US government deals provide 'oxygen' for female firms

18 February 2011

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20 February 2011 | Angeline Albert 

Small, women-owned businesses are being given a greater chance to win US government contracts.

For the first time a programme has been launched which allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs). 

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is the government agency in charge of the programme which has identified 83 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes where these businesses are under-represented. Contracting officers may set aside work in these industries so long as the contract can be awarded at a “fair and reasonable price”; that the contracting officer expects two or more WOSBs to submit offers; and the anticipated contract price is not greater than $5 million (£3 million) for manufacturing deals or $3 million (£1.85 million) for others.

The move aims to help agencies meet their goal of awarding 5 per cent of federal contracting money to WOSBs.

To qualify as a WOSB, a firm must be at least 51 per cent owned and controlled by one or more women and primarily managed by one or more women, and the women must be US citizens.

“Implementing the WOSB contracting rule has been a top priority for the Obama Administration and SBA,” said SBA’s administrator Karen Mills. “Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. As we continue to look to small businesses to grow, create jobs and lead America into the future, women-owned businesses will play a key role. That’s why providing them with all the tools necessary to compete for and win federal contracts is so important. Federal contracts can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level.”

The SBA expects to see the first contracts awarded to these firms by the fourth quarter of the 2011 financial year.

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