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Small firms fishing for big contracts

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — The federal government awarded more than a quarter of its prime contracting dollars to small businesses in fiscal year 2003 and President George Bush has mandated that all federal agencies aggressively make contracting opportunities available to small businesses.

That was the message at the second annual Business Economic Development Conference in Boulder on Friday.

Mick Ringsak, Region VIII director of the U.S. Small Business Administration in Denver, told a group of about 200 Boulder County businesspeople that small businesses “did $62.7 billion of

business with the federal government as prime contractors, representing 25.37 percent of all government prime contracting dollars. That is an increase of $9.7 billion over fiscal year 2002.”

Ringsak said the SBA has worked hard to help entrepreneurs do business with the federal government and the “president is working to create an environment in which small businesses can succeed, and these tremendous results show that his policies are working.”

The conference brought bigwigs from around the country — including federal Housing and Urban Development Regional Director John Carson, and Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Robert

Roberts — to talk about how small businesses can apply for government contracts.

Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Denver, was the keynote speaker, talking about his experiences as a small business owner and as a banker working with small businesses.

Fiscal year 2003 was the first year in history that small business contracting exceeded its 23 percent statutory goal, Ringsak said.

“The $62.7 billion in prime contracts awarded to small businesses in 2003 will create or retain approximately 469,632 jobs,” he said.

Funding for the SBA has been cut by more than 50 percent in the past few years. The Denver office is working with about half the staff it used to employ, said Christopher Chavez, regional communications director for the Region VIII office of the SBA.

Ringsak said that “every category of small business tracked by SBA showed impressive gains in federal contracts in FY 2003.”

Small disadvantaged businesses were awarded $2.3 billion more in federal contracts in 2003, receiving $18.2 billion in contracts, he said. Women-owned businesses received $7.9 billion in 2003, an increase of $1.1 billion over the previous year.

The Department of Defense awarded 24.8 percent of its prime contracts to small businesses in 2003, and the Department of Homeland Security awarded 40.68 percent of its prime contracts to small businesses in its first year, he said.

In his keynote speech, Beauprez said he was “bullish on Colorado, particularly (Boulder County). It’s an entrepreneurial, creative hotbed, with the university environment and the energy it created.”

He added that since IBM moved to the area nearly four decades ago, it has spawned numerous large and small employers in the area, including Storage Technology Corp. and Exabyte Corp. The same thing has happened with the different government laboratories in and around Denver, Golden and Boulder, he said.

“Three-quarters of new jobs get created by you guys,” he said. That’s why the government has tried to give tax incentives to small businesses, he said.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.