A goal of the Small Business Administration is to encourage more small businesses to become involved in federal contracting. An announcement July 25 from the SBA indicated that the agency is making progress toward that goal, at least nationally.
During the federal fiscal year of Oct. 1, 2020-Sept. 30, 2021 – the most recent year for which complete data are available – the SBA exceeded its small business federal contracting goal, awarding just over 27%, or $154.2 billion, in federal contract dollars to small businesses. This amount represents an $8 billion increase from the previous fiscal year, the announcement stated.
Locally, that translated to an fiscal year 2021 awarding of 92 contracts totaling more than $41 million in Brunswick County, 221 contracts totaling more than $36 million in New Hanover County, and 69 contracts worth nearly $740,000 in Pender County.
Those figures nearly double the value of federal contracts in Brunswick County, where in the previous fiscal year small businesses did just over $21 million in business through 87 contracts with various federal agencies.
One such company is Leland-based Blair-HSM, a division of Magnaghi Aeronautica. The company manufactures landing gear for a variety of aircraft – many of them military.
Although Blair-HSM’s number of government contracts has not increased, the volume has been steady and has included a couple of long-term projects, according to general manager James Flock.
“Those have been solid, locked in for several years,” he said. “The things we’re bidding on now would expand our operations, like [landing gear for] a couple of electric planes and the FLRAA [Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft], a smaller helicopter.
New Hanover and Pender counties, however, did not follow the otherwise rising tide. Fewer small businesses in New Hanover benefited from contracting, the number of contracts shrinking slightly but the value falling from a fiscal year 2020 total of $77.4 million. And while the number of contracts awarded in Pender County in fiscal year 2021 remained about the same as the previous year, the value of those contracts was about $63,000 less than in the previous fiscal year.
Despite the SBA’s outreach to small businesses across the country and the rise in the overall value of contracts to them, officials admitted fewer businesses are vying for contracts.
“Despite the overall increase in the dollar value of small-business awards, the absolute number of small businesses receiving prime contracts with the federal government decreased again in FY21,” the release stated. “This continues a multi-year trend of decreases in small-business vendors, dating back over a decade. In December, the government issued a policy memorandum intended to reverse the decline in the small-business supplier base, in part by tracking new entrants to ensure that new government contractors are entering and then finding opportunities in the federal marketplace.”
During a recent visit to Wilmington, SBA Southeast Regional Administrator Allen Thomas said he is spreading the word about government contracting opportunities as he travels around his eight-state region.
During the pandemic, Thomas said, the SBA had to make a transformation to digital communication and partner with more local entities about all kinds of opportunities for small businesses, including government contracting.
“In Eastern North Carolina, you’ve got Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. Just with those two, there is a huge opportunity for government contracting,” he said.
Thomas also mentioned that the SBA is especially focused on helping four categories of businesses: Small Disadvantaged Businesses, Women-Owned Small Businesses and small businesses in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones), as well as small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.