March is Women's History Month, and the U.S. Air Force is making history by setting a goal of awarding one billion dollars in contracts to women-owned businesses this year. Mr. Tony DeLuca, Director of the Air Force Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization calls it the "1Bi2K" Initiative and says reaching that goal is a top Air Force priority.
To make good on the pledge, DeLuca has created a national outreach program of innovative methods that help women entrepreneurs do business with the Air Force through education, technical assistance, conferences, and procurement strategies. As a result, women-owned businesses are winning millions of dollars in Air Force contracts in industries such as construction, manufacturing, base services, and technology.
The 1Bi2K initiative grew out of several ongoing Air Force endeavors to help women- owned businesses compete successfully for government contracts. In 1992 the Air Force implemented the groundbreaking "Rule of One," which requires the Air Force to solicit at least one woman-owned small business for every contract over $100,000. Today, every Air Force base across the U.S. employs specialists who work with small businesses to meet procurement requirements.
Women business owners can get in on action. Here's how. First, get on the Internet and visit Air Force Small Business Online (www.selltoairforce.org). This web site contains a wealth of up-to-date information for women business owners, including the Commerce Business Daily, contracting opportunities, information technology tools, articles, technical assistance. Here are some of the resources and services at this site.
- Details about Focused Outreach Events, which are regional conferences that educate women business owners about government contracting. Participants meet with procurement specialists, form teaming agreements, and learn about government resources for small businesses. These events have reached hundreds of women-owned businesses in six states and have resulted in more than 23.5 million dollars awarded to women-owned businesses!
- WOBLink, a national online database of women-owned businesses. Over 45,000 businesses are listed with WOBLink and registration is free! Air Force procurement specialists search WOBLink to find businesses with products and capabilities that match their acquisition needs.
- Information about the Air Force Mentor Protégé Program, in which small businesses team with larger contractors. The program has resulted in awards of 5.2 million dollars to participants!
- Long Range Acquisition Estimate, a searchable procurement forecast database that helps businesses prepare their proposals early and predict upcoming Air Force solicitations.
- Small Business News Review, an online quarterly newsletter featuring success stories about contracts to woman-owned small businesses
- Virtual Teaming Center, a place to find teaming partners to compete for larger contracts, which are often beyond the reach of small companies.
- Interactive Electronic Mall, an electronic marketplace for minority institutions, colleges, universities, and small, minority and woman-owned businesses.
The U.S. Air Force is committed to helping women entrepreneurs gain parity in the economic marketplace. The information and opportunities for government contracting are available now! Historically speaking, there has never been a better time than now for women who are managing their own companies.