Virtual conference is on federal contracts

LIHU‘E — Tuesday was the first day of a three-day, virtual conference, “Hawai‘i’s Advantage to Federal Contracting.”

The conference is hosted by the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center, Hawai‘i Procurement Technical Assistance Center and state Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism, and runs to May 6.

Robbie Melton of the HSBDC Kaua‘i said the conference is giving island business owners an understanding of their unique advantage when it comes to accessing federal contracts.

“This is a great opportunity to learn how to expand your reach into the federal government under the Small Business Association HUBZone program,” Melton said.

“Our two islands are 100% designated a federal HUBZone. If you provide professional services, IT services, health care, industrial products and services, travel, security, construction and related services, human capital and other manufactured goods, you don’t want to miss this.”

The conference is 8 to 11 a.m. each day, with opportunities for participants to ask questions.

The cost is $49 for all three days, with an overview of the HUBZone program and application presented by the SBA HUBZone office in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility commissary, which will be discussing purchasing programs.

A HUBZone-certified company based on Kaua‘i will discuss best practices for working with federal contracts, and the HPTAC will discuss how to become procurement-ready.

“I’ve organized a special conference with DBEDT and PTAC for our Kaua‘i and the island of Hawai‘i businesses on how they can sell their goods and services to the federal government,” Melton said. “Kaua‘i and the island of Hawai‘i have a special designation, and sadly very few companies on the island know about it.”

On the first day of the conference, Melton explained how the entire island is designated a HUBZone, which means it can make it easier for companies on Kaua‘i to qualify to get certified as a HUBZone company.

“I learned this during FEMA. They came in about a year and a half ago, after a year after the floods,” Melton said. “And they were saying how they were looking for companies to be in the HUBZone program, so it would make it easier for them to procure goods and services when a natural disaster came.”

According to Melton, there are 24 federal agencies participating, and the SBA’s Washington team were guest speakers Tuesday.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) we have federal procurement officers speaking, and what they’re looking for, and what they procure in their departments,” Melton said.

Bruce Purdy, SBA deputy director, said the HUBZone program was created in 1999, and is designed to fuel economic development in distressed communities by providing access to federal contracts.

“The way it really works is the federal government has set a 3% goal across all federal agencies to procure from HUBZone-certified firms,” Purdy said. “So there’s a 3% goal. And basically what the government agencies do is they can set aside contracts for HUBZone-certified firms.”

Purdy said small businesses meet certain qualifiations to get certified. After certification, they have the opportunity to bid on contracts; not just any contracts, but also those set aside as designated for HUBZone-certified businesses.

“And so what this means is that when they bid in, get awarded those contracts, it brings those HUBZone dollars into the communities. It helps not only those businesses; it helps their employees, it helps the communities overall, so it helps us (get) some of those federal dollars into the hands of local communities,” Purdy said.

Register for the remainder of the conference at hisbdc.org or call 808-241-3148.

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Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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