On Friday, the Defense Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration signed a memorandum of understanding to help both agencies better meet the needs of small businesses in the United States.
While both the SBA and DOD already work with small businesses, the agreement aims to strengthen and expand small business development nationally and locally.
Farooq A. Mitha, director of small business programs at DOD, and Mark Madrid, associate administrator of SBA's Office of Entrepreneurial Development, signed the agreement at the Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a DOD-funded office in College Park, Maryland. The facility is one of more than 90 such offices that help small businesses find contracts with DOD and other federal agencies. The centers will soon be rebranded as APEX Accelerators, formerly known as the PTACs. The PTACs were administered under the Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which was authorized by Congress in 1985 to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. The program was formerly housed at the Defense Logistics Agency until October 1, when the program officially moved to the Department of Defense under the administration of the Office of Small Business Programs. The program provides matching funds through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations for the establishment of what was formerly known as the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers now the APEX Accelerators to provide procurement assistance. The mission of the APEX Accelerators is to serve as the axis for existing and new business to strengthen the defense industrial base by accelerating innovation, fostering ingenuity, and establishing resilient and diverse supply chains.
The SBA helps with the certification of small businesses and aids in the early stages of starting a business, Mitha said. The agencies already work together in many places, but the MOU will strengthen that partnership.
"One of the things that we want to make sure that we're doing is providing resources and support to small businesses who are looking to do business with DOD, with other federal agencies, with state and local government and really reduce barriers to entry," said Mitha. "And we can't do that without our APEX Accelerators. And we can't do that without a ... strong partnership with the Small Business Administration and the [Small Business Development Centers] program."
The agreement, Mitha said, codifies the relationship between DOD and the SBA in a way that allows the two organizations to work closer together.
The DOD operates more than 90 APEX Accelerators around the country, and the SBA runs more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers. The MOU will ensure there's greater cooperation between those resources so that small businesses specifically interested in working with the federal government will be successful in finding contracts, including with DOD.
"Today was about breaking down silos and working together because we're all in it for the same reason," Madrid said. "If you look at DOD [and] SBA, you look at the APEX Accelerators, you look at our SBDC network, we're all trying to make government, and ultimately opportunities, more accessible to our small businesses at the end of the day. That's what we achieved today."
As a result of the MOU, Madrid said the DOD and the SBA will find ways to better integrate training conducted by their APEX Accelerators and SBDCs and to conduct at least one national event a year together, as well.
Denise Warner, director of the Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center, provides services to help the small business community do business with the federal government.
"We do that through outreach training and one-on-one counseling, to introduce small businesses in the state of Maryland to doing business with the federal, state and local government," she said.
The office Warner now runs will be just one of the beneficiaries of the MOU.
"This MOU will provide greater exposure and assistance to Maryland businesses," she said. "After a particularly long stretch of economic hardship due to the pandemic, this MOU will be a welcome relief to the business community in the state of Maryland."
Warner said the agreement will help her office collaborate with other small business development centers, particularly in Maryland.
"We will be able to collaborate in training, we will be able to collaborate in what we call co-counseling, and we will also get firms referred from the SBDC to the Maryland PTAC. All of this will help us reach the small businesses in the community that are interested in DOD contracting, and then also it will provide these firms with a gateway into DOD as a supplier base."
DOD and SBA are joined by the common goal of strengthening and expanding small business development nationally and locally. Each program offers distinct services and resources which, when delivered in coordination with each other, will provide maximum benefits to U.S. small businesses. In order to further their common goals of promoting small business development and maximizing participation in government contracting, the programs will collaborate and consult to expand small business access to SBA and DOD resources and connect small businesses with support services and assistance to improve small business contract readiness and ability to participate in government contracting.
Additional information on the DOD APEX Program and the SBA Small Business Development Program is available online at www.apexaccelerators.us and sba.gov/local-assistance/resource-partners/small-business-development-centers-sbdc, respectively.