Public Hearing: Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Business

On June 28, 2010 at 1pm EST, the Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Business will hold a public hearing at the auditorium at the Department of Commerce located at 1401 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20230.

To pre-register for the meeting, please email your name, organization or small business that you represent, along with the contact information to SB_TaskForce_Comment@sba.gov.  You should also include the topics you are interested in discussing (see below). Those interested in attending should register by June 21, 2010 due to security and limited seating.  Please put “registration” in the subject line of the email.

Topics that will be discussed during the hearing include:

  • Teaming, Mentor-protege programs and subcontracting – What steps can be taken to increase interest in and participation through use of: a) teaming arrangements and b) mentor-protege programs.  How can subcontracting practices, such as tracking and evaluation of subcontracting plans be improved? How can prime contractors be more effectively held responsible for their subcontracting plans?
  • Set-asides and Bundling – What aspects, if any, of the rules governing set-asides should be changed? What further guidance might be helpful? What strategies best mitigate the effects of contract bundling? Are there specific examples that might be shared as success stories or models for agencies to follow in mitigating contract bundling?
  • Training, outreach and technology – What types of training would improve small businesses’ ability to participate in the Federal marketplace and what are the best ways to deliver this training to the small business community? What Federal organizations do the best job in their small business outreach strategies? What specific practices do they employ that are most helpful? What technology systems and applications are most helpful to small businesses in finding contracting opportunities? What improvements can be made to existing technologies and what new applications might be considered to make doing business with the Federal government easier and more attractive?
  • Workforce Training – What is the best way to train individuals in the procurement process? How can we ensure they have the skills needed to serve small businesses?

Minority-owned firms are encouraged to register and discuss specific successes or challenges they have faced in federal government contracting.  In addition to participating in the public meeting, interested parties may submit written comments to SB_TaskForce_Comment@sba.gov by June 30.  Please put “comment” in the subject line of the email.

The Administration is committed to tapping the talents and skills of small businesses, the engine of our Nation’s economy, and ensuring that they have a fair chance to participate in Federal contracting opportunities.

MBDA Director Meets With Haitian Leader

June 10, 2010 – In support of rebuilding Haiti following the devastating earthquake that affected the region this past January, more than 400 companies from the United States, Dominican Republic and Haiti attended the “Building a New Haiti: Commerce, Business, Investment” conference in Montrouis over the last two days.

Rick Wade, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and David Hinson, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, met with René Préval, President of the Republic of Haiti to discuss ways in which Haiti can diversify its economy and develop stronger economic relationships with the U.S. as well as create an environment that fosters job creation and economic stability.

Wade reiterated the commitment of President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Locke to the people of Haiti and to engage the Haitian Diaspora in these efforts.   Hinson discussed how Haitians living in America are extremely supportive of their home country and are eager to help rebuild the nation.

According to Hinson, minority-owned firms stand ready to partner with the Haitian Diaspora and the Haitian government to create a new and greater Haiti.

MBDA, the only federal agency tasked with the growth and global competitiveness of minority owned firms in the United States, is building a portfolio of minority-owned companies with the reconstruction expertise and resources; and is monitoring the reconstruction process as procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses become available through the U.S. Government and international development banks.  Last year, MBDA secured more than $3 billion in contracts and financings for minority-owned firms in the United States.

The Government of Haiti has an 18 month action plan estimated at $3.8 billion.  This plan targets territorial, economic, social, and institutional rebuilding.  The total cost for long-term reconstruction efforts is estimated at $11.5 billion.  Contracts for reconstruction projects will be listed on: www.fbo.gov.  Search under “Haiti.”

The 2-day conference is co-sponsored by the American Chambers of Commerce in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service office in the Dominican Republic.  The conference continues through Friday with discussions titled “Private Sector Vision for a New Haiti: Challenges and Opportunities,” “Financing Private Sector-Led Growth,” and “Strengthening Small and Medium Sized Businesses,” followed by networking and breakout sessions.

Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, Explains Impact of New Health Care Legislation on Businesses

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke explains the impact of the new health care legislation on businesses.

Here’s the text of his op-ed:

Don’t Believe the Writedown Hype

Taken as a whole, health reform is undeniably pro business and pro jobs.

By GARY LOCKE

President Obama began his campaign to reform the American health-care system focused on three goals: protecting Americans’ choice of doctors and health plans, assuring quality and affordable health care for all Americans, and reducing costs for families and businesses.

The new comprehensive health-care legislation meets these goals, and will significantly benefit American businesses by slowing and eventually reversing the tide of crippling premium increases washing over our nation’s employers.

These cost savings are real. They will grow over time. And they will make U.S. businesses more competitive.

First, by drastically cutting the number of uninsured, this law reduces the hidden tax of about $1,000 for family coverage that those with insurance pay to cover the cost of the uninsured who rely on emergency rooms for care.

Second, the law invests $5 billion in a new reinsurance program for early retirees starting this year. For employers paying for their retirees between ages 55-64, this provision will directly reduce family premiums by as much as $1,200.

Third, the new law contains numerous reforms that a 2009 study by the Business Roundtable—an association of CEOs of leading U.S. companies—says will help slow the growth rate of health costs over time.

It places a fee on insurance companies’ most expensive plans that independent experts agree will put downward pressure on the long-term growth of health costs.

It empowers an Independent Payment Advisory Board to keep Medicare cost growth in check and promote payment and health delivery system reforms. And it realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care.

Based on the midrange estimates of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the present value benefit of the premium reductions from these reforms over the next three decades is in excess of $200 billion.

Add these system-wide reforms with measures like the $40 billion in tax credits that will be available to about four million small businesses over the next decade to help cover the cost of employee health coverage, and what you have is a law that is unquestionably pro-business and pro-jobs.

However, in recent days, critics have seized on a minor provision in the law to suggest it’s already increasing health-care costs for businesses. A fair reading of this provision suggests that its actual impact is quite modest, and far outweighed by the benefits for large businesses outlined above.

Let’s explain how this started. When the Medicare Part D prescription drug bill passed in 2003, businesses were given a double subsidy to help cover the cost of providing prescription drug coverage to their retirees. The government picked up 28% of the cost of their retiree prescription drug plans, and businesses were allowed to both exclude that 28% subsidy from their income and at the same time deduct that subsidy from their income for tax purposes.

In 2013, that changes. Under the new law, businesses will still get the same 28% subsidy, and it will still be tax free. They just don’t get to deduct the subsidy.

Seems reasonable, right? This is how virtually every other federal subsidy for businesses and individuals is treated by the IRS. Indeed, Donald Marron, acting CBO director for President George W. Bush, put it this way: “[A]s the Joint Committee on Taxation recently noted, that treatment is highly unusual. In my view, it’s right that the recent health legislation closed that loophole.”

This change has garnered recent headlines because, to comply with accounting laws, companies affected by the provision have taken a one-time charge reflecting the loss of future tax deductions over the decades-long duration of their retiree health-care plans. Critics have seized on this accounting adjustment to suggest these costs—as much as $1 billion in one company’s case—are going to place immediate and substantial cost burdens on America’s businesses.

This is disingenuous.

The actual cash flow impact of these provisions begins in 2013, and is only a tiny fraction of the accounting charge-offs.

This newspaper reported last Friday that while one company calculated a $100 million hit to its first-quarter earnings, its actual cost after taxes and subsidies, beginning in 2013, was closer to $7 million a year, or less than 1% of its profits last year.

Credit Suisse’s response to the tax controversy was: “don’t overreact to the hit on earnings.” Morgan Stanley referred to it as “noise” that would have “no impact whatsoever” on their view of this earnings cycle. And UBS projected that the impact in virtually all cases represented less than 1% of market capitalization for affected companies.

When you look past the hype and the overheated rhetoric, the benefits of the health reforms for America’s businesses large and small far outweigh the impact of this small tax provision.

And while critics have rushed to highlight this small accounting measure, they conveniently leave out the one fact on which every serious health-care analyst agrees: The status quo was completely unsustainable for American businesses.

The Business Roundtable study said that if current cost trends continued through 2019, the total cost of employer and employee premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would be 166% higher than it is today.

That would either force companies to decrease or eliminate employee health-insurance benefits or subject them to back-breaking costs that would make them less competitive in the global marketplace.

The bill President Obama signed into law last week helps avoid each of these equally unappealing options.

I understand that in these difficult economic times, the potential for any additional expense is not welcomed by American businesses. But in the long run, the health insurance reform law promises to cut health-care costs for U.S. businesses, not expand them.

That’s good for them. That’s good for their employees. That’s good for America.

Mr. Locke is the commerce secretary of the United States.

IRS Embraces New Applications to Make Tax Information More Accessible to Small Businesses and the Self-employed

Maximizing the Web’s convenience, accuracy and speed, IRS.gov -IRS’s web site- now assists millions of individual taxpayers, tax professionals, and small business owners to better understand and meet their tax responsibilities.

Updated Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop

The IRS’s Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop is an interactive resource to help small business owners learn about their federal tax rights and responsibilities. This dynamic educational product, available online and on CD 24/7 from your computer, consists of nine stand-alone lessons that can be selected and viewed in any sequence. A bookmark feature makes it possible to leave and return to a specific point within the lesson. Users also have access to a list of useful online references that enhance the learning experience by allowing them to view references and the video lessons simultaneously.

The Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop is the first of a series of video products designed exclusively for small business taxpayers. A new companion series called, “Your Guide to an IRS Audit” is in development with plans for a summer 2010 launch.

IRS.gov now features audio and video

IRS is augmenting its curriculum of online learning and educational productsfor the small business community by developing new live broadcasting, phone forums and webinars and offering audio and video presentations.

Testing social media

The IRS is testing social media-recently launching a YouTube video site at YouTube – irsvideos’s Channel and an iTunes podcast to help taxpayers take full advantage of the 2009 tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The IRS YouTube channel debuted with seven Recovery videos in English and American Sign Language and eight in Spanish plus other languages.

People without an iTunes account can hear those same podcasts, in English and Spanish, on IRS.gov’s Multimedia Center. People can also visit the audio site at iTunes to listen to IRS podcasts about ARRA tax credits.

To get the most timely IRS news and information about products and services for small businesses and the self-employed, subscribe to e-News on IRS.gov at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=154825,00.html, click “Subscribe Now” at the bottom of the page and enter your e-mail address.

Hope this information is helpful!

Greening your business

It’s important to recognize that consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. Eco-friendly practices may seem costly but can serve as a great investment for future growth in businesses as it reduces costs and creates happier customers.

Business.gov provides suggestions and information from fellow business owners as well as industry and government experts.  Linked to the site, you can find a Green Business Guide that offers tons of tips on how to pursue and maintain a green business.  Recommendations include how to reduce energy costs, how green technology develops energy efficient upgrades, what kinds tax credits there are to green technology developments, and more.  By cutting down on expenses and becoming more consumer-friendly, your business can open up opportunities for growth.

Here are some links to get you started with your journey towards a greener business:

Energy efficient guide

Save energy costs, find energy saving tips, and get information on incentives for making energy efficient upgrades.  The guide can lead you to recommendations on cost savings, opportunities for energy efficient upgrades, steps towards sustainable business practices, and more.

Tax credits to green technology development

A tax credit can provide significant savings. It reduces the amount of income tax you have to pay. Unlike a deduction, which reduces the amount of income subject to tax, a tax credit directly reduces the tax itself.

Green technology innovation grants

A few federal programs provide grants to small firms engaged in scientific research and development (R&D). The federal government’s SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs award a specific percentage of federal R&D funds to qualified small businesses. SBIR/STTR programs encourage small firms to undertake scientific research that helps meet federal R&D objectives, and have high potential for commercialization if successful.

IRS e-News for Small Businesses: a Time-Saver for Small Businesses

Keeping up with federal tax requirements is not easy in today’s fast-changing business environment. Even if you use a tax professional’s services, you still need to know and understand your tax responsibilities.

That’s why the IRS offers you a time-saver: IRS e-News for Small Businesses. E-news is a bi-weekly newsletter that alerts you to what’s new, hot and important for small business owners to know. It’s quick to read, easy to subscribe – and it’s free.

IRS e-News for Small Businesses features:

Tax dates for small business owners, to help you avoid missing a deadline

  • Links to new items on IRS.gov for small businesses
  • Reminders and tips to help you meet your tax obligations
  • Quick links to IRS news releases and announcements
  • Info about IRS products, services, and educational opportunities

Subscribe to e-News on IRS.gov at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=154825,00.html, click “Subscribe Now” at the bottom of the page and enter your e-mail address.

 

 

Minority Business Opportunity to Participate On Industry Trade Advisory Committees

The Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) play a critical role as industry’s voice in developing U.S. trade policy.  Through the ITACs, business leaders have an opportunity to work side-by-side with U.S. Government officials and trade negotiators in advising the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on industry specific issues related to, among others:  market access, customs matters, foreign investment and intellectual property protection.

Commerce and the USTR jointly administer 13 industry specific and 3 functional ITACs, plus a Committee of Chairs – and consider these ITACs, and the advisors who serve on them – to be a vital part of the U.S. trade policy-making process. As an ITAC advisor, you would have direct access to policymakers and negotiators to offer industry positions on U.S. trade policy and negotiating objectives and you would serve as a critical link between the private sector and government.

ITACs typically meets an average of four to five times a year in Washington, D.C. and sometimes there are meetings outside the beltway.  Some ITACs may meet more often, depending upon the work of the committee and the nature of the agreement being negotiated.  Members pay their own travel and expenses to attend these meetings.

Please note that we are currently in the process of looking at ways to leverage our technological capabilities so that people can potentially join meetings via teleconference or video conference.

Currently, Commerce and USTR are in the process of recruiting for new members on all sixteen ITACs for the upcoming charter term which will begin in the late winter/early spring of 2010. This recruitment process will ensure a diverse membership among industry sectors, small, medium and large-sized companies, product lines, geographic areas and demographic groups.  Although our recruitment efforts will be ongoing, we’re encouraging people to apply as soon as possible because members must be granted a Commerce Department security clearance (as they have access to confidential trade-related documents) and this process can take a few months.

Candidates applying for ITAC membership need to represent a U.S. manufacturing or service entity that trades internationally, or an association of such entities.  Candidate must also demonstrate knowledge of their industry sector and trade policy issues relevant to the work of the ITAC to which they are applying.  Candidates must be U.S. citizens who are not employees of a government entity, registered foreign agents, or federally-registered lobbyists.

People who are interested in becoming ITAC advisors need to send the following information to the Trade Advisory Center:

1)      A  nomination letter, stating the nominee’s international trade expertise and qualifications, from their company or trade association (can be self-nominating);

2)      Their current résumé, demonstrating knowledge of international trade issues relevant to the work of the committee on which they would like to serve;

3)      A profile of the sponsoring company or organization (if the nominee is a consultant, legal advisor, or trade association, a membership list or client list must be included and all non-U.S. entities that are clients or members must be identified, including members that are U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-held companies.); and

4)      An affirmative statement that:  a) the applicant is not a foreign agent; b) the applicant is not a federally-registered lobbyist, and if appointed, they will not be able to serve on as an ITAC member if they should become a federally-registered lobbyist; and c) the applicant meets all eligibility criteria.

These nominations should be sent to the Director of the Industry Trade Advisory Center, U.S. Department of Commerce, Room 4043, Washington, D.C.  20230.  They can also be sent via e-mail to Advisory_Center@ita.doc.gov.  Further information on the ITACs can be found on the ITAC Web Site at: www.trade.gov/itac or by calling (202) 482-3268.

As we reach out to broaden the spectrum of represented voices, we think there’s a tremendous opportunity here to engage citizens in the trade policy-making process.