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Giving women more opportunities at federal contracts

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Last week, an interim final rule lifted the cap on the dollar amount of contracts that can be awarded by the federal government to small businesses owned by women and economically disadvantaged small businesses owned by women, removing the restrictions on the contract award size for which these businesses have been able to compete.

Prior to that, manufacturing contracts were limited to $6.5 million, and all others were $4 million.

"This rule change allows greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses and is a win-win for women business owners and federal agencies across the country," said Al Titone, New Jersey district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, in prepared remarks.

As director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center's procurement program, Stephanie D. Burroughs provides training and counseling for small-business owners who want to sell their products and services to the federal government.

"This is a boon to women in business who want to go after federal contracting," she said. "It's just one more step for women. We're moving on up."

The contract program was introduced in February 2011. Federal agencies are aiming to meet the goal of awarding 23 percent of their contracting dollars to small businesses, and these further changes are aimed at helping agencies award 5 percent of those dollars to woman-owned businesses and another 5 percent to economically disadvantaged businesses owned by women.

"Today, women own 30 percent of all small businesses, up from just 5 percent 40 years ago," said John Shoraka, acting associate administrator for government contracting and business development for the SBA, in an announcement. "By removing the contract dollar thresholds, women-owned businesses can compete for contracts at any dollar amount, opening the doors to more opportunities."

The interim ruling took effect May 7, and the agency will accept public comments until June 6, when the final rule will be adopted.

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