Tester fights for Montana’s small businesses

Senator demands a level playing field for proven job creators

(U.S. SENATE) – Montana’s small business contractors aren’t getting a fair shake when competing against big business owners for government contracts, Senator Jon Tester told government officials at the Senate today.

During a Senate hearing examining how regulatory loopholes favor large businesses, Tester said that 98 percent of businesses in Montana are considered small businesses.

“Right now, many of these businesses are struggling and looking for answers,” Tester said.  “They’re not looking for a bailout or a handout – just a level playing field so that they can compete.”

“It seems to me large national firms have an advantage over large local firms on federal projects,” Tester told Mindy Connolly, the Chief Acquisition Officer of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  “Do you see it that way?”

Connolly responded by admitting that “best value contracts” may be overused.  Best value contract guidelines allow the federal government to award a contract to one contractor even if its bid price is significantly more than its competitor’s bid price.

The ‘best value’ designation was the GSA’s justification for awarding the contract to build Billings’ new federal courthouse to a Minnesota construction company over a Montana contractor. Tester has repeatedly pushed the GSA to award a majority of the courthouse subcontracts to local firms.

Tester, who has hosted 8 small business opportunity workshops for Montanans, added that selecting contractors based only on previous relationships rather than actual qualifications is a non-starter.

Tester authored the Level Playing Field Contracting Act of 2010 that sought to give Montana’s small businesses a fair shot at competing for federal contracts.  The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 that the President later signed into law reflected many of the provisions of Tester’s bill.

Video of Tester’s hearing is available HERE.