Monday, May 14, 2007

House Opens Federal Marketplace to More Small Business Participation, Helps Fight Fraud in Contracting System

As small businesses continue to struggle to access the $340 billion federal marketplace, the House last Wednesday [May 9] passed the most comprehensive reform of the contracting system for entrepreneurs in over a decade. H.R. 1873, the Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act, which increases small business access to federal contracts, offers protections against contract bundling, and prevents large businesses from receiving small-business contracts, passed by a wide margin of 409 to 13.

"For many entrepreneurs, access to federal contracts provides an important step in developing and expanding a business," said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez [D-N.Y.], chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business. "Today, the House passed legislation that ensures small business owners are competing on a level playing field. This is a major, and long overdue, step forward for entrepreneurs."

Over the past several years, small businesses' federal contracting opportunities have not kept pace with the expanding federal marketplace or small firms' growing share of the economy. Small companies confront numerous obstacles when attempting to access federal contracts, as the government continues to combine work into contracts too large for entrepreneurs to bid on, making the projects less accessible to small businesses.

In the past few years, small businesses have also lost out on opportunities, as contracts intended for small businesses were awarded to large corporations. There are currently few penalties for agencies and companies that misrepresent larges businesses as small.

The combination of barriers such as these has resulted in billions of dollars in lost contracting opportunity each year for this nation's small businesses.

"Awarding federal contracts to small businesses creates jobs, develops companies, promotes competition and yields the best value for the taxpayer dollar," said Chairwoman Velázquez. "Congress acted today to guarantee that our entrepreneurs get the opportunities they deserve and to hold the federal government more accountable for how taxpayer money is spent."

H.R. 1873, introduced by freshman Rep. Bruce Braley [D-Iowa], chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Technology, makes more contracts available to small firms. During consideration of the bill, several measures also passed that raise the level of federal commitment to contracting with small businesses, ensure small firms can compete for overseas contracts, strengthen requirements for agencies to review the economic impacts of large contracts, and provide greater protections for small business subcontractors. These additions enhance improvements for small firms in H.R. 1873 that will allow for greater small business participation in the federal marketplace.

"I am proud that my first bill to pass the House is one that will help small businesses compete," Congressman Braley said. "The Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act ensures that small businesses have the same opportunities as large corporations to earn government business.

"When government contracts are awarded through huge super-contracts, small businesses just can't compete on a level playing field. By forcing government agencies to be held accountable for awarding these so-called 'bundled contracts,' more small businesses will have the opportunity to benefit from earning government business. Furthermore, by providing for the enforcement of these new provisions, this bill will have the teeth to make sure government agencies are following the law. At the end of the day, this means expanded opportunities for small business."

This legislation is part of the committee's ongoing work to restructure how small businesses interact with the federal procurement system. The Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act is the first piece of legislation to address problems outlined in the committee's annual scorecard on federal contracting.

GoodBiz113's take: Little by little, it seems, our rants/wish-list items [e.g., "Welcome to GoodBiz113!" "GoodBiz113 Drafts Small-Biz Wish List for 110th Congress," "GoodBiz113 Issues Open Memo to Leaders of Congressional Small Business Committees"] are helping to attract productive results for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Hats off to U.S. House members for forcing federal agencies to do the right thing for all concerned.

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