Efforts to help small businesses in Brunswick land more federal contracts are moving ahead in Congress.

An amendment to the defense budget bill to expand HUBZones – areas that receive breaks in bidding on federal contracts – to include communities that have been affected by military base closings was accepted this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of that committee.

A separate, stand-alone bill to expand HUBZone eligibility to communities where military bases closed was introduced Monday by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and co-sponsored by King. That bill, however, is not expected to advance unless the defense bill bogs down.

Under HUBZone rules, small businesses in designated communities gain some preferences in getting federal contracts. For instance, a small business in a HUBZone gets a 10 percent cushion in bidding on federal contracts. The business might not submit the lowest bid, but if it’s within 10 percent of the lowest bid it can still be awarded the contract.

The HUBZone program has historically been aimed at economically depressed communities, but the amendment expands the definition to include towns like Brunswick, where a naval air base closed in 2011.

A similar amendment in the House of Representative’s version of the defense spending bill was included at the urging of Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. The House is expected to vote on its version of the defense spending bill Friday, including the amendment, but no date has been set for a vote on the Senate’s version. If both chambers pass defense bills, a committee would need to work out differences in the two measures, including some slight differences in the wording of the amendments on HUBZones.

The federal government has a goal of awarding 3 percent of the dollars in all federal contracts to small businesses in HUBZones.


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