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As a contracting officer, it is important for you to understand how to apply the requirements of the HUBZone Program to help certified HUBZone small businesses receive their fair share of contracting opportunities.
To review the basics of the program’s requirements, visit the HUBZone website. Use this link to identify HUBZone certified firms as part of your market research: Search HUBZone Small Business Concerns at DSBS. You can read more about the HUBZone certified small business list in this FAQ section.
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As the contracting officer, you will be responsible for determining what type of HUBZone contracting opportunity to conduct.
- A competitive HUBZone set-aside contract can be awarded if the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that at least two responsible HUBZone small businesses will submit offers and that the resulting contract can be awarded at a fair market price.
- A sole source HUBZone contract can be awarded if the contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation that two or more qualified HUBZone small businesses will submit offers, determines that the qualified HUBZone small business is responsible, and determines that the contract can be awarded at a fair price. The government estimate cannot exceed $7.5 million for manufacturing requirements or $4 million for all other requirements.
- A full and open competition contract can be awarded with a price evaluation preference. The offer of the HUBZone small business will be considered lower than the offer of a non-HUBZone/non-small business-providing that the offer of the HUBZone small business is not more than 10 percent higher.
As a contracting officer, you have specific responsibilities during a protest. Learn about what happens during a HUBZone status protest here.
If you need individualized assistance, please email email@example.com.
How can I find HUBZone contractors for the services or products we need?
Several market research tools are available to find certified HUBZone small businesses.
- You can search the list of HUBZone Small Business Concerns (SBCs) at SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) at this link. DSBS serves as the official list of small businesses that SBA has certified as HUBZone SBCs.
- Personal assistance from the SBA’s HUBZone Program Office is available at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact your OSDBU or Agency Small Business Specialist for assistance.
- Issue a Sources Sought announcement in FedBizOpps seeking interested small businesses, including HUBZone small businesses.
If I issue a HUBZone set aside solicitation, I'm subject to a protest on the set-aside itself OR on the HUBZone status of the successful offeror. How can I avoid this?
In general, agencies must make reasonable efforts to ascertain whether it will receive offers from at least two small business concerns with the capability to perform the work. Agencies may use different methods of assessing the availability of small businesses, such as prior (recent) procurement history, market surveys, searches on the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS), advice from an agency's small business specialist, and the SBA’s Procurement Center Representative (buying activity advocate for Small Business). In conducting market research, it is important that the search not be too limiting (e.g., use of a NAICS and key word). It’s best to start the search broadly (e.g. NAICS code search) and then narrow it down if necessary. The determination must be based on sufficient facts so as to prove it was reasonable. Therefore, proper market research and understanding the basics of the HUBZone program are key to making a HUBZone set-aside decision.
As with the other federal small business contracting programs (e.g., small business, Service Disabled Veteran Owned SBC and Women Owned Small Business/Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business), a challenge is possible on the HUBZone status of the successful offeror. A status protest is one that challenges the firm’s eligibility in the regulatory requirements of principal office, 35% employee HUBZone residency, ownership and control. The processing of Size protests is delineated in Title 13 of the Code of Federal regulations - Chapter 1 – Part 121 However, protests serve to maintain the integrity of the program and the SBA HUBZone Program Office will guide you through the process and help make the determination in an efficient and timely manner.
When does SBA get involved on a HUBZone solicitation?
The decision to do a HUBZone set-aside may not involve SBA directly; instead it is an independent contracting officer’s decision to proceed with a HUBZone set-aside based on proper market research. SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) may become involved if the agency decides to procure the goods or services using full and open competition. SBA’s HUBZone program office will get involved in the event of a challenge to the successful offeror’s HUBZone status.
How can I ensure that small businesses, including HUBZone small businesses, respond to the sources sought?
Consider using language in your sources sought announcement that specifically encourages HUBZone small businesses to respond, along with the other federal small business categories if applicable. Also, consider structuring the sources sought announcement by asking only for the key pieces of information you need to make the set-aside determination along with a page limit, thus making it easier for HUBZone small businesses to respond.
Why can’t I just issue a small business set-aside or a full and open solicitation? Then, if a HUBZone SBC is the successful offeror, my agency can still take the HUBZone credit.
Both SBA’s regulations and the FAR require that for acquisitions exceeding the Simplified Acquisition Threshold, the contracting officer must first consider a set-aside or sole source award (if the sole source award is permitted by statute or regulation) under the 8(a) BD, HUBZone, SDVO SBC or WOSB programs before setting aside the requirement as a small business set-aside (see 13 C.F.R. §§ 124.503(j), 125.2(f), 125.19(b), 126.607(b), 127.503(d); FAR 19.502-2(b). There is no order of precedence among the 8(a) BD, HUBZone, SDVO SBC or WOSB programs. The contracting officer must document the contract file with the rationale used to support the specific set-aside, including the type and extent of market research conducted. In addition, the contracting officer must document the contract file showing that the apparent successful offeror's certifications in the System for Award Management (SAM) (or successor system) and associated representations were reviewed.
SBA believes that progress in fulfilling the various small business goals, as well as other factors such as the results of market research, programmatic needs specific to the procuring agency, anticipated award price, and the acquisition history, should be considered in making a decision as to which program to use for the acquisition. Although agencies can take HUBZone small business credit if a HUBZone small business is awarded a contract using a general small business set-aside or full and open competition, this strategy significantly reduces an agency’s chance to meet the statutory 3% HUBZone goal.
You should also check with your Agency Small Business Specialist to see how making HUBZone procurements can assist them in meeting their agency goals.
Can I do formal HUBZone set asides using the GSA schedule?
Yes. A number of HUBZone small businesses participate in the GSA Schedule program and Contracting Officers can use this tool to target HUBZone small businesses.
Can a HUBZone firm self-certify? I know that under the FAR, small businesses and small disadvantaged businesses can do so.
Firms cannot self-certify as a HUBZone. Only the SBA has the authority to certify a firm as a HUBZone small business concern. You can verify a firm’s HUBZone certification at SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search at this link. Contracting Officers must ensure that an apparent awardee is HUBZone certified prior to making an award under a HUBZone set-aside process or an award where a price evaluation preference was applied. Please see FAR 19.1303(a).