Bronx, NY – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman José E. Serrano, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblyman Marcus Crespo, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO) President and CEO Phillip Morrow, and Bronx women small business owners, urged the U.S. Senate to pass federal legislation that would expand access and opportunities for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) seeking federal contracts. This legislation would help level the playing field for hundreds of City WOSBs who want to access the sizeable market of federal contracts.
Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy – over 40 percent of all Bronx firms are owned by women, according to the latest Census data – but they are systemically shortchanged in terms of being able to access the market of government contracting. More than two decades ago, Congress set a goal of awarding 5 percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses. Last year, nationwide, women-owned small businesses once again fell short of that goal with only 4.3 percent of contracts awarded. Across New York City, it was even lower according to data from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), at an anemic 1.48 percent of all federal contract dollars. If women-owned businesses had received the existing 5 percent goal, City women-owned small businesses would have grown their revenue by approximately $56 million dollars.
Senator Gillibrand is pushing for legislation, called the Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act, which aims to close the gap for WOSBs by helping them tap into opportunities for growth and job creation. The legislation would provide tools that are already available to other small business contracting programs. The House of Representatives passed a similar amendment earlier this spring.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the most powerful job creators we have,” Senator Gillibrand said. “And the fact is, women are the primary income earner for a growing share of homes across America. The key to a growing economy, and the key to an American middle class that is built to thrive in the 21st century is women. When we equip more Bronx women entrepreneurs with the access and opportunities to achieve their best in the economy, and their best for their family, that’s when America’s middle class will thrive again. Without a doubt, if given a fair shot, women-owned businesses will help grow our economy.”
“The Bronx should feel immensely proud to be the county with the largest share of women small business owners in the nation,” said Congressman Serrano. “In a search for economic opportunity and independence, women are increasingly choosing entrepreneurship. We need to provide them with the opportunities they need to grow and thrive, including expanded access to federal contracts. More opportunities for our women entrepreneurs will directly translate into more local jobs and financial resources to meet the needs of families in the Bronx and elsewhere. Women are key to our borough’s economic prosperity. That is why, as Ranking Member of the appropriations subcommittee funding the Small Business Administration, I have made it a priority to increase funding for programs that help women and minority-owned small businesses in places like the Bronx. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her efforts in the Senate to empower women through this legislation.”
“In this difficult economy, it’s essential that we create opportunities for women-owned businesses to flourish and succeed on an equal playing field and Senator Gillibrand’s legislation does just that,” said New York City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito. “Federal contracts introduce millions of dollars into our local economies, and our women entrepreneurs deserve equal access to this expanding market. Women are the hard-working breadwinners of today’s middle-class families, and the Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act will provide them with the tools and resources they need to grow and innovate their businesses with federal contract dollars. I thank Sen. Gillibrand for her tireless advocacy to ensure that women always have a seat at the table.”
“I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her dedication and commitment to empower our small businesses, particularly our women owned small businesses,” said Assemblyman Crespo. “Our national, state and city economies would have faced far worse consequences if not for the growth of our WOSB’s and the jobs they have created throughout our communities. It is long overdue, that the federal government levels the playing field and expands contracting opportunities to these invaluable and capable entrepreneurs.”
“We need to continue to help our hard working female entrepreneurs, not just in The Bronx but across the nation, be successful by giving them all the resources they need to run a fruitful business and achieve their goals to the best of their ability,” said Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. “Women-owned businesses give our economy a shot in the arm and this proposed legislation will assure that our women small business owners are given equal opportunity to thrive. I am proud to work with Senator Gillibrand, as well as great organizations like SoBRO and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, among others, to expand opportunities for women-owned businesses.”
“Senator Gillibrand’s legislation, The Women Small Business Procurement Parity Act, provides the framework necessary to ensure equality in the disbursement of federal contracts, and brings parity to the small business environment,” said Phillip Morrow, President and CEO of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. “This legislation is at the core of SoBRO’s mission, and will spur economic growth, shape viable businesses, and build on economic stability to strengthen our economy and ensure that we are competitive in the global marketplace. The South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation commends the Senator and her senate colleagues for making this a priority on the federal level.”
“As a certified, minority, woman-owned business located in the hub-zone area of the Bronx, Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will help provide businesses such as mine with increased procurement opportunities and support for future growth potential and employment within my community,” said Sheila McQueen, President of Scrub Clean Maintenance, a full-service cleaning and janitorial company based in the Bronx. “As an SBA 8(A) certified firm from 2001-2010, we were able to increase our revenues by more than 50 percent. We were able to demonstrate our capabilities and provide excellent, professional, quality service to the federal government. However, once you graduate from the program, you are no longer eligible for sole-source awards and must search for additional procurement opportunities, which is extremely challenging and highly competitive. This bill would open up eligibility and access, which is important to help businesses grow.”
According to a recent report, 8.6 million small businesses are owned by women, with an estimated economic impact of $3 trillion and supporting 23 million jobs nationwide. In the New York City metropolitan area alone, an estimated 670,000 businesses are owned by women – more than a 30 percent increase since 1997 – but City women-owned small businesses secured only 1.48 percent of federal contract dollars through city firms, according to the Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).
Currently, there are nearly 350 women-owned businesses citywide, including more than two dozen Bronx small businesses, who are certified under SBA’s WOSB Federal Contract Program. Launched in 2011, the program is restricted by the type and size of contracts awarded, for example, it lacks access to sole-source contracts, and represents only a small share of federal contracts.
The Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act would expand more opportunities for WOSBs by providing women-owned businesses access to sole-source contracts. Removing the sole-source authority restriction on the WOSB procurement program would allow hundreds of City women-owned businesses to become eligible for contracts when federal agencies need urgent action and consider just one company for a job. Currently, all other major small business contracting programs, such as for minority owned businesses, businesses in underserved communities, and the service disabled veterans program, have sole-source authority with the only exception being the WOSB procurement program. This legislation would help level the playing field for women small business owners.
Gillibrand’s legislation would also expedite an important study that identifies specific industries where women are underrepresented to shed light on why the 5 percent benchmark has never been achieved. Last year, only 4.3 percent of federal contracts were awarded to WOSBs, which is the closest the federal government has come to reaching its existing goal, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Nationwide, failure to meet this goal costs women-owned businesses nearly $5.7 billion in government contracts each year, according to a recent Congressional report.
Senator Gillibrand’s proposal, which has the support of multiple national women’s business and small business organizations, is part of a larger comprehensive measure called the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014, which would expand SBA micro-loan and intermediary lending programs to reach more women borrowers and bolster counseling and business training for women entrepreneurs, particularly in underserved areas.
As Ranking Member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, Congressman Serrano has increased Small Business Administration (SBA) funding for Women’s Business Development Centers and the National Women’s Business Council, as well as PRIME, SCORE, and Small Business Development Centers. These programs focus on providing assistance to, and funding for, women and minority-owned businesses.