Upper Cumberland counties gain advantage in race to federal contracts

Many Upper Cumberland Counties may soon find it easier receive federal contracts following an announcement by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Regional Administrator Allen Thomas.

The duo want to expand the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program in Tennessee, according to reports, and the new map adds all of Cumberland, DeKalb and White counties.

So, what is the initiative?

It supports small business in the application process for federal government contracts. Twenty-three counties are now eligible for HUBZone, and companies in those areas can apply for HUBZone certification, a very important step in beating out the big boys for federal funding. 

Certification helps struggling areas compete with larger firms for federal government contracts.

“As Governor, one of my top priorities is expanding opportunity for Tennesseans in rural areas, and our strategic workforce and infrastructure investments have resulted in a historic reduction of our state’s distressed counties,” said Lee, according to reports. “Tennessee is leading the nation as one of the best places to do business and raise a family, and I thank the Small Business Administration for their investment in our state.”

Areas added to the HUBZone may have higher poverty rates, low median households, rural designations and disaster-impacted areas.

The priority is to grow jobs in areas with higher poverty rates and improve economic stability.

“The HUBZone program creates opportunities for firms to partner directly with the federal government—the largest buyer in the world,” said SBA Regional Administrator Allen Thomas, according to the report. “Governor Lee’s team at the Department of Economic and Community Development have done a great job identifying areas of the state where there are small firms capable of growing good jobs by providing goods and services as part of the federal government supply chain.”

According to a report, “State initiatives prioritizing rural Tennessee have helped reduce the number of economically distressed counties in Tennessee from 19 to eight since 2018.” In 2022, $184,345,174 in contracts were awarded to the 98 certified HUBZone companies participating in the program in Tennessee.

Other factors considered when rezoning were:

  • proximity to new and expanding private, state and federal projects
  • locations in or near a certified TN Main Street
  • Certified Industrial Site
  • Small Business Development Center
  • Regional Entrepreneur Center
  • cowork location
  • higher education institution
  • multi-modal travel areas

Image by Freepik.

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Ron Moses is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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