Business Beat: New rule to benefit women-owned small businesses

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Daily Town Talk (Louisiana)
By: Jeff Mathews
October 10, 2010

A rule by the U.S. Small Business Administration to boost opportunities for small businesses owned by women was finalized this week.

The rule, published in the Federal Register, is expected to be fully implemented in 2011.

The program authorizes 5 percent of federal contracts to be set aside for women-owned small businesses where the anticipated contract price does not exceed $5 million in the case of manufacturing contracts and $3 million in the case of other contracts.

To be eligible, a firm must be 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women who are U.S. citizens.

The firm must fit Small Business Administration definitions of "small" and "economically disadvantaged."

"Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest-growing sectors of our nation's economy, and even during the economic downturn of the last few years, have been one of the key job creation engines in communities across the country," SBA Administrator Karen Mills said.

"Despite their growth and the fact that women lead some of the strongest and most innovative companies, women-owned firms continue to be under-represented in the federal contracting marketplace. This rule will be a platform for changing that by providing greater opportunities for women-owned small businesses to compete for and win federal contracts."

With the publication of the rule, the SBA and the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council began implementation of the contracting program. That process is expected to take several months, meaning federal agencies' contracting officers will likely start making contracts available to eligible businesses in early 2011.

The enabling legislation to increase particiaption was authorized by Congress in 2000.

A study commissioned by the SBA from the Kauffman-RAND Foundation found 83 industries in which women-owned small businesses were under-represented in federal contracts.

Also this week, the SBA completed approval of nearly 2.000 loans that had been in the queue under the Small Business Jobs Act, and finished implementation of the program by increasing the maximum sizes in several of its loan programs.

Under the Jobs Act provisions that went into effect Friday, SBA has permanently increased 7(a) and 504 limits from $2 million to $5 million, and for manufacturers and certain energy-related projects seeking 504 loans, to $5.5 million.

The maximum for International Trade and Export Working Capital loans also has been increased from $2 million to $5 million.

SBA also permanently increased microloan limits from $35,000 to $50,000, raised the limit on Export Express loans, from $250,000 to $500,000, and made the program permanent.

SBA Express loan limits have been temporarily raised from $350,000 to $1 million for one year.

---"Business Beat" by Jeff Matthews runs every Sunday. Send news and tips to jmatthews@thetowntalk.com or call (318) 487-6380.

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