Special to South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — The administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet, announced the launch of Destination: HUB. The news could mean opportunities for more South Florida companies to compete for federal contracts.

For over 17 years, the HUBZone program has served as one of SBA’s signature initiatives and has helped small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. In Palm Beach County, the zone is primarily in the far western area, encompassing the towns of Belle Glade, Pahokee, Clewiston, South Bay and the Lake Okechobee area.

The program encourages economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing opportunities for firms to become active participants in the federal supply chain. Destination: HUB will promote and highlight HUBZones for opportunities in federal procurement.

“More than any other SBA initiative, the HUBZone Program has been a critical resource, creating jobs, alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. The program has had a transformational effect on small businesses all across the country. SBA’s Destination: HUB will put a spotlight on our underserved small businesses and promote HUBZones as ideal places for government contractors to do business,” said Contreras-Sweet.

“In our 2013 scorecard, we reported that HUBZone businesses only received 1.7 percent of federal contracts – well short of our 3 percent goal. This new initiative is an example of how the SBA is actively working to achieve that goal.” said Contreras-Sweet.

“In FY 12, SBA South Florida District had 129 HUBZone firms that were offered $250 million in federal contracts,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “This program can provide many opportunities for small businesses that are located in challenging geographic areas of our district.”

Destination: HUB will promote and support HUBZone firms in federal contract opportunities, while ensuring local economic development boards, government officials, federal buyers, and prime contractors work hand in hand to bring more sole-source and set-aside awards directly for these HUBZones.