- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland’s small and minority-owned businesses are likely to obtain more government contracts in the coming years, according to a military Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) study released Friday.

The Maryland BRAC Small and Minority Business Opportunities Study, released by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat, at an annual conference of the Legislative Black Caucus, said that more government contracts will be available with the closure of Fort Monmouth in New Jersey 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,” Ms. Jenkins wrote in the report.

BRAC is the process that the Department of Defense uses to reorganize military bases. Last year, Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, established the BRAC subcabinet to plan for growth that will occur in Maryland as a result of the realignment.

It is estimated that BRAC will bring about 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 fear challenges in winning them. According to the study, 29 percent of small businesses reported having a 20 percent or lower success rate in obtaining government contracts.

“The number-one challenge is how small firms … compete on large-scale contracts,” Ms. Jenkins, said 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.

Ms. Jenkins stressed that the key to combating this was for small and minority businesses to create strong relationships with large contractors.

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