Danya Chandler plans to add employees and floor space to her Springbor, OHo engineering and manufacturing business in anticipation of winning a slice of $2.5 billion in additional contracts the federal government wants to award to small, women-owned businesses.
A Small Business Administration (SBA) program unveiled in April — more than a decade after its creation by Congress — aims to award 5 percent of all federal contracts to companies such as Chandler’s Connective Design Inc., which currently employs 10 workers in a business park just south of the new Austin Boulevard Interchange at Interstate 75.
While excited at the prospects, Chandler said she has conflicting feelings about qualifying for minority set-asides offered to women by the federal government after 20 years struggling for a level playing field in a male-dominated industry.
About 7.8 million of 27.1 million American firms are owned by women, and women-owned businesses generated $1.2 billion of $30.2 billion in total sales
those firms recorded in 2008, according to the latest U.S. Census data available.
Congress passed the law establishing the new set-aside programs for small, women-owned businesses in 2000.
More than a decade later, the program took effect April 1 after it was added to federal acquisition regulations.
“It was a priority for the Obama administration to implement this program and make it effective,” said Michele Chang, SBA’s senior adviser for the Office of
Government Contracting and Business Development. “Federal contracts can provide women-owned small businesses with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level.”
Now SBA is conducting outreach programs with the hope of having companies certified and ready to compete for federal contracts in the third quarter of
this year “when the largest percent of small business contracts are awarded,” according to an SBA fact sheet.
Last year, the federal government awarded about $400 billion in contracts. Under the new program, up to 5 percent, or about $20 billion, in contracts will be set aside for small, women-owned businesses — about $2.5 billion more than were awarded to small, women-owned businesses in 2010, according to SBA.
To be certified for the program as a women-owned small business, or WOSB, companies must be at least 51 percent owned, controlled and primarily managed by one or more female U.S. citizens. Additional funds are available for “economically disadvantaged” companies in which the principals net worth is less than $750,000.
“Now we find out we’re disadvantaged,” Chandler said. “It’s kind of a sore spot.”
Small, women-owned businesses “weren’t getting their cut” of federal contracts, Chandler added. Started in a Miamisburg basement in 1991, Connective
Design Inc. is one of about 250,000 small, women-owned businesses in Ohio.
The company moved from Franklin into a new building off Ohio 741 south of the Austin interchange in October 2010 and recently increased its work force from seven to 10.
Originally a distributor of electrical components, it is now a manufacturer and custom and reverse engineering firm specializing in production of contacts,
connectors and assemblies for companies including DRS Environmental Systems, Florence, Ky., which provides air-quality equipment to military bases around the world.
In anticipation of continued growth, largely due to the new federal program, Chandler is eyeing expansion into an empty office and manufacturing space next door and plans to hire a quality manager, technical engineer and assembly workers by the end of the year.
Other area small, women-owned businesses are assessing the program as well.
Brenda Westendorf, president of VMI Corp., a plumbing company in Dayton, was excited to learn of the new federal program.
“I think it’s really acknowledging women,” she said. “Anybody can use all the help they can get from the government.”
Incorporated in 1996, VMI has already begun government contract work providing maintenance and repair services for metropolitan housing authorities
in Dayton and Butler County.
“There’s a lot of paper, a lot of forms, a lot of registration you’ve got to go through,” she said, but “I would love to go as far as I can with it.”
Shelly Robinson-Heller is skeptical about whether the new programs will help her company, Moraine-based Allied Shipping and Packaging.
“Working with the government is extremely time-consuming,” Robinson-Heller said.
Allied already is certified through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, qualifying it to participate in other programs designed to help women-owned businesses.
Still, Robinson-Heller said the new set- asides were a “step forward, but 5 percent of government contracts is not that much.”
For information, www.sba.gov/wosb
— By Lawrence Budd, Staff Writer – Middletown (OH) Journal – 4:45 PM Saturday, June 11, 2011 at http://www.middletownjournal.com/news/middletown-business-news/-2-5b-more-allotted-for-small-women-owned-firms-1182852.html