SBA Closes Comments on Controversial Proposal

Comments are now closed on a controversial proposal from the US Small Business Administration (SBA). Rule SBA-2020-0055-0001 seeks to raise the amount language services companies (LSP’s) could bill a year and still be considered small businesses. Revenue classifications are used by the US government to determine whether enterprises are eligible for small business set-asides — a select number of government contracts awarded to companies that bill less than 8 million USD a year. If successful, the measure would raise this amount to 20 million USD — a threshold where Lindsey Cambardella, chief executive officer of Translation Station in Chamblee, Georgia, says truly “small” LSP’s would no longer be able to compete.

“Arguments may be made that businesses smaller than $8m may not be able to handle larger contracts, but as a company that falls into the $3m – $5m range, I can confirm that we are prepared to handle large projects,” Cambardella wrote on the SBA site, “I do not believe we would be as competitive if we were facing companies as large as $20m.”

Small business classification isn’t just important for companies looking to work with the US federal government. “It also matters for the large primes,” says Bill Rivers, lobbyist for the Association of Language Companies (ALC). Primes are major corporations that win larger government contracts, then outsource part of that work to small businesses. It’s not uncommon for the US federal government to award translation jobs to primes that don’t have any translation capabilities. As a result, this work sometimes trickles down to small business LSP’s.

Initially, ALC was in favor of the change, with Rivers noting in an October 8 blog that raising the amount was one of ALC’s top seven priorities. But as Cambardella and other members have spoken out against the plan, the association has changed its position. “ALC is taking a neutral position now. We had started out supporting this, but as you see, there are a lot of smaller companies that feel they wouldn’t benefit,” Rivers says.

In a December 22 email that went out to members, the ALC explained that “[t]he SBA must consider each and every comment.” Comments are also entered into the permanent record that accompanies any new regulation. “If the regulation is challenged in court, these comments will help guide the courts in their review,” according to ALC.

Terena Bell
Terena Bell is a reporter covering the language industry for MultiLingual, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and others. In a past life, she owned In Every Language, an LSP, and served on the GALA and ALC board.


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