The Small Business Administration’s HUBZone program helps small businesses gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities, both prime contracts and subcontracts. If your business is located in a HUBZone — a Historically Underutilized Business Zone — you could benefit.
Whether you are familiar with the HUBZone program or this is the first time you’ve heard of it, you need to know there are changes that have just taken place potentially affecting your eligibility.
On October 1, 2011, the areas of the country designated as HUBZones changed. These changes are based on census tracts and the 2010 census data recently issued by the Commerce Department. Contracting preferences can go to small businesses that maintain their “principal office” in one of these specially designated areas and employ people who live in a HUBZone. After meeting these and other standards, a firm must apply for and be granted formal HUBZone certification by the SBA.
The SBA used to maintain a web site where businesses could view a map that displayed HUBZone locations across the country. However, since census-based HUBZone designated areas just changed on October 1st, the on-line maps are not presently available. Instead, a new on-line tool has been put in place where businesses can look up addresses to see if they are in a HUBZone. The new look-up tool is located at: http://map0.sba.gov:82/gis/esri/hubzone/index.html.
With changes in the geographic areas that are and are not HUBZone eligible, many firms no longer qualify while presumably others will now qualify. Whether you were previously HUBZone qualified or not, you should use the look-up tool in the previous paragraph to determine whether you potentially qualify. Remember, a business address located within a designated HUBZone is only one step toward qualifying for HUBZone certification. In order to qualify, at least 35 percent of a company’s employees also must live within HUBZones. Thus, businesses should use the look-up tool to check employee home addresses as well. A full description of all HUBZone certification requirements can be found at http://www.sba.gov/content/applying-hubzone-program.
The SBA currently is in the process of sending out letters to all HUBZone-certified companies asking them to re-verify their eligibility. The SBA is telling these firms to use the look-up link and check addresses to determine whether they still qualify for the program.
Results from using the on-line look-up tool can be confusing. For instance, if the look-up result shows that an address will be qualified “at least until June 1, 2011″ then the address is in a HUBZone that expired on October 1, 2011. The reason for this is that the SBA originally projected the U.S. Census data release date to be June 1, 2011 and this date still appears within SBA’s HUBZone look-up tool.
While complex, participation in the HUBZone program could be worth your while. If your business qualifies for the program, and you pursue SBA’s certification for HUBZone status, you could be the beneficiary of a restricted-competition HUBZone set-aside contract.
More information about all this is at http://www.sba.gov/content/notice-expiration-redesignated-hubzones-october-1-2011. As always , if you need assistance at any point along the way, please contact the GTPAC Procurement Counselor nearest you; all contact information can be found at http://gtpac.org/team-directory.
— Compiled by the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center from information available through several SBA sources.