Q&A with Kay Bills
Small business mentor program to hold town hall meeting in OKC
Q: Your coalition is inviting small businesses throughout Oklahoma and four other states to attend a town hall meeting on proposed changes to the Small Business Administration's Mentor-Protege Program March 26-28 in northwest Oklahoma City. Can you explain what that is?
A: It's a mentoring program in which approved mentors provide proteges with assistance, from technical and management assistance to financial assistance. The latter may include a mentor's investment in a protege's company to raise capital or competing together for government contracts (from the U.S. Treasury and NASA to the Federal Aviation Administration, Veterans Affairs and Environmental Protection Agency).
Q: What's changing?
A: New regulations, which took effect in January, expand the program to all small businesses, not just disadvantaged, women-owned, hub zone or veteran-owned businesses. The rules must be published by Sept. 30 and our summit will help us gather recommendations early in the rule-making process. Coalition members will take their recommendations and comments to meetings in Washington, D.C., in May. For seasoned companies wanting to enter federal contracting, these agreements are a strategic way to move into the federal area. We expect open and frank discussion by government officials, mentoring companies and proteges about the ethical and compliance requirements of these programs.
Q: What else is on tap for the summit?
A: We're bringing in industry experts on strategic sourcing and bonding for small and emerging contractors. Strategic sourcing is a trend that has the potential to displace a number of small businesses and bonding issues have kept small contractors from growing into the prime contracting area.
Q: Does it cost? Where can interested small business get more information?
A: Interested businesses may register at region6roundtable.com or call 455-3800. The meeting will be held March 26-28 at the Marriott Hotel, 3233 Northwest Expressway. Sponsors include Procurement Technical Assistance Centers; Minority Business Development Agency; Native American & Alaska Native Business Program; LSI-Wins SBA Pilot Program; and Federal Allies Institute of Washington, D.C.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER