The SBA is considering making changes to improve its socioeconomic programs–particularly the 8(a) and HUBZone Programs.
In a talk yesterday at the 2017 Navy Gold Coast Procurement Conference, Robb Wong, the SBA’s recently-appointed Associate Administrator, Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, discussed some of the big changes the SBA is considering. And to my ears, at least, a lot of what Mr. Wong said makes good sense.
The HUBZone contracting program, while well-intended to provide economic and employment opportunities in otherwise low income, high unemployment areas, must nonetheless connect HUBZone firms with government contracts, the overwhelming majority of which are not located within a HUBZone.
If HUBZone firms are to experience growth, they will need to utilize the local labor force in the area where the contract is to be performed, in addition to utilizing the labor force residing in their HUBZone to perform indirect labor functions. As a company’s direct labor force grows, their indirect labor will also grow, producing more employment opportunities within the HUBZone, thereby fulfilling an intent of the program.
In order for an employee to count as a HUBZone resident for purposes of a specific HUBZone contract, the employee must reside in an officially designated HUBZone on the contract award date.
A recent decision of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is a cautionary tale for HUBZone companies, which are responsible for ensuring that the 35% employee residency requirement is met on the award date.
The SBA will not aggregate a HUBZone applicant’s employees with the employees of the applicant’s affiliates for purposes of determining compliance with the “35% rule,” but only if the SBA determines that there is a “clear line of fracture” between the HUBZone applicant and its affiliates.
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims highlights an important SBA policy, which isn’t codified in the SBA’s regulations but can have a tremendous impact on HUBZone Program eligibility.
HUBZone certifications are averaging 116 days from the date of application to the date of certification, according to a fascinating SBA Office of Inspector General Report on the HUBZone certification process. The 116-day time frame is considerably longer than the SBA’s goal of 90 days. However, in a majority of cases, the SBA does complete the certification process within 90 days of receiving all of the applicant’s supporting documentation.
In addition to an overview of the time frames associated with a HUBZone certification (a question I am often asked), the SBA OIG report concludes that the SBA’s HUBZone application procedures need updating–and that three potentially ineligible firms were certified in 2012.
Last week, I had the honor of returning to Washington, DC and giving a presentation at the National HUBZone Conference on best practices for remaining HUBZone compliant. The presentation addressed critical ongoing HUBZone compliance issues, including the principal office rule, 35% employee residency rule, and other HUBZone eligibility rules.
Many thanks to Mark Crowley and the HUBZone Council for inviting me to be part of the conference. And a big “thank you” to my engaged audience of HUBZone companies, which asked many great questions and probably could have kept going all morning if there had been time. Finally, thanks to my sister Karen, for allowing me to use her apartment in Van Ness as my personal HUBZone Conference hotel and introducing me to Comet Ping Pong while I was in town.
If your company is HUBZone certified, but you weren’t able to make it to this year’s National HUBZone Conference, never fear. My presentation slides are now up on the Past Presentations page. Enjoy!
In order to qualify as a HUBZone business, 35% of a company’s employees must reside in a HUBZone (though not necessarily the same HUBZone where the business has its principal office). But what happens if a business slips below the 35% requirement? After all, employees come and go all the time.
Here’s how it works.