Diversity Classifications: Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone)
Diversity classifications can apply to business owners, but also to specific geographic locations as is the case with the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program. Offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA), HUBZone supports small business growth in historically underutilized business zones, aiding those small businesses which are in economically struggling communities. As government procurement agents prepare to find vendors to fulfill goals and spending allocated by President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, they will likely be looking for vendors who also meet the standards of their supplier diversity programs.
Supplier diversity programs exist across many government agencies. The goal is to support underrepresented groups, or in this case, areas, by setting a percentage of suppliers that the department wants to hire that have diverse backgrounds or are located in economically struggling communities. For a company to qualify for the HUBZone certification, at least 35 percent of employees must live in an area that has been designated as a HUBZone.
What are some recent changes to the SBA HUBZone program?
As noted on the SBA’s website, there have been some changes to the HUBZone program to make it easier for businesses to qualify and participate. The SBA has committed to a better customer experience by streamlining the application process, providing faster decisions on applications and qualification and expanding assistance to help applicants through the process. Additionally, they have added some program features including a “Legacy” HUBZone provision to count long-term HUBZone residents, and strengthening and simplifying the recertification process. Finally, they are looking to include more rural areas, and doing their best to create predictability and long-term investments with standardized maps and eligibility guidelines.
What are the benefits and how do you qualify for the SBA HUBZone program?
The SBA HUBZone program offers those that are certified an opportunity for limited competition for certain contracts as well as preferential consideration throughout a standard bidding process. It also makes the business eligible for set-aside contracts and offers a 10 percent price evaluation for open competition contracts. Qualifications listed on the program webpage include:
- Be a small business
- Be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, and Alaska Native corporation, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian Tribe
- Have its main office in a HUBZone
- Have at least 35 percent of its employees living in a HUBZone
Get ahead and certify now
If you’d like to take advantage of the SBA HUBZone program and get the HUBZone certification included on upcoming infrastructure bids, it’s best to get the process started now. You’ll first need to create a SAM account, and then use the general SBA login system to start the process. You can find a checklist of all the supporting documentation needed for an HUBZone application online, and of course contact the SBA with any questions you may have.
Is your business in a HUBZone? How will you use the program and certification to help you secure some of the upcoming infrastructure funding?