New HUBZone Rules Bring Good News for Distressed Areas SBA Has a New Chief Counsel of Advocacy

Article excerpt

The U.S. Small Business Administration sent out some good news in late January with the publication of new rules granting parity between the HUBZone and 8(a) programs.

In a nutshell what this means is the potential of providing a new infusion of critically needed contracting dollars into the most distressed areas of poverty and unemployment in our country.

I echo what Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, had to say upon hearing about the new rules: "This is good news for communities where jobs and investment are most needed," he said.

Previously, HUBZone firms had to make do with contracting leftovers. At long last, small firms in America's most blighted communities will have opportunities to enjoy the prime cuts that have helped nourish so many successful prime contractors.

Bond has a vested interest in the new rules, published in the Jan. 30 Federal Register. Bond wrote the HUBZone Act of 1997 that vested government purchasing officers with discretion to decide which program to use in a particular contracting opportunity. The bill also allowed purchasing agencies to monitor their small- business goals and direct new contracting opportunities where resources are lacking.

The new regulations proposed language to bring HUBZone rules into compliance with an August decision in which the SBA's acting general counsel held that parity between the two programs was the original intent of Congress and provided for under the current law.

Bond hopes the new rules will eliminate longstanding confusion surrounding the parity issue.

"I'm elated by the SBA's decision, which brings the agency's position into compliance with the Small Business Act," he said. "Ensuring parity between HUBZones and 8(a) will allow both programs to move forward from the controversy that has dogged them for the past two years."

Under the HUBZone program, the government acts as a customer. Small firms that locate in HUBZones are eligible for contracting preferences, if they also agree to hire 35 percent of their employees from HUBZone areas. The program was enacted to help find a way to direct federal contracting dollars to the nation s most- distressed areas of high poverty and high unemployment. …