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Lawmakers Seek to Enhance Small Business Access to Contracts

Statutorily speaking, 23% of all federal contracts are required to go to small businesses, but this doesn't always happen.

As the unemployment rate continues to get comfortable around 9%, lawmakers have recently undertaken a series of efforts to remedy this shortfall, and ultimately increase small businesses' access to federal dollars, hopefully spurring job creation in the process. In a recent hearing, the culprit keeping federal contracts out of the hands of ready and willing small businesses was the often challenging procurement process.

"With national unemployment stalled at 9%...we should be removing the barriers and complexity from the procurement system so that small businesses in our communities have the opportunity to compete and win federal contracts," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), chairman of the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, who hosted the field hearing in his home state, where unemployment is two percentage points higher than it is nationally. "Making it easier for small firms to get their fair share of contracting opportunities will spark job growth in our communities and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible."

Witnesses testified about the difficulties they've faced in their attempts to win federal contracts and receive payment after they've landed them. "Why aren't small businesses receiving at a minimum the percentage of business as described by this government?" asked William Aycock, president of Aycock Construction LLC. "Let me say that it is not because of a lack of local labor force, but the lack of the opportunity."

The troubles for small businesses don't end once they've won a contract either, as Bill Lynam of Lynam Construction noted in his testimony. Sometimes it's bad enough to keep them from even bidding on these opportunities. "Our experience, and others,' has been that the SBA (Small Business Administration) 8(a) contractors ignore the payment regulation of the federal government," he noted. "Contracting officers do not seem to be motivated to ensure that these regulations are followed. Most local small businesses cannot survive with the payment practices that are commonplace to these contractors."

Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer