Government program helps women, minorities get contracts

If you are a female or minority contractor who owns a small construction company, a certification program could help you win more federal contracts.

The program, known as 8(a), identifies companies that have experienced discrimination or hardship specifically because of the owner’s race or sex. The idea behind the program is to encourage more diversity in male or white-dominated fields, and help struggling companies learn to stand on their own within a certain period of time.

Companies under the program get the upper hand in the bidding process because the government reduces their bids by 10 percent. After five years of being certified 8(a), the company must prove 15 percent of its work was gained outside of its certification. After nine years of certification, companies “graduate” and certification is dropped. Program officials hope the program will help companies gain the contracts and experience many small, minority-owned companies need, without becoming a crutch to depend on.

Gaining program certification isn’t easy, as female contractor Pam Beck of Salt Lake City discovered. In order to take part in the program, she was required to prove her company had been discriminated against and had been in operation for at least two years. Her company also had to undergo an on-site review. To find out more about the certification process for the program, click the link to the right.
In addition to the 8(a) program, there are two other government programs to check out for assistance or additional resources. They are listed below.

· SDB Program — A program for small, disadvantaged businesses. Certification is only for federal contracts and lasts three years. The website link is to the right.

· HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program — Similar to the SBA program, except it is designed to bring contracts to low-income or high-unemployment areas. Click the link to the right for more information.