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Contracts to open for small businesses

(Published August 9, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

The D.C. government has set aside up to $735 million in government contracts for local small businesses and streamlined the procedure for those businesses to qualify for the new contracting program.

Officials estimate about 850 businesses headquartered in the District, which pay D.C. taxes and gross under $1 million annually, are eligible to participate in the program.

Hailed as a boon for local businesses, the law will allow small and disadvantaged businesses to become government suppliers without having to go through the hassle of re-bidding on contracts for items that the government regularly uses.

The Districtís Office of Contracts and Procurement (OCP) will open up the bidding on its seven supply schedules. The bidding period is tentatively scheduled to run for 30 days beginning Sept. 1.

The schedules are similar to the federal governmentís supply system, in which agencies that need recurring items such as office supplies, pharmaceuticals and industrial supplies can pick an approved supplier from a list and order the items rather than requesting bids for a contract.

In addition to the seven current schedules, OCP will create 50 more supply schedules in order to create a comprehensive procurement program.

In order to qualify for the program, businesses need to get certified as small or disadvantaged businesses through the Office of Human Rights and Local Business Development Administration. Businesses that are sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations that gross under $1 million per year can get certified as a small business in the District. The office also offers technical support for businesses that wish to be certified to help them fill out the proper forms and provide the necessary additional documents.

Once businesses turn in their application for certification, they are immediately eligible to apply to the OCP to get put on the D.C. supply schedule. After businesses identify services or products on the supply schedule that they can provide, they have to submit catalogs of items or lists of services available and the prices they charge for them.

The procurement office plans to solicit bids on the schedules from the more than 850 businesses currently certified as small or disadvantaged. Those businesses will receive mailings asking them to send their catalogs and price lists to OCP for consideration.

The seven current supply schedules are for pharmaceutical/medical supplies, office supplies, paper, information technology products, police supplies and electronics, industrial supplies and D.C. public school textbooks. A complete list of individual items on the schedules can be accessed online at www.ocp.dcgov.org.

The legislation to streamline the cityís procurement process was one of Mayor Anthony A. Williamsí cornerstone pledges during last fallís campaign. During a July 26 press conference at which the mayor signed the legislation, he also praised his director of the Local Business Development Administration, Jacquelyn Flowers, for increasing small business certifications by 80 percent in the six months since she was appointed.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator