Along with Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) today introduced the bipartisan Building Better Business Partnerships Act. The bill, which is part of the House Committee on Small Business contracting reform initiative, is intended to help remove bureaucratic impediments for small contractors wishing to do business with the federal government.
Small businesses have proven that they can perform a service or produce goods for the government at a lower cost and often at a faster pace than their larger counterparts, however -- as illustrated in this CNBC piece, "Fifth Time's a Charm: Winning a Government Contract" -- too many challenges remain for too many businesspeople seeking to break through the bureaucracy.
Rep. Schilling said, "As a small business owner, I understand that many federal programs intended to help businesses are ultimately too time consuming or onerous to navigate. Unfortunately, many mentor-protégé programs are no different. The Building Better Business Partnerships Act would streamline the contracting process, and place the SBA in charge of overseeing and setting standards for mentor-protégé programs based on what we know works. This bill also adds transparency to the program by requiring the SBA to report on the number of small businesses participating in each program, including the number of those that are women-owned, disadvantaged, HUBZone, or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. This will help all small businesses to more easily and more effectively contract with the federal government, enabling them to grow, create jobs, and get folks back to work."
Mentor-protégé programs are intended to partner small businesses with established mentors in order to improve the small business' ability to win and perform on contracts and subcontracts, but the 13 federal agency programs lack standardized measures of success and are duplicative. This creates an unnecessary paperwork burden for participants. The Building Better Business Partnerships Act allows the Small Business Administration (SBA) to oversee civilian agency mentor-protégé programs in order to promote portability of agreements between the agencies, guarantee that the programs benefit small businesses, and ensure that the mentor-protégé agreement doesn't inadvertently harm the protégé's small business status. It also encourages equal treatment among small businesses (women- and minority-owned, etc) by authorizing the SBA to have mentor-protégé programs for all small businesses.
"I hear one question over and over again from small businesses: How do I break into federal contracting?" said Rep. Chu, Ranking Member on the Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce. "With annual spending averaging $500 billion, there is no better way for small businesses to expand during these tough times than through federal contracts. Unfortunately, only 20 percent of that spending is going to small businesses right now. The Building Better Businesses Partnership Act of 2012 will help small firms break into federal contracting by making it easier for them to join mentor-protégé programs. Helping small businesses win contracts will help put Americans back to work, and with two out of every three jobs coming from small businesses, this bill will help the true driving force behind America's economy."
As part of the Committee's contracting initiative, two other bipartisan pieces of legislation were introduced today with the goal of creating protections to fight contracting fraud and empowering advocates who fight for small business during the federal acquisition process.