MOBILE, Ala. – In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, awarded more than $900 million in contract procurements. Of the total amount awarded, approximately one-third went to small business.
“We put right around $320 million into the hands of small businesses last year,” recalled Linda Spadaro, chief of the district’s small business program. “It’s really about economic development and helping them to grow. If you don’t have enough competition coming up then it starts to skew on the other end where you get into monopolies.”
The district’s emphasis on fostering competition and encouraging small business participation, is in line with the Defense Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), which requires Federal agencies to set aside a certain amount of money for small business.
“We try to tailor our procurements where they can participate,” said Spadaro. “Some contracts are just too large, but even with those we include clauses that require the [contractor] to do a certain amount of small-business subcontracting.”
The DFARS also includes several provisions that aim to increase opportunities for socio-economically disadvantaged businesses. A few examples of the types of companies these provisions are intended to help include service-disabled veterans and businesses located in rural areas.
“Those different programs help economically boost a variety of disadvantaged businesses because we rely on them for our mission,” said Spadaro. “And down the road it really helps them grow so they can compete.”
From June 6-8, small businesses will have an opportunity to learn more about the Federal contracting process at the annual Florida 8A Alliance Conference in Orlando, Fla. A wide range of Federal agencies will be on-hand during the conference to walk small business owners through the registration process, to assist them in networking opportunities, and to help them prepare to submit bids on competitive procurements.
“The Florida 8A Alliance is trying to bring small businesses together to help them network and grow,” said Spadaro. “The primary focus is on the 8A program, but you can also learn a lot about the government business model.”
During the conference, the Mobile District will set up a table along with members of the Jacksonville District to provide information to small businesses that is specific to contracting with the Army Corps of Engineers.
“[We] will provide them with a list of upcoming procurements and talk to them about how we manage small businesses in the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Spadaro.
During her time with the district, Spadaro has seen numerous small businesses succeed in the program.
“We have had several [small businesses] that have developed into competitive businesses,” Spadaro said. “And that’s the idea. To graduate from the program and become formidable small businesses and eventually large businesses.”
Across the country, small businesses employ approximately 50 percent of the workforce. With those numbers in mind, Spadaro has one goal for the Mobile District Small Business Program.
“Our goal is to help them get the experience they need, so they can go on to start competing on their own,” Spadaro said.