Deadline for Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection extended to Apr. 9th

March 31, 2012 by

The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection (MPC) is a program that offers small businesses access to information and large corporations that can propel them to greater levels of productivity. In order to insure the integrity of the program and facilitate meaningful partnerships that are mutually beneficial, protégé firms are carefully selected for admission into the program.

MPC just announced an extension of the deadline for applications into the 2012-13 program.  The new deadline is Monday, April 9, 2012.

Acceptance into the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection requires the completion of a comprehensive application process. MPC’s screening maximizes the effectiveness of every mentor-protégé relationship by insuring a good match. All protégé candidates firms must meet stringent application criteria.Application factors that are evaluated include: industry, location, maturity, experience and compatibility.

You can apply as a protégé if you:

* Are a small business and are registered with the Secretary of State.

* Are a Georgia-based business owner, in business for at least three years.

* Are prepared to supply financials for the most recent three years, and other relevant documentation.

* Have a minimum of three full-time, non-contract employees.

* Are prepared to adhere to an agreed-upon program schedule, to include meetings, training sessions and other required activities.

* Demonstrate community-mindedness through civic, charitable or community involvement.

* Are nominated for admission into the program.  (You may NOT self-nominate.)

* Submit a complete application packet by the application deadline. The application may be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/c935o9c.

Complete details on the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection can be found at: http://www.georgiamentorprotegeconnection.org.

 

House passes JOBS Act, sends bill to Obama

March 29, 2012 by

The House overwhelmingly approved a measure Tuesday (3/27/2012) designed to make it easier for growing companies to attract investors and comply with securities laws. The bipartisan measure, strongly backed by both parties and the White House, passed 380 to 41.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or JOBS Act, first passed the House earlier this month with wide bipartisan margins and the Senate approved it last week after adding amendments that provide additional safeguards on “crowdfunding” to prevent credit scams. The House needed to approve the changes before sending it to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The legislation lifts Securities and Exchange Commission restrictions on running advertisements soliciting new investors and permits “crowdfunding” so that entrepreneurs can raise equity capital from larger pools of small investors. Small private companies also would be able to sell up to $50 million in shares as part of a public offering before having to register with the SEC, and could have as many as 1,000 shareholders, up from the current cap of 500.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said passage of the bill was “an increasingly rare legislative victory in Washington where both sides seized the opportunity to work together, improved the bill and passed it with strong bipartisan support.”

But critics say that the changes would allow firms to avoid disclosing crucial financial information and elude government oversight, opening the door to fraud and investor abuse.

Obama’s support for the bill has put him at odds with frequent allies, including labor unions and consumer and regulatory groups. And though the Senate approved the measure, half of the chamber’s Democrats voted against passage. Congressional aides said some Democratic senators felt boxed in by the Obama’s enthusiasm for the measure.

As The Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb reported Tuesday, the White House has worked hard since the fall to reconcile with liberal groups, adopting tougher rhetoric toward Republicans and advancing a series of policy proposals embraced by allies. But when liberals revolted over this recent legislation, the White House responded with what critics complain was only a token acknowledgment of their concerns.

Lawmakers are expected to move next to competing proposals that would provide further tax cuts to growing companies — part of a GOP strategy and Democratic counteroffensive to introduce less ambitious, but politically popular economic-themed legislation.

Cantor and House Republicans plan to vote next month on a measure that would grant 20 percent tax cuts to growing companies; a Senate Democratic proposal introduced this week would provide $26 billion in tax credits to smaller companies that either hire new workers or increase the overall size of their payroll.

– by Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post, March 27, 2012 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/2chambers/post/house-passes-jobs-act-sends-bill-to-obama/2012/03/27/gIQA9DfZeS_blog.html.

House Small Business panel prepares to mark up contractor bills

March 27, 2012 by

Adding to a series of House Republican bills aimed at reforming small business contracting, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., on Monday introduced legislation to reduce fraud by improving procurement training and referring more cases to the Small Business Administration’s inspector general.

The House Small Business Committee earlier this month approved six bills designed to help small businesses win more federal contracts. On Thursday, the panel plans to mark up several more, including the one from Coffman, who chairs the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations.

The Contracting Oversight for Small Business Jobs Act (H.R. 4206) would amend the Small Business Act to boost penalties for fraud “so that the cost of litigation will no longer outweigh the government’s recovery,” Coffman’s staffer said .

The legislation also would raise penalties for companies that misrepresent their size and eligibility for small business contracts, while helping firms comply with related rules. According to an email from Coffman’s staff, the bill would provide a “safe harbor” for small businesses that make a “good faith effort” to comply while providing a new statutory framework for the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, which decides which businesses qualify.

The bill also would add new requirements for using the suspension and debarment process to pursue cases of fraud, making greater use of the SBA’s inspector general.

– by  Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, March 20, 2012, http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/03/house-small-business-panel-prepares-mark-contractor-bills/41516/#disqus_thread.

New suppliers to U.S. government fall 14 percent

March 20, 2012 by

The number of new suppliers to the U.S. government fell 14 percent last year even as the Obama administration sought to increase competition in contracting.

Contract awards in the year that ended Sept. 30 went to about 29,800 companies that hadn’t done business with the government in seven years, compared with 34,800 in fiscal 2010, according to procurement data.

The decline may be partly due to businesses avoiding the federal market because agencies are cutting budgets. Without new competition, taxpayers might end up with higher costs, said Dan Gordon, who stepped down in December as President Obama’s top procurement official.

“The result is that the government gets less competition than it wants, it may get higher prices than it wants, and you risk having government procurement be completely an insider’s game,” said Gordon, associate dean for government procurement law at George Washington University Law School.

New contractors won $10.9 billion in orders in fiscal 2011, a 17 percent drop from $13.1 billion the prior year. First-time small businesses experienced a steeper decline, tumbling 34 percent to $3.64 billion from $5.5 billion in the same period.

Smaller firms, defined as having fewer than 500 employees or less than $7 million in average annual sales, may be more likely to bypass the government market because of diminishing opportunities, said Michael Golden, who formerly led the Government Accountability Office’s procurement law unit.

“When you see bigger companies closing plants in anticipation of a shrinking budget, what is a new company supposed to do?” said Golden, a Washington-based partner for the law firm Pepper Hamilton.

Working with the government presents challenges for small businesses not accustomed to the process, said Jake Ross, a retired Navy captain and partner at Maritime Security Strategies in Tampa, Fla. His company, a service-disabled veteran-owned firm, last year won its first federal contract, a $29 million deal to build a patrol boat for the Navy.

“I kick myself every day,” Ross said in an interview. “You think you’ve crossed one challenge and, by golly, you’ve got a new one the next day. The rules and regulations for government contractors do create significant barriers.”

The Office of Management and Budget looks at federal procurement data to gauge how it’s doing on competition and new entrants, said Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for the agency.

“We are committed to getting the highest quality products, for the lowest possible prices for America’s taxpayers, from an innovative and diverse set of contractors,” she said in an e-mail.

Bloomberg’s estimates on first-time vendors are based on an analysis of federal procurement data that looked at companies with new Dun & Bradstreet identification numbers that also hadn’t received awards in the previous seven years. The totals include contracts won by company and by joint ventures.

—by Danielle Ivory, Washington Post, published Mar. 11, 2012. Paul Murphy in Washington contributed to this report. This appears at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/new-suppliers-to-us-government-fall-14-percent/2012/03/08.

SBA, Georgia Tech host summit for young entrepreneurs

March 20, 2012 by

On Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012, Georgia Tech is hosting an event entitled “Young Entrepreneur Summit,” bringing together leading young business people, youth advocacy organizations, and government experts to listen to and address critical challenges and formulate public policy changes needed to move young entrepreneurs’ business agenda to the next level.

This event will be held athe Georgia Tech Research Institute’s conference center, located at 250 – 14th Street, NW, Atlanta, GA 30308.

For more details on and to register for this event, please visit http://sba-young-entrepreneur-summit.eventbrite.com/.

This event is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

How The New York Times Co. became a small business

March 19, 2012 by

Perhaps for as long as the federal government has reported which of its contracts have been awarded to small businesses, critics have charged that many of those contracts have actually gone to large companies — often very large companies.

Recently, the American Small Business League, perhaps the loudest of those critics, tried to outline the scope of diversion. The association issued a report that studied the 100 companies that won the most federal small-business contract dollars in 2011 and found that at least 72 of them either had too many employees or too much revenue to be  eligible for government assistance to small business. (S.B.A. size standards vary by industry and sector, but generally a company must have fewer than 500 employees or less than $7 million to be considered small.)

The federal government, the world’s largest buyer of goods and service, is obliged by law to try to direct 23 percent of its purchases to small businesses, though there are no penalties for failure. The government hasn’t reached that goal in years, and while recording a deal with a bigger business as a small-business contract — whether by mistake or by fraud — does not necessarily mean that a small company has been denied an opportunity, it does exaggerate the government’s contracting achievement. In the view of Elliott Rosenfeld, of the league, said that in turn undermined the case for stronger enforcement of contracting rules. And by inflating an agency’s sense of achievement, it could weaken the agency’s drive to award more contracts to small businesses.

S.B.A. officials, for their part, insist the league’s analysis is premature. This summer, the S.B.A. will release its own report on the government’s contracting efforts in 2011, said a spokeswoman, Hayley Meadvin, after spending months reviewing the records. “By the time we release our fiscal year report, we have corrected these mistakes,” she said. “We spend a lot time making sure our data is as clean as can be.”

Moreover, the league has been prone to sweeping accusations. The group called this latest report, for instance, “strong evidence that large companies are the fraudulent recipients of the majority of federal small-business contracts every year.” But even if improperly coded contracts are as pervasive as the association claims, is it necessarily the result of fraud?

The Agenda decided to look at one large company, mentioned incidentally in the report, that won small business contracts in 2011, to try to find out: The New York Times Company. The Times was not among the league’s list of 100; it was identified as one of 55 well-known corporations that received small-business contracts last year when it sold $56,821 worth of newspapers to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. — 500 daily subscriptions for the 28 weeks school is in session, according to Carol D’Andrea, The Times’s circulation manager for sales to schools and colleges.

In the government’s record of the West Point transaction, known as a contact action report, The Times is described as having $3 billion in revenue — and 10 employees. (Both figures were wrong: in 2011, the company’s revenue was $2.3 billion and the work force totaled 7,273 employees, according to the most recent annual report.) In a field labeled “Contracting Officer’s Business Size Selection,” the document describes The Times as a “small business.” Under government size standards, newspaper publishers must have fewer than 500 employees to be considered small.

Our inquiry began with a call to West Point. The contracting officer who approved the deal, Kathleen Judson, said in a brief interview that she had not designated The New York Times as a small business. “The only way that could have happened is that it must have been prepopulated,” she said. “Sometimes the fields come through on the contract action report prepropulated. I know The New York Times is a large company.”

Here’s where it starts to get complicated — and government officials contacted by The Agenda offered little help in clearing up the confusion. S.B.A. officials spoke authoritatively about the agency’s efforts to correct contracting records, but referred our questions about how those records are created to the General Services Administration, which oversees the procurement infrastructure used across the government. The G.S.A.’s deputy press secretary, Adam Elkington, initially sent us to the Army for answers, then later promised to find us a colleague who could answer basic contracting questions. (He never did.) A spokesman for West Point, Frank DeMaro, wrote down our questions but did not answer them. Eventually, Daniel Elkins, a spokesman for the Army’s Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Fort Sam Houston, in Texas, fielded some of our queries.

This is what we know: every entity selling to the government must sign up with the G.S.A.’s Central Contractor Registration with a unique identification number, known as a DUNS number, from Dun & Bradstreet. The vendor supplies its annual revenue and employee headcount for the entire organization, which the S.B.A. uses to determine whether the entity is a small business. What complicates things is that companies must register each legal division, or any office with a separate location or address separately. The New York Times currently has at least three active contractor registrations. One of these was set up by Ms. D’Andrea and her colleagues in The Times’s Education Sales department in order, she said, to sell the subscriptions to West Point.

The Times is not identified as a small business in the Education Sales department’s registration. It turns out, though, that West Point did not use this registration to pay The Times. Instead, the contract refers to the DUNS number used by another registered Times Company entity, this one made by the TimesCenter, an event hall at the company’s headquarters on Eighth Avenue. In that registration, The Times did identify itself as a small business.

A Times Company spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, said by e-mail that the employees who initially registered the TimesCenter were no longer employed there. But, she said, when the TimesCenter first opened, “it was operated as an independent business, separate from The New York Times Company. It is possible that the small-business designation was one that fit at the time, but again, we do not know for sure.” Ms. Murphy said she did not know whether the TimesCenter was independently owned at the time or just operated as if it were. Today, she said, it is operated as part of The New York Times. Nor could she say whether, or why, a Times employee entered the inaccurate revenue and headcount figures.

At West Point, neither Ms. Judson or Mr. DeMaro have explained why Ms. Judson used the registration from the TimesCenter rather than the one from the Education Sales department. (In an e-mail, the Army’s Mr. Elkins said “multiple actions between the N.Y. Times registration of DUNS numbers and contracting officer actions makes it difficult to identify the exact sequence of events.”) But Ms. Meadvin of the S.B.A. disputed the claim that the business size field was automatically filled in, saying, “to our knowledge” it is “the only field that is manually entered.” Mr. Elkington of the G.S.A. did not respond to our request seeking clarification.

In any event, government contracting officers like Ms. Judson are not supposed to rely on information from the Central Contractor Registration to determine whether a business is small — the registration record says as much at the very top. Instead, they are obligated to verify size, or any other claims a company makes, with a separate database known as the Online Representations and Certifications Application, or ORCA — which imports size information from the Central Contractor Registration. (Filling out this form, Ms. D’Andrea said, “is worse than filling out your taxes. Just the password is 16 digits and you can’t have repeating letters and numbers.”)

However, while the Education Sales department submitted an ORCA form — and did not claim small-business status — the TimesCenter, the entity on the contract, never did complete the form. According to Mr. Elkins of the Army, “Before the contracts were awarded, the contracting officer observed that there were no Online Representations and Certifications Application records for The New York Times.” The officer then tried to verify The Times’s size, Mr. Elkins said, by turning to yet another database, the Dynamic Small Business Search maintained by the S.B.A., “using the DUNS that was initially provided by The N.Y. Times.” But, said Mr. Elkins, “this procedure was improper and led to the miscoded award; the Army should have asked for this information from the N.Y. Times, rather than relying upon the D.S.B. search engine.”

But if a record for a Times entity existed in the Dynamic Small Business database last year, it is gone now, and this explanation raises additional questions. Which DUNS number did The Times provide to the Army — the one that ended up on the contract, from the TimesCenter, or one from the education sales department? Moreover, if Ms. Judson knew The Times was in fact a large business, why would she conduct a Dynamic Small Business search in the first place? Finally, the actions described here suggest Ms. Judson did in fact have to manually enter the vendor’s business size in the contract, as the S.B.A. has maintained. (Mr. Elkins has not responded to requests for further explanation.)

As it happens, three other federal agencies have used the TimesCenter registration as the basis for contracts in recent years — apparently erroneously, since these agencies were buying newspaper ads, not renting out an event space — and in most of those contract action reports, The Times is described as “other than small.” And yet, for one contract with the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Times was again deemed a small business. The contract officer in that instance referred the Agenda to the S.E.C. press office to set up an interview, which a spokesman has thus far declined to do.

And that’s as far as we have been able to get. We still can’t say with certainty how The Times ended up with a small-business contract. What we did find was a record-keeping system so complex that it invites confusion and error from all parties. “We hear from our small-business members that navigating the federal marketplace is extremely confusing and complex,” said Molly Brogan, a spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association, an advocacy group based in Washington. “Perhaps some level of simplification — along with enhanced oversight and repercussions for those that knowingly miscode a large business as small — would alleviate some of these issues.”

Things may improve this year, when the G.S.A. is to merge the two separate contractor databases into one as part of a bigger move to consolidate all of the different systems — nine of them! — that constitute the government’s “Integrated Acquisition Environment.” According to Ms. Meadvin, the S.B.A. believes that eventually the system will operate the way the people at West Point seem to believe it already does: business size representations from ORCA will be among the data automatically entered into the contract action report.

But for now, small-business advocates bemoan a system that allows everyone involved to evade responsibility for their actions. “The ‘pass the blame’ game you’ve seen from the S.B.A. and the Army is highly indicative of a lack of accountability by the federal employees whose duty it is to ensure that the contracting process is handled professionally and fairly,” said Mr. Rosenfeld of the league. “The erroneous entry into C.C.R. by The Times is also an example of how a large company’s negligence can contribute to the problem.

“Contract error and mismanagement amounts to tens of billions of dollars’ worth of contracts a year being diverted away from small business,” he added. “With such faulty standards of oversight, accountability and transparency, we wonder how easy it must be to hide fraud in the federal contracting process.”

– by ROBB MANDELBAUM, The New York Times, Mar. 15, 2012; this article appears at http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/how-the-new-york-times-became-a-small-business.

Congressional small business workshop Mar. 26 in Atlanta

March 16, 2012 by

The Georgia District office of the Small Business Administration will be hosting a Congressional Small Business Workshop on behalf of Senator Saxby Chambliss on Monday, March 26, 2012 at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta.

Morning session registration is between 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Afternoon session registration will be conducted 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Topics of discussion:

10:30 a.m. The Right Way to Start a New Business

11:30 a.m. Financing Your New Business

1:30 p.m. Using Federal Procurement to Grow your
Existing Business

2:45 p.m. Growing your Business through Exporting

3:45 p.m. Financing your Business Expansion

Please contact Alyssa Ramirez at 770-763-9090 or vog.etanes.ssilbmahcnull@zerimar_assyla or more information.

More details are at http://www.chambliss.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/chambliss-to-host-small-business-workshop.

VA supplier forum Apr. 10 in Atlanta

March 16, 2012 by

“Supplier Relationship Transformation” is the theme of the regional forum being conducted in Atlanta by the Office of Acquisition and Logistics of the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

The forum provides the opportunity for suppliers to network with and gain knowledge from the VA’s acquisition leadership and industry peers.

Advance registration is required and can be accomplished at http://www.theambitgroup.com/vasrt/atlanta_forum.html.

This event is being held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North, 7 Concourse Pkwy., NW, Atlanta, GA 30328.

More details are posted at: VA SRT Forum Atlanta 04.10.2012.

Women-owned biz bill slashes dollar limit on contracts

March 15, 2012 by

The Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2012 was introduced on March 7, 2012 by seven senators in a bipartisan effort to eliminate dollar-amount restrictions on contracts that WOSBs can compete for.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), speaking to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said the purpose of the bill is to remove inequities that exist in the women-owned small business contracting program, when compared to other socio-economic programs.

Sen. Snowe co-sponored the bill with senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The proposed legislation would remove contract-award limitations as well as provide tools women need to compete fairly in the federal contracting arena by allowing for non-competitive contracts, when circumstances allow, the Congressional Record said.

“Women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of the federal marketplace,” said Sen. Snowe. “In fact, our government has never achieved its goal of five percent of contracts going to WOSBs, achieving only 4.04 percent in fiscal year 2010. Our bill would greatly assist federal agencies in achieving the small business goaling requirement for WOSBs,” she added.

The proposed legislation has received letters of support from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women Impacting Public Policy and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

“Women make this country run as business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more, but women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of federal contracting dollars,” Sen. Mikulski said.

In 2010, the Small Business Administration rolled out the WOSB Procurement Program, but the sponsoring senators and many women’s groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

The biggest complaint is that it still contains barriers that prevent women-owned businesses from fully developing.

“For 11 very long years, we urged the Congress and the federal agencies to put the WOSB program into place. Now that it has been implemented, our work has turned to improving the program and making it a vehicle for business growth for women business owners,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP, a national nonpartisan public-policy organization that advocates on behalf of nearly one million women-owned businesses.

“Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy but they remain woefully underrepresented in small business contracting,” added. Sen. Bennet.

The senators proposed the bill to coincide with National Women’s History Month.

It also comes out on the heels of the House Small Business Committee clearing the way for six pro-contractors bills.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.  This article appeared on Mar. 9, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/09/2012-wosb-bill-introduced.aspx?s=wtdaily_120312.

Women, minorities pay a high price for procurement gains

March 12, 2012 by

In the wake of reduced federal contract spending, a new study found that the price tag of doing business is higher for minority and women contractors as compared to other small firms.

An American Express survey, “Women and Minority Small Business Contractors: Divergent Paths to Equal Success,” measured 740 active small-business contractors and looked at how the women and minority contractor experiences compares with other small firms in terms of overall contracting activity and success.

It found, particularly for minorities, that the annual investment made to seek federal contracts was 35 percent higher than for the average small firm with the same credentials. While small firms invested an average of $103,827 to secure a federal contract in 2010, the investment made by minority business owners averaged $139,709. Women business owners invested a less-than-average $86,643, but still up 23 percent from their 2009 investment of $70,512.

“It took minority business owners longer to achieve their very first victory in procurement,” the study said.

As bidding activity and success rates dipped for small business contractors from 2008-2010 as compared to three years before, the survey found women contractors were part of the same trend, but minorities weren’t. While minority contractors had a steeper decline in bidding activity than other small businesses, minority firms’ success rates jumped 10 percent in garnering prime contracts between the periods of 2007-2009 and 2008-2010. Meanwhile, overall prime-contracting rates plunged 8 percent during the same period.

Another positive finding showed women and minority contractors were more likely than their non-contracting colleagues to exceed $1 million in revenue and more likely to own larger firms versus their non-contracting peers.

Furthermore, the survey examined “turning points” toward procurement success in these two groups.  It found that 55 percent of most small businesses couldn’t point to a single action that defined their success. However, fellow business owners were found to be “more helpful than average” to minorities in sharing tips and experiences. Outside consultants (procurement advisors, accountants, or attorneys) and agency purchasing officials ranked “higher than average” at helping women.

These groups were more likely to have a specific certification or procurement designation. For women, getting on the GSA schedule was shown to buoy their business and 41 percent said that the designation has been “very or extremely helpful.” On the other hand, certification as a women-owned business was “very or extremely useful” to only 17 percent of the group. For minorities, 8(a) and disabled-veteran status has proved to be the most helpful certification.

The findings are part of the second annual government contracting survey from the American Express OPEN’s Victory in Procurement small business program.

All the businesses in the study are contained in the Federal Procurement Data System and are registered on the Central Contractor database.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.  This article appeared Mar. 6, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/06/women-minority-contracting-study.aspx?s=wtdaily_070312.