The Value of Federal Certifications for your Business

June 11, 2019

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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 this 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

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) register of federal bidders.

Here are some additional articles you may find interesting:

Register and learn how to do business with the federal government.

How would you like to have the federal government as your client?

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (Popular) has no affiliation or relationship with the Federal Contracting Center (FeCC), with the entities or with the information provided in the links mentioned in this article. This article is informative in nature and does not constitute an endorsement or a guarantee of its accuracy. Popular or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or related companies are not and will not be liable for special damages, direct or indirect, incidental or consequential, including, but not limited to loss of profits ensuing from or related to communications, articles or advice provided, or that may ensue from the information contained in this article. Popular is devoted to providing banking services and therefore does not offer (directly or indirectly) any type of advisory service towards
contracting with the federal government. If you require any of these services
you should seek advice from a competent professional of your choice. Popular is not liable in any way for the outcome of any related endeavor if you choose to voluntarily communicate with SAM, the FeCC or any of the entities mentioned in this article.