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Federal changes could cause veteran business owners to miss out on government contracts, but the fix is simple

Local, state, and federal contract money set aside for veteran businesses could boost local economy
Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 09:45:44-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Last year, the process for veteran small business certification switched from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The switch streamlined parts of the process, but it also raised concern that some vets may not be aware the change occurred and could miss out on certification.

Certification means the business is 51% veteran owned, registered with the System for Award Management (sam.gov), and employs fewer than 500 people.

If a business isn’t certified, they could miss out on lucrative government contracts and subcontracting money at the local, state, and federal level.

“It may be an irrational fear, but it's a fear because of my passion for veteran owned small businesses, is that someone's not going to verify their information and resubmit through my SBA and lose a federal contract, lose the state contract,” said Kia Palmer, director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Mt. Carmel in Colorado Springs.

VBOC is a program that provides business development support for veterans nationwide. The Colorado Springs VBOC serves the entire state and only began receiving federal grant money in May 2023. Palmer said they already serve 250 clients throughout the state and are increasingly growing.

Palmer said it’s a simple process to recertify as a veteran business with the SBA, but with the changes still somewhat new, she worries some may miss their date for recertification or be unaware of where to do it.

“It is a lack of awareness and not by any fault of the SBA” said Palmer. “But we just want to do what we can to push the information out.”

Apart from the recertification changes, Palmer said the federal government also increased the money set aside for veteran-owned small businesses to secure government contracts. The percentage increased from 3% to 5%, meaning millions, if not more, are on the table for vets.

But if they aren’t certified, they can’t be considered for those contracts or subcontracts.

“That's additional contracting dollars that are going to boost our economy,” she said.

Palmer said it’s not just government contracts. Other businesses like UCHealth have approached her wanting to work with vets. At a recent procurement expo, she noted a gap that she hopes to close as more vets work with VBOC.

“One of the largest concerns I heard was, ‘We don't know where to find the service disabled, veteran owned small businesses for subcontracting opportunities. For contracting opportunities,” said Palmer. “There were also different organizations like UCHealth that were there, because they have supplier diversity programs.”

Bottom line, Palmer wants veteran business owners or those considering starting a business to reach out to programs like VBOC or the SBA so they can take advantage of these opportunities while benefiting local economies.

Blake Schwank is an 11-year Army vet who settled back in Colorado Springs with his wife and started Colorado Computer Support in 2001, a cybersecurity firm that also helps businesses scale up.

“It's difficult to sort out what all you need to do to get the certification,” said Schwank. “And the process has changed over the last couple of years. So there's a lot of information that you have to gather.”

Though he’d been in business with his wife for over 20 years, he recently began working with VBOC to identify and hopefully secure some of these government and private contracting opportunities in the future.

“Colorado Springs is a great place. There's plenty of opportunity, but it's hard to figure out how to pursue those opportunities just on your own,” Schwank said. “If I had to do it all on my own, just as an IT guy, I probably would have failed.”

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Email Senior Reporter Brett Forrest at brett.forrest@koaa.com. Follow @brettforrestTVon X and Brett Forrest News on Facebook.

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