GSA seeks to boost HUBZone firms

FedBizOpps information on HUBZone award

To kick-start the use of a $2.5 billion technology contract for Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) firms, the General Services Administration held a workshop April 29 for the 36 companies involved.

"The successful contractors do have experience performing in the industry codes in which they won awards, but they haven't done a lot of government business as a rule," said Keith Sandridge, acting assistant commissioner of the Office of Acquisition for GSA's Federal Technology Service. "For many of them it is their first multiple-award contract."

During the workshop, held at GSA's Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Center in Kansas City, Mo., GSA officials offered basic information on how multiple-award contracts work and instructed firms on how to compete for task and service orders under the HUBZone contract, he said.

HUBZone firms are based in economically impoverished areas and draw at least 35 percent of their workforce from such areas. Agencies are under a mandate to spend at least 3 percent of their contracting dollars with HUBZone companies.

"Generally, most small businesses need additional handholding and assistance in the acquisition marketplace," Sandridge said. "The perspective that the HUBZone firms bring is that they have greater enthusiasm."

GSA awarded the HUBZone contract in January and established a ceiling of $2.5 billion. It covers Internet services, call centers, distance learning, videoconferencing, wiring and cabling, network design, computer operations and support, network management, contingency planning, disaster preparedness and recovery, and information assurance.

How much revenue the contract actually generates for the firms will depend on how many task orders agencies place through it. The contract has a two-year base period with three one-year options.

So far, none of the businesses has earned work through the contract, said Mary Parks, director of GSA's Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Center.

The companies needed guidance regarding the most effective ways to use the contract, she added. "They all needed a point in the right direction," she said. "A lot of them hadn't done a lot of federal business and needed to know how to use the contract. But there's a lot of energy from the contract holders."

The contract is one of many recent measures designed to help small businesses enter the federal market. Despite the various aids, however, the companies still face a tough road, Sandridge said.

"It's really not getting easier. There are more tools available to assist the small businesses, and there is more attention being paid at management levels to include small businesses in the process," he said. "A center like this one in Kansas City provides a lot of handholding. But if you just look at a small business trying to operate, it's a long road. Small businesses just by definition aren't going to have the resources to get into the market."

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