President Clinton, rounding the final bend in his eight-year stretch as president of the United States, says he wants to make sure more small disadvantaged businesses have an opportunity to tap into the $200 billion-a-year government contracting marketplace.
Accordingly, the president recently issued an order to all federal agencies that they should make an effort to increase such opportunities, particularly the 8(a) program's 6,000 registered small businesses, along with Minority Business Enterprises and Small Disadvantaged Businesses. Agencies were given 90 days to submit their plans to the Office of Management and Budget.
"These businesses are of vital importance to job growth and to the economic strength of the United States but have faced historic exclusion and underutilization in federal procurement," the president's order stated. "All agencies within the executive branch with procurement authority are required to take all necessary steps, as permitted by law, to increase contracting between the federal government and SDBs, 8(a)s and MBEs."
Not that such opportunities haven't already increased substantially over the past eight years, according to SBA officials. The 8(a) program has seen contract awards jump by 81 percent, from $3.4 billion in 1990 to $6.2 billion in 1999.
"That's a good step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done, and that's exactly what the president's order intends to accomplish," says SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez in a prepared statement. "The president's message to federal agencies is clear. As public servants, we must take affirmative steps to ensure that disadvantaged businesses have access to federal contracting opportunities and resources."
- Making disadvantaged businesses more aware of prime contracting opportunities;
- Increase the prime contractors' use of 8(a) and SDB firms as subcontractors;
- Encouraging business-to-business relationships, teaming and mentoring; and
- Offering more technical assistance and training for disadvantaged businesses.
- In addition, the SBA itself is being required to evaluate SDB accomplishments twice yearly, ensure that procurement advisers receive adequate training and make sure that procurement goals and agency accomplishments are made available to the public.
Teleconferencing for the small
The U.S. Small Business Administration's Business Information Center on Pittsburgh's North Side now offers teleconferencing equipment to small businesses.
The equipment gives small business owners and hopeful business developers the power to audioconference or videoconference with others across the country, thanks to a partnership with equipment maker Polycom.
The new communications equipment, which is being installed at the local BIC, is being set up to allow the BIC in Pittsburgh to teleconference with other BICs as well as banks and other institutions with similar technology.
Polycom Inc., said to be the global leader in multimedia communication solutions, is installing Viewstation videoconferencing and Soundstation audioconferencing equipment in the Chula Vista, Calif., Wilmington, Del., Lewiston, Maine, and Spokane, Wash. BICs, as well as in the Pittsburgh BIC.How to reach: SBA Pittsburgh district office, (412) 395-6565
Many of the answers you get from the Internal Revenue Service's Electronic Tax Law Assistance program could be wrong.
So says the office of U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business, following a recent study of the program prepared by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The study found that small business taxpayers received correct answers to their questions only 54 percent of the time.
That means 46 percent of the answers were wrong. The drop in accuracy contrasts with the IRS's fiscal 1999 and 2000 accuracy rates of 76 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
Nonetheless, the IRS's Internet program still outperformed private sector competition by a few percentage points. But that's not enough to soothe Bond's concerns for the program, particularly since, according to a General Accounting Office study, small businesses account for about 44 percent, or $915 billion, of all money collected by the IRS in recent years.
"A 54 percent accuracy rate for small business tax questions poses a grave risk to small business taxpayers who turn to the IRS for help and who rely on the accuracy of the agency's answers at their peril," says Bond in a prepared statement. "Moreover, this disparity reconfirms the urgent need for improved service to small business owners on America's Main Street. These results leave little doubt that small businesses are fighting an uphill battle figuring out what they owe the IRS."