NAWBO has long been outspoken about the importance of achieving the 5 percent Federal procurement goal for women-owned small businesses. After all, failure to achieve this goal has been costing women business owners—one of the largest and fastest growing economic engines today—an average of $5 billion a year in lost contracts.
Over the years, we testified with WIPP before the House Committee on Small Business on issues related to access to capital for women- and minority-owned businesses. We participated in the Small Business Access to Capital Coalition, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which advocated successfully for the passage of a bill addressing deficiencies in the methods used to calculate the federal cost of guaranteeing small business loans. We also opposed the elimination of federal subsidies for the SBA’s small business loan programs, which adversely affected participation of our members.
In fact, just a few days ago, I had the privilege of being featured in a co-op-ed piece with Beth Solomon, President and CEO of the National Association of Development Companies that appeared on CNBC.com. In it, we spoke to the important role of women business owners and how access to capital continues to be our biggest impediment. We also announced our organizations’ launch of a Women’s Small Business Lending Initiative that will bring capital access options and training to more women through the nation’s network of 270 Certified Development Companies, SBA Loans and SBA Women’s Business Centers. (In case you missed it, here’s the full article link: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100727457).
Understandably then, we are thrilled about last week’s announcement that an interim final rule—effective immediately—has amended regulations to the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, allowing for greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 signed in January.
This interim final rule removes the anticipated award price of contract thresholds for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) to allow greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations to the size of the contract. Contracting officers will also now be able to set aside specific contracts for certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs at any dollar level that will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5 percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSBs.
Additionally, the SBA is currently working on changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Prior to the rule change, the anticipated award price of the contract for WOSBs and EDWOSBs could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts. For more information on the Women-Owned Federal Small Business Contract Program, visit www.sba.gov/wosb.
The passage of HR 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, helped to pave the way for a rule like this. The legislation was key to boosting women entrepreneurs’ access to capital and led to a 30 percent surge in women’s business ownership nationwide. NAWBO played a critical role in its passage just 13 years after our organization was founded during a time when women were required to have male co-signers on everything from car to home to business loans. Since then, we have worked tirelessly to further equality and opportunity for women entrepreneurs, whether the issue is access to capital, increased federal procurement opportunities, affordable health care or fair and equitable tax treatment.
At this year’s NAWBO Women’s Business Conference, October 3-5 in Miami, Florida, we will be celebrating an anniversary of HR 5050 and the many achievements we have enjoyed being part of since then. The finalization of this rule will definitely be a part of that. I hope you will join us!
—Diane Tomb, NAWBO National President & CEO