Bob Casey to introduce laws aiding minority businesses

By:  Ayana Jones

During a recent visit to Enterprise Center, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey briefed local business owners on his efforts in assisting minority and women owned enterprises.

Casey plans to reintroduce legislation in Congress that will help bolster small businesses and ensure their full participation in the federal procurement process.

The first bill, referred to as the Accountability in Subcontracting Act, would ensure that all subcontractors are aware of their inclusion on federal procurement bids and establish a system in which subcontractors can report any fraudulent activity.

The bill would require subcontractors identified on a solicitation for a competitive proposal made by an executive agency to be notified by the prime contractor before the application is submitted.

A written agreement between the prime contractor and the subcontractor must be submitted to the contracting officer that includes the identity of the subcontractor, the scope of the work to be performed under the subcontract and the dollar amount of the contract.

Prime contractors who fail to comply with the requirement would face the following penalties: first offense – a fine of 20 percent of the overall contract; second offense – a fine of 50 percent and be prohibited from seeking federal contracts for one year; and the third offense – be permanently prohibited from seeking federal contracts.

“All of that is necessary to make sure that minority firms have a seat at the table — not just a seat at the table, but an opportunity to compete, an opportunity to perform and to provide a product or service,” Casey said.

“This is just about having a level playing field. This is about giving people a fair chance to compete.”

The second bill, known as the Minority Business Development Act, would authorize $200 million for the Minority Business Development Agency to carry out the technical assistance program and would allow the MBDA to enter into agreements with federal agencies to assist in the fulfillment of contracts and to provide opportunities for qualified minority enterprises.

Casey anticipates the bills will receive bipartisan support.

During the event, David Hinson, MBDA executive director, gave an overview of the agency’s strides. Hinson said under the leadership of President Barack Obama, 2010 marked the agency’s most successful year in its history. According to Hinson, the agency provided $4 billion in capital and contracts to minority-owned firms around the country last year.

Hinson noted that the federal government plans to double its exports for 2011 and create two million exporting jobs.

To that end, Hinson encouraged business owners to leverage federal government resources so that they can exports their respective goods and services. For instance, the U.S. Commerce Department is organizing a business development mission in March to explore ports and infrastructure opportunities in Egypt and Morocco.

Hinson also encourages minority owned firms to consider new models for growth.

“We cannot grow our businesses to the size and scale that we need if we only focus on one growth model — the organic growth model. We’ve got to find new models,” he said.