Getting a piece of the government contract pie

Seminar clues in owners of small businesses and disadvantaged entrepreneurs

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Government work from missile defense contracts to airport design projects to Mom-and-Pop janitorial contracts are available to small businesses - if those businesses have acquired certifications that award them hiring preference.

That's the subject of a workshop scheduled for Thursday morning in Juneau titled Government Certifications Overview.

The main speaker is Mike Taylor of Anchorage, program manager for the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers of Alaska, part of the University of Alaska's Small Business Development Center.

"What we are trying to do is let businesses know that they can get certified in various categories: Handicapped-owned, woman-owned, or veteran-owned," Taylor said. "Basically, it's a program to help people who have not had equal opportunities and it's not because of their abilities but because of their gender or disabilities - things beyond their control."

"If they apply for certification, it really raises them up in desirability for getting them into the supply chain of contractors," he said.

Taylor will present specifics about the Small Disadvantaged Business and the Historically Underutilized Business Zone programs.

The woman-owned and the veteran-owned small business programs are goal driven, Taylor said. "There is a 5 percent goal of all federal prime and subcontractor dollars that is geared to going to businesses owned by women. In the six years that goal has been in existence, no agency has reached that goal. So they are passing legislation that will allow projects to be set aside only for woman-owned businesses in order to reach that goal."

Forty-five percent of all businesses in the United States are woman-owned, Taylor noted, so this program is "largely an untapped resource."

The program for veteran-owned businesses is newer, based on the 1999 Veterans Entrepreneur Act, Taylor said. In this case, the goal for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans is 3 percent of all federal dollars, and 5 to 7 percent for all veterans.

"We do not have solid numbers for veteran-owned businesses in the United States because there was no preference or incentive to register them," Taylor said. "Veterans need to understand there is this tool out there and they can take advantage of it."

In the second part of Thursday's seminar, Taylor will be joined by Eileen Oliver and Erin Collins, certification officers with the state Department of Transportation, Civil Rights Office. They will explain the eligibility requirements for certification as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

"The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program provides incentives for state construction projects," Taylor said. "A number of these projects are targeted for Juneau and Southeast Alaska." A complete list of the projects can be seen at www.state.ak.us. Click on Department of Transportation, and then open up "projects." The list, which includes projects scheduled through January 2003, can be searched by region.

"We have several success stories," Taylor said. "Two out of the last three Minority Business of the Year awards went to businesses that had gone through our program. One was owned by an African American and the other by an Alaska Native. We have over 800 businesses in the state active in our program. We are evaluated based on the success of our clients, and we're proud to say that over the last five years our clients have reported in excess of $350 million in government contracts."

Eileen Oliver, who lived for 15 years in Juneau, said she and Collins are traveling the state, presenting workshops.

"The state DOT sets these goals for federally funded highway and airport design and construction projects," Oliver said. The percentage varies from project to project, and run as high as 25 percent. Airport concessions are included.

Her office is the only one that does certifications for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, which then become part of a directory the office maintains.

"SBA isn't the only agency that uses our directory," Oliver said. "The City of Kenai, the City and Borough of Juneau and the Corps of Engineers also use this directory to assign contracts."

Preregistration is required for the Government Certifications Overview. The seminar takes place from 9 a.m. to noon in the Juneau Empire's third floor conference room, sponsored by the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and the Juneau Small Business Development Center. Space is limited. Call 463-3789 to sign up.

The Small Business Development Center is a partnership program of the University of Alaska and partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBDC programs are nondiscriminatory, and access to programs is available to those with disabilities by request and prior arrangement.

Taylor will be available Thursday afternoon for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling sessions. Appointments should be scheduled. For those who miss him on this trip to Juneau, he can be contacted at (800) 478-7232.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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