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 between $10,000 and $250,000 is automatically set aside for small businesses, as long as there are at least two companies that can provide the product or service at a fair and reasonable price.

Each federal agency must set an annual goal for participation by different types of small business categories. 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

Smallbusiness.data.gov 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. Below are GSA's goals for FY 2018:

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 businesses "self-certify" that they are small by going to the Small Business Administration's website (https://www.sba.gov) and verifying that their business meets "size requirements." Then they would register to do business with the federal government by registering on SAM.gov. 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 may also qualify or belong to one or more of the following socioeconomic groups, found on the corresponding section of the SBA website. There you will find eligibility requirements, applications, and submission procedures:

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