US plans to change public contract rules to help minority businesses

4 March 2010

4 March 2010 | Jake Kanter

The US government wants to boost contract opportunities for women-owned businesses by changing public procurement rules.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) – a government agency that helps small suppliers access public sector work – has outlined 83 industries where companies owned or run by women are “substantially under-represented” in government contracts.

It wants to amend legislation to address this and help public bodies meet their target of awarding 5 per cent of deals to women-owned businesses.

The proposed rule will mean departments have to “set aside” contracts under $5 million (£3.3 million) where there is a “reasonable expectation” that at least two women-owned businesses will bid.

It will scrap a previous proposal requiring public sector bodies to assess whether they have discriminated against women-owned businesses in the past. A document supporting the new rule said this would be an “erroneous” process and could hamper opportunities for small vendors.

The changes will also enable women run suppliers to self certify as an official women-owned small business on the government vendor portal ORCA, making them more visible to public sector buyers.

 “Women-owned small businesses are one of the fastest growing segments of our economy, yet they continue to be under-represented when it comes to federal contracting,” said SBA administrator Karen Mills.

 “Securing federal contracts can be the opportunity that helps them take their businesses to the next level.”

The proposed rule is open for comment until 3 May.

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