UC Targets Purchasing Power

with Small Business First program

Small Business First graphic

Small businesses play a significant role in the California economy. But small businesses face major challenges, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemicTargeted procurement efforts like the new University of California (UC) Small Business Firstprogram can help small businesses mitigate or minimize these difficulties.

Kicking off September 1, 2020, with full implementation by March 1, 2021, The Small Business First program requires UC contracts and procurements between $10,000 to $250,000 to be awarded to a Small Business (SB), Microbusiness (MB) or Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise (DVBE), wherever practicable. The program’s informal solicitation process requires only one quote for purchases below $100,000, and only two quotes for procurements above $100,000, with some waivers and exemptions allowed.

“Small businesses already face many uphill battles, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially devasting,” said William (Bill) Cooper, Associate Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer, University of California. “UC spends billions in procurement every year so a program like Small Business First can have a measurable effect on California small and diverse businesses.

The program is modeled on other similar small business “set-aside programs” like the State of California SB/DVBE Option program and the LA Metro Small Business Prime programThese programs “set aside” purchases and/or agreements for award to small businesses to help them more effectively compete for goods and services procured by the organization. Set-asides are awarded across a variety of commodities, and different categories of disadvantaged businesses may be given special consideration.

The Small Business First program is also consistent with UC’s ongoing commitment to sustainable procurement practices. The UC Sustainable Practices Policy establishes an annual goal of awarding 25% Economically and Socially Responsible (EaSR) spend to small and diverse owned businesses. 

Not only does implementing this program help UC accomplish overall sustainability goals, the informal solicitation process makes the procurement process faster and easier, while empowering small businesses,” said Cooper. “It’s a true win-win.”

Overall benefits of the Small Business First program include 

  • ease of implementation as UC can readily use the State of California’s eProcure system to identify certified SB’s and DVBE’s,
  • cost reduction and time savings for purchases valued over $100,000 through the informal bid process, and
  • support of the University’s EaSR spend sustainability goals. 

The program is consistent with California Public Contract Code Section 10508.5, which allows the University to award purchase agreements valued up to $250,000 to a certified small business or disabled veteran-owned business without being competitively bid, so long as the UC obtains price quotations from two or more certified businesses.

“Small businesses are the economic engine of California’s economy and supporting small businesses creates and sustains jobs that strengthen our state,” said Cooper. “The Small Business First program is an effective way to leverage the University’s vast purchasing power to directly help the people of California.”

The UC process and requirements for using the Small Business First program are outlined on the UC Procurement Small Business First program webpage.