Small businesses have a big stake in the federal marketplace, and the Small Business Administration sets a high bar for the rest of the federal government to do business with them.
Agencies met many of those standards last year, awarding nearly $133 billion in small-business prime contracts and exceeding SBA’s goal to have 5% of prime contracts go to women-owned small businesses.
This marks only the second year that agencies met or exceeded the women-owned small business contracting goal since SBA set that benchmark, although agencies fell just shy of the goal in recent years.
Eight agencies earned an ‘A+’ on the scorecard and 14 agencies received an ‘A.’ Agencies that showed the most improvement include the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs – which both went from a ‘B’ to an ‘A.’
SBA’s Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development Frank Spampinato told Federal News Network said this year’s scorecard reflects on several positive trends in the federal acquisition community.
“There’s been a lot of consistency and a lot of improvement in what the agencies have done, it was just a banner year. I’ve seen this from the other side, and as a chief procurement officer or as a director of acquisition, if I was looking at my agency making increases like this, I would be extremely proud of what we’ve done for small business,” Spampinato said Wednesday in an interview.
Before joining SBA, Spampinato served as a senior procurement official at the CIA, Energy Department, Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Overall, the 2019 small business procurement scorecard shows agencies met all of SBA’s government benchmarks for small business contracting, with one exception for historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones).
However, 2.28% of federal contracts went to certified HUBZone firms, which Spampinato said is still the highest level of HUBZone spending in seven years, and that those contracting dollars injected $11 billion into economically disadvantaged regions.
To make sure that HUBZone contracting continues to head in the right direction, Spampinato has reached out to the Offices of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization at the 24 largest agencies to see what’s been working.
“I’ve been doing a lot of outreach, talking to the OSDBUs and say, ‘Look, you’re doing really good on HUBZone. What’s your HUBZone secret?’ And I’ve come to find out that a lot of times the secret is focus,” he said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission saw the biggest improvement in HUBZone contracting, going from 3.4% of prime contracts in 2018 to 13.31% in 2019.
Beyond just meeting the SBA goals, Spampinato said small businesses have a lot to offer the federal marketplace.
“A lot of times, people will come to you and say, ‘I don’t believe a small business can do this. I don’t believe a woman-owned small business can do this, or a service-disabled vet business can do this.’ But a lot of times, we’ve found there’s nothing behind that, there’s not a lot of data behind that, so it’s an education process,” he said.
Meanwhile, 33% of the $270 billion spent on subcontracting last year went to small businesses, which SBA says created more than a million jobs. Spampinato said that’s one area where agencies should continue to expand.
“We were trying to get everybody’s attention 15 years ago at Energy in the sub-contracting arena,” he said. “We have to understand that small businesses are a viable and a critical part of the national economy, the employment picture, and we’ve got to learn to understand what they do and how they do it and how they can help us meet our mission requirements.”