Statement of the Hon. Kweisi Mfume on Utilization of Small Contractors in the Infrastructure Plan
Washington, June 10, 2021
Infrastructure helps form the foundation of our nation. Every day, Americans across the country rely on infrastructure to commute to work, access clean water, and communicate with each other.
But despite infrastructure’s fundamental importance to our country, it has become an afterthought over the past several decades. The U.S. is the wealthiest country globally but is ranked 13th worldwide when it comes to quality of infrastructure.
Fortunately, there is a wide consensus that the current state of American infrastructure is unsustainable.
That’s why in April, President Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan. The plan would revitalize American infrastructure through major investments in federal funding over the next decade.
The Jobs Plan would fix highways, repair bridges, improve airports and ports and expand transit and rail into new communities. It would also eliminate lead water pipes, provide high-speed broadband, upgrade schools and federal buildings and so much more.
By all accounts, this plan truly represents a new vision for America. One through which, by rebuilding with purpose, we take care of the environment, further enhance equity, and create the basis for a stronger economic future.
In this respect, an investment in infrastructure would be a significant benefit to small firms. Small businesses rely on infrastructure systems daily to increase their access to customers and suppliers, boost business operations, and create new demand for their goods and services.
Infrastructure investment would also be a boon for the millions of small businesses that directly and indirectly support the development, modernization, and maintenance of the many facets of infrastructure.
In the construction industry alone, it is estimated that there are 3 million small businesses, employing over 82% of all the U.S. employees in this sector.
Put simply, an investment in infrastructure is an investment in small business.
Currently, there are an array of federal measures in place to ensure small businesses can participate in the procurement process and receive their fair share of contracting dollars.
For instance, a government-wide goal requires that 23% of all eligible prime contracting dollars be spent with small businesses and other goals exist for specific subsets of small contractors at the prime and subcontracting level.
Other policies include the creation of contracting programs administered by the SBA that reserve contracts for underserved small businesses through set aside and sole-source opportunities.
Finally, there are contracting programs implemented at the state and local level, whenever federal financial assistance is involved. Such is the case of the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.
The DBE program is designed to enable women and minority small firms compete for federally funded contracts led by state and local agencies. It is DOT’s most important tool for remedying the effects of discrimination and leveling the playing field in transportation-related projects.
All of these programs are vital to the wellbeing of the small business community and help guarantee that small businesses will have a seat at the table when it comes to contracting.
And so, in light of the American Jobs Plan and the thousands of contracting opportunities it will create, I hope that today’s hearing gives us the chance to take a closer look at these programs, which are crucial to maximizing small business participation in contracting at the local, state, and federal level.
I’m also looking forward to hearing from our expert witnesses on ways Congress can leverage infrastructure investment to meet the needs of small businesses across the country.