U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, this week is pushing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure that the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program is fulfilling its mission and improving economic opportunities in distressed communities across the country. A recent news article showed that the HUBZone program funds are going to some of the nation's wealthiest areas, instead of being targeted to the country's neediest communities, as the program was intended.
Enzi wrote that he was troubled to read that the program may be falling short of its intended purpose in some areas. "As a former small business owner, I want to ensure that the Historically Underutilized Business Zones program is fulfilling its mission and improving economic opportunity in distressed communities across the country, including in my home state of Wyoming."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised similar concerns and noted that improvements are needed to more effectively target the program to its intended recipients. In 2008, GAO recommended that the SBA administrator "should further develop measures and implement plans to assess the effectiveness of the HUBZone program that take into account factors such as (1) the economic characteristics of the HUBZone area and (2) contracts being counted under multiple socioeconomic subcategories." In April 2019, GAO sent its priority recommendations to SBA, one of which is that its administrator "should consistently collect information that would enable the agency to track the specific type of assistance programs provide[d] and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer its programs."
Enzi specifically wants to know what steps SBA is taking to improve the program's ability to target and spur economic development in the neediest communities, SBA's oversight role in the HUBZone certification and recertification processes, and how the agency combats fraud, waste and abuse in the program. Enzi would also like more information on the current technology systems that SBA employs to administer the HUBZone program, and how the SBA is addressing challenges, particularly in the area of data reporting.
In Wyoming, there are HUBZones in Washakie, Fremont, Hot Springs, Goshen, Campbell, Niobrara, Platte and Albany counties along with the Wind River Reservation.