By Noah Raper, SBTDC/PTAC Counselor at Western Carolina University
Any business seeking to do business with the government should begin with developing a good working knowledge of the regulations surrounding their industry, the specific requirements of government agencies they hope to sell to, and perhaps most importantly, the Federal government regulations that oversee government contracting. This is nowhere more important than in the Federal government’s Small Business Programs. These Small Business Programs (including the 8(a) Business Development Program, HUBZone, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business, Woman-Owned Small Business, Small Disadvantaged Business) exist in order to provide the “maximum practicable opportunities” to these specific types of small businesses to compete in the government acquisition marketplace.
The specific regulations surrounding these programs are encompassed in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 19. As the SBA describes it, the FAR is a “substantial and complex” set of rules that govern the purchasing process of the Federal government. FAR Part 19 goes into great detail on the applicable government contracting regulations for small businesses, including size standards, policies, how to determine small business status, regulations for full and partial set-asides, and the regulations for each of the business development programs mentioned above. Many government contracts contain provisions that reference portions of the FAR; taking the time to read, review and understand these regulations can help a potential or current government contractor avoid many potential pitfalls, including costly errors and legal problems.
For more information, see the SBA’s description of the FAR on their Contracting information page: https://www.sba.gov/content/federal-acquisition-regulations-far. The FAR is updated every two years; at any time, the current version of the FAR is available online at the Federal government’s “Acquisition Central” page: http://www.acquisition.gov/far/. Contact your local PTAC counselor for questions and additional insights on the FAR.