August 12, 2014

Gillibrand, Staten Island Entrepreneurs Push For Federal Legislation Expanding Access And Opportunities For Women-Owned Small Businesses

NYC Women-Owned Businesses Would Have Received An Estimated $56 Million More in Economic Revenue in 2013 if Federal Government Met Goal of Awarding 5 Percent of Federal Contracts to Women-Owned Small Biz

Staten Island, NY – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), joined by West Brighton Community Local Development Corporation (LDC) Executive Director Loretta Cauldwell, Snappy Solutions President Maureen Fairlie, and Total Electric Distributors President Lenore Schwartz at the West Brighton Community LDC, 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, 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 Staten Island 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.”

“I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for coming to Staten Island to talk about expanding opportunities for women-owned small businesses,” said State Senator Savino. “Everyone knows that small businesses create jobs and contribute to the economy, women-owned businesses have contributed greatly in both of those areas. In fact women owned businesses are contributing more to the economy than ever before, leading in all different aspects of the business community except for one notable one, government contracts. This effort by Senator Gillibrand looks to equal that playing field just a little bit more, by providing better access to government contracts we can ensure that women owned small businesses continue to grow.”

“The West Brighton LDC and BOC Network’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) have a long-standing commitment to the economic empowerment of women, through one-on-one counseling, certification, and technical assistance, workshops, and access to financing on Staten Island,” said Loretta Cauldwell, Executive Director of West Brighton Community LDC. “We support Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to provide women small business owners with important tools and resources to grow.”

“As a 4th generation Staten Islander and a woman small business owner looking to grow my own company, this legislation is important to help Staten Island women entrepreneurs expand their opportunities,” said Maureen Fairlie, President of Snappy Solutions, a WOSB-certified company that provides eco-friendly and traditional janitorial  supplies and construction and industrial materials. “I thank Senator Gillibrand for pushing this needed bill to give women-owned businesses the tools they need to tap into the federal contracting market.” 

“As president of Total Electric Distributors, I once again stand tall and unfettered beside Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her continued fight for women-owned businesses under the WOSB Federal Contract Program,” said Lenore Schwartz, President of Total Electrical Distributors. “For my fellow WOSB owners, I eagerly look forward to having fair and equal access to accessing the Federal Market. In the past I and my staff have found the present certification process overly time consuming and difficult to navigate. With Senator Gillibrand's legislation, I anticipate a simpler acquisition process offering company expansion and job growth for the community. It has been too long of a waiting period for coequality under the WOSB's.”

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 a dozen Staten Island 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.

West Brighton Local Development Corporation, which is the Staten Island partner of the Business Outreach Center Network’s Women’s Business Center, offers women entrepreneurs one-on-one counseling, long-term training and short-term seminars. The Women’s Business Center is supported by the SBA.

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.