How Will SBA’s Final Rule on Women-Owned Businesses Impact You?

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On Thursday, October 7, 2010, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published a long-awaited final rule laying out the framework for the treatment of women-owned businesses in the Federal marketplace. 75 Fed. Reg. 62,258. The rule will take effect on February 4, 2011. The SBA notice is 35 pages, 22 of which explain the background behind the rules and 13 of which constitute the new regulation. This new program has been 10 years in the making, and it will have a significant impact on the Government contracting community. The purpose of this client alert is to provide a thumbnail sketch of the new rule. The full rule is available online at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-25179.pdf.

In a nutshell, there soon will be two new kinds of favored entities in Federal contracting: Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSB). In the eyes of the contracting officers, WOSBs and EDWOSBs are to receive roughly the same treatment as (a), HUBZone and Small Disadvantaged Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB) concerns. If a procurement falls under one of 83 particular industry classifications, agencies can restrict competition to WOSBs or EDWOSBs. Skeptical competitors will be able to challenge both the size and the eligibility of a firm claiming either status, and the SBA has the ability to conduct “examinations” to confirm the validity of a firm’s status. When procurements are set aside for either WOSBs or EDWOSBs, large businesses may still participate as subcontractors or joint venturers, just as they currently do with 8(a), HUBZone or SDVOB prime contractors.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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