ANNAPOLIS – Despite obstacles, Maryland’s small and minority-owned businesses are likely to obtain more government contracts in the coming years, according to a BRAC study released Friday.
The Maryland BRAC Small and Minority Business Opportunities Study, released by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown at an annual conference of the Legislative Black Caucus, said that more government contracts will be available with the closure of Fort Monmouth, N.J., and the moving of military information technology and communications activities to Fort Meade.
But there are challenges for small businesses competing for government contracts.
“There is a negative perception … of the capabilities of small and minority businesses,” said Luwanda Jenkins, special secretary for the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.
The study “seeks to identify BRAC contract opportunities and provide useful insight that will assist small and minority firms with access to new BRAC related business leads,” Jenkins wrote in the report.
BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure, is the process the Department of Defense uses to reorganize military bases. In 2007, Gov. Martin O’Malley established the BRAC Subcabinet to plan for growth that will hit Maryland as a result of the realignment.
It is estimated that BRAC will bring approximately 60,000 new jobs and 28,000 new households to Maryland in the coming years.
Although there are new opportunities for contracts in the future, many small businesses believe they face challenges in winning them. According to the study, 29 percent of small businesses reported having a 20 percent or less success rate in obtaining government contracts.
“The number one challenge is how small firms … compete on large scale contracts,” said Jenkins, in a telephone interview.
According to the study, a survey of government procurement officers found that many small businesses felt they were not competent enough to compete for contracts and were overshadowed by well-known businesses.
Jenkins stressed that the key to combating this was for small and minority businesses to create strong relationships with large contractors.
One of the strong advantages that Maryland small and minority businesses have is their close proximity to Washington, which allows firms many opportunities to experience work with federal contracts.
“We want the business community to prepare,” said Jenkins. “It is invaluable to provide a real window [into government contracts] for small businesses.”
Brown said Maryland has one of the highest percentages of African-American and women-owned businesses. Despite the large numbers, Brown said the percentage of minority businesses that work on government contracts can increase with help.
“We are maintaining our commitment to small businesses,” said Brown, in a telephone interview, stressing the importance of continuing to work with the state legislature to provide opportunities for small and minority businesses.