GSA: What Is An 8(a) Contractor?

The U.S. General Services Administration, or GSA, is the arm of the federal government that helps federal agencies find and contract with private companies like yours. The way it basically works is you get your business registered with the GSA and then the GSA adds your business information to a google-type searchable website that federal agencies use to find suppliers. Federal agencies are constantly searching this website looking for small businesses that can supply what the agency is looking for. You can also use the website to find potential federal agency customers and market to those customers. But you have to be registered with the GSA first.

8(a) Contractors
One of the GSA's goals is to help small businesses like yours sell to the federal government by leveling the playing field against your larger competitors. One way the GSA accomplishes the goal of leveling the playing field is by setting aside a number of federal projects and purchases (called procurements) that can only be performed by what are called "8(a) Contractors." An 8(a) Contractor is a business that is either minority or woman owned (usually at least 51% ownership). These set asides require all federal agencies to contract with a certain number of 8(a) Contractors each year. The term 8(a) refers to Section 8(a) of the Federal Small Business Act related to assisting minority and woman owned businesses in obtaining federal procurements.

To take advantage of the 8(a) Contractor program, a small business must be registered with the Small Business Administration, as well as the GSA. This process can be lengthy and difficult if you are not familiar with it and you will likely need assistance with the process. There is a great deal of paperwork required to obtain 8(a) status, but the reward can be that your business is placed in a relatively small pool of businesses entitled to federal GSA procurement set-asides. An 8(a) Contractor who can meet a procurement need is like gold to a federal contracting agent.