By Vicki Vaughan
San Antonio Express-News
A small business can take a big step toward winning federal contracts if it obtains an 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration.
The certification is designed to help small, disadvantaged businesses gain a foothold in government contracting. But getting the designation isn’t easy.
The program is open to firms that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by entrepreneurs who have been socially and economically disadvantaged because of their race, ethnicity or gender.
The SBA’s San Antonio office held a recent seminar to help business owners learn more about the program.
Adam Rodriguez, president of family-owned Radan LLC of Floresville, which offers facilities support services, including grounds maintenance and pest control, attended the seminar and said it was helpful.
“The 8(a) is an important certification for a small business,” Rodriguez said. “It’s kind of like getting into Harvard.
“Competing for federal work can be intimidating,” he said. “But if you can get past that, there are good opportunities.”
Rodriguez’s company, founded in 2008, now does business with such high-profile clients as the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of San Antonio.
“This year I think we’re ready financially” to earn the 8(a) certification, he said.
Diana Davis, owner of locally-based IntegriWard LLC, which handles facilities maintenance and management, said she already has filed an application for 8(a) certification, yet the seminar was a help. She learned about some valuable websites listing contract information that she wasn’t aware of.
SBA District Director Pamela Sapia said business owners who gain the 8(a) certification enter into a nine-year program. They’re assigned an SBA business opportunity specialist, who meets with them on an as-needed basis after an initial orientation.
The nine-year program is divided into two phases: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.