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In an effort to help minority-owned limousine companies vie for government transportation contracts, the Minority Limousine Operators of America (MLOA) has launched a new support and education program that helps owners navigate the requirements for 8(a) certification through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
SBA certification helps small businesses compete in the federal marketplace, and improves access to the economic mainstream for socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Generally, to be approved into the 8(a) program and become certified, your small business must be owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are American citizens.
Open to MLOA members only, the program assists minority owners with preparing the required company documents, financial information, and applications required to be certified and eligible for government request-for-proposal (RFP) contract participation.
The webinar program, which will run in four-week intervals every other month, begins Jan. 12. The next program starts in March, and then continues throughout the calendar year. MLOA executive director, Dr. Yvonne LaMar, a specialist in grant, proposal, and certification processes, directs the program. She intends to increase the percentage of minority-owned operators gaining new business through lucrative government contracts, and with companies that set aside contract work specifically for minority businesses.
A point to remember before you enter the process is that government transportation contracts usually involve providing shuttle buses. “For the most part, the federal government wants shuttle buses to move government employees and buses for events and other activities,” LaMar said. “Now if your business is located near a state capital, there is opportunity for black-car service contracts.”
During a Nov. 24 MLOA member conference call announcing the program, LaMar said that from start to finish, certification can take upwards of 90 days. She also noted that operator preparation is critical before entering the certification process. She advises operators to research, update and prepare all required business and financial documents, and to follow the fine-points of the various certification applications.
“The government contract business has its own language and culture, and once you get involved in it, you’ll get familiar with how the contract cycles works such as when contracts are about to expire, and when RFP proposals in your area are coming up,” LaMar explained.
The four-week program addresses the following topics:
- Week 1: Review of required documents.
- Week 2: How to prepare your company’s narrative for certification.
- Week 3: How to prepare all required charts and tables.
- Week 4: How to prepare your application and follow submission instructions.
“It’s important for operators entering our program to first get their documents in order so we can proceed during the four weeks,” LaMar said. “Such documents include tax documents, insurance certificates, business licenses, budget and financial statements, company organization charts, staff resumes, and even membership in associations.”
Requested driver information includes licenses, background checks and drug testing documentation. One advantage for new operators looking to become certified is an easier preparation process due to a shorter historic paper trail needed to compile documents.
An added benefit of participating in the certification program includes notification by email of ongoing federal contract opportunities.
Reinforcing the drive to certify more minority operators, MLOA President Maurice Brewster, president and founder of Mosaic Global Transportation in Redwood City, Calif., said he recently was awarded a $25 million contract from NBC. “The MLOA is more than willing to help educate minority operators to take the necessary steps to go through the process to become certified,” he said.
One cautionary note: Jumping into the government RFP process should not be taken lightly. “When companies put out an RFP, they are looking for minority businesses to participate,” said Darrell Anderson, MLOA first vice-president and owner of Atlanta-based A-1 Limousine. “But responding to RFPs is hard work. You also have to make sure you can handle the work, or it will be a strain on your business.”