SBA: Tech can help small-biz set-aside record

When members of the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee expressed frustration with agencies’ failure to send the required percentage of contracting dollars to small and disadvantaged businesses, a Small Business Administration official said technology can help address the problem.

Paul Hsu, SBA’s associate administrator for government contracting and business development, told the committee SBA will implement an Electronic Procurement Center Representative (EPCR) system to help agencies meet their goals.

According to fiscal 2008 budget documents, EPCR will help SBA better analyze individual procurements and make it easier for agencies to identify small businesses capable of providing requested goods and services.

Hsu also said SBA is working on systems that will remind contracting officers of their set-aside goals when they are developing contract details and automatically send e-mail messages to contracting officers requesting that they set aside specific contracts for businesses in Historically Underutilized Business Zones. Hsu said the letter system will be ready by October.

In his testimony, Hsu said SBA’s fiscal 2008 budget request includes $500,000 to explore how to best serve 8(a), HUBZone and small, disadvantaged businesses.

“We will be analyzing, among other things, training and use of technology,” he said.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the committee’s chairman, said the Bush administration has an abysmal record of sending contracting dollars to small businesses. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she was dismayed by agencies’ records on meeting set-aside goals.

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