The SBA 8(a) Business Development program was developed to help socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs to gain access to the federal marketplace. The current goal for the federal government is to award 12 percent of all federal contracting dollars to those who participate in this program.

Businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program are eligible to compete for the program’s sole-source and competitive set-aside contracts. The government authorizes sole-source contracts to 8(a) participants for up to $7 million for acquisitions assigned manufacturing North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and $4.5 million for all other acquisitions. Entity-owned 8(a) program participants are eligible for sole-source contracts above these thresholds, but the Department of Defense requires approval of a formal justification if the 8(a) sole-source contract exceeds $100 million; all other federal agencies require approval for sole-source 8(a) contract actions that exceed $25 million.

8(a) program participants are eligible to compete for contract awards under other socio-economic programs or small business set-asides they qualify for.

SBA 8(a) Program Qualifications

To qualify for the SBA 8(a) program, businesses must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a small business
  • Not have previously participated in the 8(a) program
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
  • Have a personal net worth of $850 thousand or less, adjusted gross income of $400 thousand or less, and assets totaling $6.5 million or less
  • Demonstrate good character
  • Demonstrate the potential for success, such as having been in business for two years

The SBA’s Current Process for Accepting 8(a) Applicants

One of the selection criteria that the SBA currently uses regards regulations that establish a rebuttable presumption of social disadvantage for members of certain racial and ethnic groups. A “rebuttable presumption” is a legal term for something presumed true absent other evidence. The statute that established the 8(a) program, Small Business Act, uses that presumption in the section that defines certain racial and ethnic groups as socially disadvantaged. Unlike other applicants for the 8(a) Program, individuals who qualify for this rebuttable presumption are not required to submit evidence of actual social disadvantage to be admitted into the Program. The 8(a) program is aimed at helping small businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by a U.S. citizen who is socially and economically disadvantaged.

SBA 8(a) Program Benefits:

Once your business is accepted into the program, you will have access to new business paths to create jobs through increased revenues from government contracting. Another benefit of being an 8(a) participant is that you will be exposed to Federal Contracting Officers who see 8(a) certifications as a valuable tool and understand that that these participants are qualified small business that are ready to do business with the federal government. Participants in the program receive training and technical assistance designed to strengthen their ability to compete effectively in the American economy.

For many years, Coley has provided training through FedMap to many 8(a) companies.  These programs, like FedMap that provide assistance to eligible participants like 8(a) companies are very effective. Recently, our FedMap alumni have crossed the $2.6 Billion threshold!

Certified participants in the 8(a) program can:

  • Nine-year program proving a successful vendor with 8(a) status
  • Efficiently compete and receive set-aside and sole-source contracts
  • Receive one-on-one business development assistance for their nine-year term from dedicated Business Opportunity Specialists focused on helping firms grow and accomplish their business objectives.
  • Pursue opportunity for mentorship from experienced and technically capable firms through the SBA Mentor-Protégé program.
  • Connect with procurement and compliance experts who understand regulations in the context of business growth, finance, and government contracting.
  • Pursue joint ventures with established businesses to increase capacity.
  • Qualify to receive federal surplus property on a priority basis.
  • Receive free training from SBA’s 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance program.

If you are unsure on how to take the next step to expand and grow your small business, contact Coley GCS. We have over 20 years of experience helping contractors accelerate success in government contracting. Our expert consultants, and FedMap coaches support contractors’ understanding of all the requirements to remain compliant and win more government business. For any additional questions, contact Coley at, by phone at 210-402-6766, or schedule a call at a time convenient for you. In addition, you can visit FedMap and join the online community which serves many qualifying 8(a) businesses.

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