On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) held an event during which Karen Waigand, the Women’s Business Coordinator for the Small Business Administration (SBA), spoke about the SBA’s new Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program that kicked off on February 4, 2011.
The SBA’s new program is designed to provide equal access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) by allowing contracting officers to set aside specific federal contracts for those companies that are certified WOSBs or EDWOSBs. Set asides are expected to be for contracts up to $5 million in the manufacturing industry and up to $3 million for all other contracts. Set asides are not yet available; however, they are expected to appear at some point in the last fiscal quarter of the year.
Currently, to participate in the program, a company must meet the eligibility requirements for a WOSB or EDWOSB and self-certify their business by uploading the necessary required documents to the SBA’s online WOSB Program Repository. This self-certification process is free. In the future, the SBA also plans to allow WOSBs and EDWOSBs to be certified by national certifying entities approved by the SBA. At this time, however, no such third-party certifiers have been approved.
In addition to the certification process, all WOSBs and EDWOSBs must register their status in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA). This will indicate to contracting officers that the WOSB and/or EDWOSB is eligible to participate in the program. At this time, the CCR and ORCA are being updated and are expected to be ready for use in April 2011.
According to Ms. Waigand, the time between now and April is a ramping up period, and the SBA hopes that all qualifying WOSBs and EDWOSBs will use this time to get familiar with the program’s requirements and upload the necessary documents to the WOSB Program Repository. The goal is for WOSBs and EDWOSBs to be ready to compete for contracts awarded in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is when the majority of small business contracts are awarded.
Additional information about the WOSB Federal Contract Program can be obtained by visiting www.sba.gov/wosb.