Take Advantage of Government Contract Opportunities for Women-Owned Small Businesses

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The US government awards billions of dollars each year in government contracts to American businesses. Women-Owned Small Businesses ("WOSBs"), and particularly, Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses ("EDWOSBs"), are underrepresented in certain government contracting industries. To remedy this disparity, Congress enacted the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 2000 (the "Act"). The Act added a new provision that authorized federal contracting officers to restrict competition for federal contracts in certain industries to WOSBs or EDWOSBs. While regulations restrict which businesses may apply and which contracts may be set aside, businesses that meet the criteria can substantially increase their chances of being awarded a contract (and thereby increase their revenue) by registering as a WOSB or EDWOSB with the Small Business Administration ("SBA").

However, mistakes and false statements in the registration process can disqualify a business or even expose it to substantial fines and penalties. Whether you want to start your business or want to change your business structure to take advantage of these opportunities, we can help by assessing your business structure; drafting your charters, operating agreements, and employment contracts; and registering your business with the SBA.

To see if your business falls into one of the underrepresented industries, you will need to know the North American Industry Classification System ("NAICS") code for your industry. The US Census Bureau, the SBA, and various government agencies classify each industry by a 4-digit NAICS code. Each industry is then subdivided into several sub-industries, each represented by two additional numbers in the code. For example, NAICS Code 8129, "Other Personal Services" contains several 6 digit codes, including 812921, "Photofinishing" and 812930 "Parking Lots and Garages." The SBA has listed 45 4-digit NAICS codes in which women are under-represented, each industry having several sub-industries. Another 37 codes have been listed exclusively for EDWOSBs. For more information, see the SBA Compliance Guide . Scroll down to Appendix A to see a list of the 4-digit NAICS codes that have been reserved. If your business falls under one of these codes, we may be able to help you take advantage of this federal program.

Once you have found the NAICS code(s) that apply to your business, you can explore government department web sites that post contracting opportunities. Some federal agencies maintain their own contract opportunities list, but many agencies post on the Fed Biz Ops web site which acts as a clearinghouse for federal contracting opportunities.

To obtain EDWOSB or WOSB certification, your business must meet several other requirements:

  1. To qualify as a WOSB, a business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women. This can mean many different things depending on whether your business is set up as a corporation, LLC, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Setting up the business properly can be tricky. For example, some typical provisions found in operating agreements or state law, such as a super-majority voting requirements, could disqualify a business that is 51% owned by women. We can assist by drafting language in your articles, bylaws, and operating agreements that won't disqualify your business.
  2. The business must be a small business. This means different things for different industries: $35.5 million in annual receipts for a construction business, $7 million for retail and most services industries, or 500 employees or fewer for many manufacturing industries. A good summary can be found here.
  3. Prior to bidding, the business must register with the SBA and provide adequate documentation to support that it is a WOSB or EDWOSB. We can assist you in drafting, preparing, and submitting the appropriate documentation so that you can self-certify as a WOSB or EDWOSB.
  4. Bidding on any contract will not be restricted unless at least two WOSBs or EDWOSBs bid, and no contracts for more than $4 million ($6.5 million for manufacturing contracts) will be set aside for WOSB or EDWOSBs.

If you are interested in qualifying your business as a WOSB or EDWOSB to take advantage of these contracting opportunities, we will be happy to help. Please contact us for more information or to schedule an initial consultation.

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