private sector about resources for certain businesses included in the infrastructure bill.

OSDBU is partnering with the Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration to help connect small and disadvantaged businesses to federal contract opportunities by providing additional access to capital, including private capital facilitated through the SBA Office of Investment and new SBA Small Business Investment Company (SBIC)-related resources.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement that the administration is committed to "ensuring small and minority-owned businesses have access to the opportunities created by historic investments in infrastructure."

"The partnership between the Department of Transportation and the Minority Business Development Agency will engage and support small and disadvantaged businesses to help strengthen our supply chains and help America remain competitive globally," she added. 

The organizations also signed three memorandums of understanding outlining the terms of the new partnerships and plans to further incorporate underrepresented minority business enterprises in high growth industries and national transportation supply chains. According to a DOT press release

The MOUs and forums are meant to ensure that small businesses are "contract ready" and that federal agencies are working to advance equity under the infrastructure bill. 

"These historic agreements between the [SBA]and [DOT] will leverage the SBA’s lending, investment capital and bonding support to help ensure that small businesses receive the funding they need to build America’s critical infrastructure systems," SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman said in a statement, adding that "strong interagency collaboration" in support of small and disadvantaged contractors is "vital" to the administration's equity goals.

Under President Joe Biden, the White House has sought to expand total federal contract spending on SDBs by 50% over five years. Federal agencies also released their first-ever equity action plans earlier this year, many of which featured new procurement opportunities for SDBs and other disadvantaged businesses.

DOT says it is on track to allocate 20% of its federal contracts to small and disadvantaged businesses. The agency did not indicate when it planned to host another forum, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment.