Set-Asides and Special Interest Groups

The federal government establishes formal goals to ensure small businesses get their fair share of work in the federal market.

In fact, every federal government purchase valued from $3,500 to $150,000 is automatically set aside for small businesses, as long as there are at least two companies that can provide the product or service.

Each federal agency must set an annual goal for participation by different types of small businesses. Here are the statutory goals established by Congress for federal executive agencies:

  • 23 percent of prime contracts for small businesses
  • 5 percent of prime and subcontracts for women-owned small businesses
  • 5 percent of prime and subcontracts for Small Disadvantaged Businesses
  • 3 percent of prime and subcontracts for HUBZone small businesses
  • 3 percent of prime and subcontracts for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses provides comprehensive data on each federal agency's progress in meeting its set-aside goals.

Additionally, agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act, of which GSA is one, must publish their Prime and Subcontracting goals each year. Here are GSA's FY 2018 goals:

Categories Prime Contracting Subcontracting
Small Businesses 35% 29%
Small Disadvantaged Businesses 5% 5%
Women-Owned Small Business 5% 5%
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned 3% 3%
HUBZone 3% 3%

Small business "self-certify" that they are small by going to the Small Business Administration's website ( and verifying that their business meets "size requirements" as outlined on the site. If a business self-certifies as "small" it can take advantage of contracting opportunities set-aside, or earmarked, for small businesses.

In addition to being considered a small business, a company can also look to obtain official certification as belonging to one or more of the following socioeconomic groups:

The above links all go to the corresponding section SBA website, where you’ll find eligibility requirements, applications, and submission procedures.

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