If you’re a business owner and are considering the federal government as a potential customer, one of the first things you should do is check to see whether your company qualifies for one or more of the available certifications and self-certifications. These open doors since there are certain percentages of contracts reserved for companies that have them. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the entity that grants these certifications to businesses that meet the size criteria.
To help you in the process, we include three of the certifications and self-certifications available for businesses that you can apply for online.
- 8(a) Business Development Program: There are several qualification requirements, among them 51% or more of the business must be owned by an individual who is economically and socially disadvantaged as established by the program parameters. The certification is valid for nine years (as long as the business meets the requirements). One of the benefits of this certification is that you can receive training for the development of your business. Click here to learn about the requirements and benefits of this certification.
- HUBZone: The federal government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses in historically underutilized zones. Two key requirements for the certification are that your main office must be located in one of these zones and at least 35% of the employees must reside in the HUBZone. In Puerto Rico, 82% of the island is considered a HUBZone. Access the HUBZone Map on the SBA website to see the areas. For a complete list of requirements, click here.
“Having these certifications has been very important in obtaining contracts with the federal government. Without them, it would have been much harder to compete successfully with larger businesses or other certified businesses,” said Rafael A. Tirado Santos, owner of Overall Contractors Group, Inc.
For the last three years, Rafael’s construction business has had the federal 8(a), HUBZone, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certifications. During that time, it has done work for the U.S. Department of Labor, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, the General Services Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service.
- Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: If you are a woman and own a business, apply for the self-certification on the SBA certifications website. The federal government’s goal is to award at least 5% of all federal contracts to women-owned small businesses each year. Some of the key requirements are that the business:
- Be at least 51% owned by women who are U.S. citizens.
- Be owned and controlled by one or more women; each with:
- a personal net worth of less than $750,000
- $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years
- $6 million or less in personal assets
How do I know if my business qualifies for certification?
The first consideration is to determine whether your business is considered “small” by federal parameters. There are two aspects to consider:
- Number of employees
- Average annual income
These figures vary by industry. Therefore, it is recommended that you visit the SBA webpage that will lead you to the specifications for each industry. Furthermore, you can receive free counseling at the Puerto Rico Federal Contracting Center (FeCC), a division of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation (PRIDCO). Call them at 787-758-4747, ext. 3181, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on each of the certifications and self-certifications, visit the SBA certifications webpage. Before applying, add your business to the System for Award Management (SAM) (https://sam.gov) register of federal bidders.
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