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GSA Works to Expand Opportunities for 8(a) Small Businesses Blog Feature
Stephanie Hagan

By: Stephanie Hagan on December 2nd, 2022

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GSA Works to Expand Opportunities for 8(a) Small Businesses

Government Business Development | 4 Min Read

The federal government is actively working toward making sure small businesses have a big slice of government contracting dollars. Recently, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have signed a new 8(a) Program Partnerships Agreement (PA) that will increase contracting opportunities and make it easier for government customers to use GSA Schedules to access 8(a) company solutions. 8(a) companies are a part of a small disadvantaged business program, and the government has been focused on making federal procurement more accessible for contractors under this program. Let’s discuss the 8(a) Business Development Program, what the new partnership will mean, and other ways small businesses can utilize support from the government.

What is the 8(a) Business Development Program?

The 8(a) Business Development Program was created to assist eligible small, disadvantaged businesses with training and technical assistance so they can compete in the government marketplace. The program is aimed specifically at small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The four categories of disadvantaged businesses defined by the SBA are:

8(a) is one of the several small business set-asides created by the SBA to help companies effectively compete in government contracts.

Small Business Set-Asides

Maybe you’ve heard of the term “set-asides” before or you’re just now reading it for the first time in this blog, but what are they? Small Business set-asides limit competition to qualifying small businesses. This means there may be a contract open to only 8(a) businesses, Women-Owned, Veteran-Owned, or sometimes all types of small businesses. This way a small business doesn’t have to compete for let’s say computer software against large companies like Microsoft. While this is just a generic example, the idea is that entire contracts are set aside only for a specific type of small businesses or just small businesses in general. This leaves more contracting dollars on the table for small businesses.

There are also contract vehicles specific to small businesses. A prime example of this is 8(a) STARS II and 8(a) STARS III. These are not just acquisitions for a specific product or service, but entire contract vehicles dedicated only to 8(a) companies selling IT service-based solutions.

The New 8(a) Program Partnership Agreement (PA)

Let’s discuss the new Program Partnership Agreement and how it’ll help 8(a) businesses gain some traction in the world of government contracting. Once the partnership is fully implemented it will:

  1. Increase opportunities for 8(a) companies, allowing them to compete in a set-aside environment
  2. Give government agencies more access to 8(a) companies for a wide array of products and services.
  3. Increase ordering flexibility through GSA Schedules, including sole source awards to 8(a) companies.
  4. Streamline acquisition to incentivize agencies to purchase 8(a) solutions from GSA Schedules.
  5. Create standardized processes for reaching agreements on acquisition strategies between GSA and the SBA.

GSA anticipates this Partnership Agreement (PA) to be fully implemented in the spring of 2023. This partnership presents itself as a big deal for 8(a) companies—as a smaller group of contractors, the action items above would generate more contracting opportunities to go after and make it easier for government agencies to access solutions. This means more agencies will be seeking out 8(a) products and services, creating more customers for 8(a) businesses.

Small Business Resources

Small businesses, including 8(a) companies, have a lot of resources at their disposal. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has several training resources for businesses just starting out as well as detailed information on all their federal contracting assistance programs. SBA has local branches too so you can get help and join relevant virtual and in-person events in your state. The  Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) partners with GSA to hold webinars and events for small businesses, and also supports SBAs federal contracting assistance programs. There is also Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) which provide localized one-on-one counseling, workshops, and matmaking events for agency buyers and businesses. Check out our blog on small business resources to get a more comprehensive list.

If you want to learn more about becoming a GSA contractor, becoming a small business, or just general contracting help or advice, we are here to help answer any of your questions.

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About Stephanie Hagan

Stephanie Hagan is the Content Writer and Digital Editor for Winvale where she helps the marketing department continue to develop and distribute GSA and government contracting content. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.