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A message to Maryland’s small business community

Lisa Mitchell Sennaar has worked in the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs for almost five years, helping to make access to opportunities and competition in state contracting more equitable. (Submitted photo)

In my role as a Small Business Reserve (SBR) Program Compliance Manager, I get to work with small business owners daily and connect them to tools that can help improve how they navigate and compete in the state contracting arena. Certification in the SBR Program is one powerful tool that all small businesses can use, regardless of race and gender. The SBR Program carves out prime contracting opportunities in an exclusive environment, where small businesses compete against other small businesses for state-funded contracts.

Maryland law directs 66 participating agencies/departments to spend 15 percent of their fiscal year expenditures with businesses that are certified in the SBR Program. Solicitations designated for the SBR Program can only be awarded to businesses that are certified, so large companies are not eligible for prime contracts awarded through the SBR Program.

I was very pleased when Governor Larry Hogan’s first Executive Order of 2021 focused on the SBR Program. “Increasing Small-Business Participation in State Procurements” (Executive Order 01.01.2021.01) mandates all eligible procurements, between $50,000 and $500,000, to be designated as SBR, unless they are exempt under Maryland procurement law, or are eligible for a waiver. The executive order makes SBR designation the default for solicitations between $50,000 and $500,000 unless there is a valid reason to grant a waiver.

This is a game changer for small businesses, and it comes with one caveat – there must be sufficient competition for the SBR designation to be placed on a solicitation. Procurement Officers tell me they have difficulty finding small businesses to bid on SBR designated solicitations. Conversely, we hear from small business owners that are not certified, or who have let their SBR certification expire, that they do not see enough SBR designated solicitations being advertised on eMaryland Marketplace Advantage (eMMA), the state’s online procurement system, to make certification worthwhile. Thanks to the new executive order, this is changing. If you search on eMMA now, you are already seeing more SBR designated solicitations being advertised.

My advice to small business owners is to find out if any state agencies buy what you sell. If there are any, and your business is eligible, get certified in the SBR Program. Your SBR certification helps increase the pool of vendors, making it possible for procurement officers to designate more SBR solicitations. It is a free online self-certification that is completed through your company’s eMMA account and must be renewed annually. Since Maryland advertises most procurements through eMMA, creating an account makes it easier to both receive and search for bid opportunity notices, submit bids electronically, and obtain bid results online.

I look forward to welcoming you as a prime contractor in Maryland’s SBR Program and encourage you to utilize the numerous resources on the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs’ website (https://gomdsmallbiz.maryland.gov) and on eMMA (https.emma.maryland.gov). And you can count on me as one of your resources.

SBR PROGRAM ELIGIBILTIY STANDARDS

This is a race- and gender-neutral program for all small businesses, including minority, women and veteran-owned.
The business must be a for-profit business, other than a broker, must meet defined eligibility standards to participate in this program as a SBR certified vendor:
The business is independently owned and operated;
The business is not a subsidiary of another business;
The business is not dominant in its field of operation; and
Either with respect to employees:
(a) Its wholesale operations did not employ more than 50 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(b) Its retail operations did not employ more than 25 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(c) Its manufacturing operations did not employ more than 100 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(d) Its service operations did not employ more than 100 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(e) Its construction operations did not employ more than 50 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years; and
(f) The architectural and engineering services of the business did not employ more than 100 persons in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years; or
With respect to gross sales:
(a) The gross sales of its wholesale operations did not exceed an average of $4,000,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(b) The gross sales of its retail operations did not exceed an average of $3,000,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(c) The gross sales of its manufacturing operations did not exceed an average of $2,000,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(d) The gross sales of its service operations did not exceed an average of $10,000,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years;
(e) The gross sales of its construction operations did not exceed an average of $7,000,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years; and
(f) The gross sales of its architectural and engineering operations did not exceed an average of $4,500,000 in its most recently completed 3 fiscal years.
Note: If a business has not existed for 3 years, the employment and gross sales average or averages shall be the average for each year or part of a year during which the business has been in existence.

About the author
I have worked in the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs for almost five years, helping to make access to opportunities and competition in state contracting more equitable. I have always been passionate about fairness. I grew up in a family of women and men that founded and led organizations and were elected to political offices during the American Civil Rights Revolution of the 20th Century. They and their allies protested in the streets starting in the early 1900’s and worked through the local, state, and national branches of government to end lynching and Jim Crow segregation in Maryland and the nation. They fought for laws that made government and the private sector more inclusive, like the 1957, 1960 and 1964 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and the laws that created Maryland’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Program in 1978 and the Small Business Reserve (SBR) Program in 2004. I am proud to share more of their stories from the websites cited below. It is an honor to continue their legacy of advocating for and implementing fair and inclusive policies.

Minority Business/Expanding Opportunities 2021 cover

Expanding Opportunities

This article is featured in the 2021 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact [email protected].