ALASKA — In fiscal year 2016, Region 10 met its Small Business Procurement performance goals for the first time since 2013. Each year, the region procures approximately $18 million in supplies, services and construction that support operation and management of more than 21 million acres, 1,170 miles of trails and 3,644 miles of roads within the Tongass and Chugach national forests.
It is important to support local communities, and the Alaska Region strives to do that by awarding contracts to businesses that fall into the category of 8(a) businesses. An 8(a) business is one that is owned and controlled at least 51 percent by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Yet that effort can be hampered by the very small local communities with limited knowledge of federal contracting, remote locations where competition and labor pools are limited, remote locations inaccessible by roads where mobilization of personnel and assets is expensive and adverse weather conditions that can limit contract periods. In FY15, those difficulties limited the region’s ability to award 8(a) contracts to approximately 1.9 percent of total procurement funds.
For FY16, the region set a goal: it would increase the percentage of contract funds awarded to 8(a) firms with a strategy to overcome contracting difficulties and show ongoing support for local businesses and communities. The Region 10 acquisition team and Tongass Forest Management staff officer collaborated with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, forest management program officers and the region’s contracting office. Together, they worked on a number of community outreach initiatives.
The team partnered with the Alaska Procurement Technical Assistance Center to hold three workshops and presentations regarding the requirements for 8(a) program certification. The workshops provided assistance to vendors in navigating the submission requirements to the Small Business Administration for small business programs. They also performed direct market research and outreach to 8(a) certified Alaska Native Corporations, local firms interested and capable of specific Forest Service construction and service contracts, partnered with non-native 8(a) businesses to better reflect the value that businesses and communities bring to the Forest Service mission and worked with ANC contractors to afford subcontracting opportunities to small businesses in local areas where work would be performed.
The team expected that these efforts, among others, would improve small business goals and community outreach, but the outcome was better than anticipated. The three community training and workshop sessions in remote locations enhanced future competition and participation in future procurements. The Region 10 team undertook efforts to successfully achieve all other procurement preference goals in FY16 and, most significantly, awarded more than 25 percent of total procurement funds to 8(a) firms. The concerted effort of the Small Business Procurement Performance team led to a more than 1,000 percent increase in awards to 8(a) businesses.