In 1997, the Small Business Administration laid out a program to help small businesses in inner cities and poorer rural areas get three percent of federal procurement contracts. Seventeen years later, the program is still short of that target by nearly half.

Thus, the SBA has launched a new initiative to meet its 3 percent goal, announcing Oct. 16 that it is bolstering its HUBZone program with the launch of Destination: HUB.

Destination: HUB was created to highlight HUBZone opportunities, and put small businesses in economically distressed areas in play for federal contracts. The program offers promotional support and guidance for small firms in HUB zones seeking federal contracts. At the same time, through Destination: HUB and SBA will act as somewhat of a go-between, introducing small HUBZone businesses to government procurement opportunities while highlighting those small businesses to procurement agents and existing large contractors.

According to SBA Administrator Maria Contereas-Sweet, the SBA rolled out Destination: HUB after reviewing data from 2013 that showed only 1.7 percent of federal procurement contracts let for bid were won by HUBZone businesses.

“More than any other SBA initiative, the HUBZone Program has been a critical resource, creating jobs, alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in our nation’s most vulnerable communities,” Contreras-Sweet said in a prepared statement.”The program has had a transformational effect on small businesses all across the country. SBA’s Destination: HUB will put a spotlight on our underserved small businesses and promote HUBZones as ideal places for government contractors to do business.”

According to the SBA’s Oct. 16 press release, the Destination: HUB program will be the sum of three main components: a detailed study of the HUBZone structure to identify those aspects that work, and those aspects that have failed to produce desired results; market research and outreach to more small businesses in HUBZone areas to get them involved in the supply chain process; and working in partnership with community organizations, local economic-development offices and faith-based groups to educate small business owners in HUBZones about federal procurement opportunities.

“This new initiative is an example of how the SBA actively working to achieve that [3 percent] goal.” said Contreras-Sweet.

HUBZones, a key economic revitalization initiatives of the Clinton Administration — identified economically disadvantaged urban and rural areas, and on Indian reservations, and supported small businesses in those areas with a variety of tools to promote job growth and economic development. Included in the toolbox was help in obtaining set-aside and sole-source federal contracts, and subcontracts. According to the SBA, the federal government awarded $6.2 billion in procurement contracts to HUBZone businesses in the 2013 fiscal year.

SBA Launches Destination: HUB; October 16, 2014.