What's the most valuable small-business category?

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) certification has been the biggest godsend to small businesses looking to make it in the federal procurement world. The service-disabled veteran-owned status came up second in a new survey.

Based on online responses by 740 small business contractors, 64 percent of owners who have the 8(a) certification said it has been “very or extremely useful” in getting federal contracts. And half of those who are service-disabled veteran-owned firms said that designation has been very or extremely useful.

The results are based on the American Express OPEN’s survey known as “Women and Minority Small Business Contractors: Divergent Paths to Equal Success.” The survey was conducted in late 2011.

More specifically, minority contractors said the 8(a) status and disabled veteran status have been the most helpful. But even non-disabled veterans, and businesses with any sort of certification from a local government agency, report good results.

For women though, the General Services Administration’s Multiple Award Schedule has been best. According to the survey, 41 percent of women contractors on the GSA Schedule said it has been “very or extremely useful.”

The Schedules have helped many small businesses though: 39 percent of all firms on the Schedule said it was very or extremely useful. However, only 28 percent of minority contractors gave the Schedule such props.

The government has been working to get a special designation for woman small business owners. So far, it’s been the least useful of all the small-business designations. Only 17 percent of women who are certified as a woman-owned business say the designation has been “very or extremely useful.”

But the designation is new.

While in the works for a while, officials updated the Federal Acquisition Regulation March 2, announcing that they finalized a FAR rule that allows agencies to set aside contracts for women. It had been an interim rule since April 2011.

According to the survey, “It would seem that the newly launched Woman-Owned Small Business Procurement Program couldn’t have come at a better time.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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