Sba Plan For Minority Vendors Stumbles
By Scott Blake
It seemed like a good idea and maybe it eventually will become a reality, but not now.
The US Small Business Admin-istration’s Miami office wanted to try an experimental approach to government contracting for small, mainly minority-owned business: allow such companies to come together to form consortiums that can bid on federal contracts too large for them to bid on alone.
The first contract the local SBA office had in mind was a US Department of Homeland Security contract, said to be worth several hundred million dollars, based in South Florida.
Homeland Security recently held a meeting in the Homestead area for companies interested in competing for the contract, but no SBA-eligible businesses showed up, Jim Brooks, an SBA spokesman in Miami, said last week.
"It really never had the opportunity to get off the ground," Mr. Brooks said.
Some companies did show for the meeting, he said, just not the kind targeted for the SBA consortiums. To vie for the contract, businesses had to attend that meeting, according to Mr. Brooks.
"The right companies weren’t there," he added.
Mr. Brooks wasn’t clear on why no SBA-targeted firms attended but said some may have been in the process of writing proposals. Often, he said, the SBA alerts such firms when a contract is coming up.
Still, the Miami office isn’t giving up on the idea. The SBA wants to get consortiums of small businesses together to bid for future contracts, Mr. Brooks said, possibly one coming up through the military’s US Southern Command, based in Doral.
"We want there to be other opportunities for consortiums in the future," he said.
The idea was initiated by Jeffrey Campbell, the SBA South Florida District assistant director for the (8)a Business Development Program. The program — which targets minority-owned firms — was set up to help "socially and economically disadvantaged" businesses. The SBA has had about 250 companies enrolled in the program
To qualify, a company must show that it is a small business by SBA standards and that it is owned at least 51% by one or more persons who qualify as socially and economically disadvantaged and are US citizens of good character.
Eligible businesses also must show that they are controlled, managed or operated by persons who qualify as disadvantaged. In addition, they must show potential for success, generally by being in business at least two years, and show the ability to perform on contracts before applying.
The SBA defines socially disadvantaged as "those who have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as member of a group without regard to their individual capabilities."
The agency defines economically disadvantaged individuals as "socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free-enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities as compared to others in the same or similar line of business."
As Mr. Campbell envisioned the consortiums, three to five small businesses would get together to form new corporate entities for given contracts. Each member of the group would complement the others, as they would be able to provide some
expertise or service that the others
Mr. Campbell said about the proposed consortiums: "A lot small businesses don’t have the financial ability" to compete for big contracts, "but collectively, if they combine resources, it can make sense for them."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.