WASHINGTON — Better access to government resources and federal contracts is crucial for small businesses, members of the House Small Business subcommittee said at a hearing on Thursday. 

Members met to discuss resources available to small businesses through the Department of Energy and its Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which was created to help them navigate the federal contracting process.  

Small businesses say the system is difficult and contract applications are expensive, Charles Smith, director of the Energy Department’s small business office, said at the hearing.

“It’s not right that a company would need to spend such an extraordinary amount to do business with the federal government,” Smith said. 

His office has programs and other ways to help small and disadvantaged businesses as well as those owned by women and veterans. Smith said the agency hosts an annual small business forum and expo to connect businesses with DOE offices and contractors, advertises small manufacturers’ exemptions to energy conservation standards rules and alerts businesses of contracting opportunities. The small companies also can flag concerns about restrictions on competition. 

Smith said his office has been able to reach small businesses in general, but has struggled in outreach to small businesses owned by veterans and those in areas that historically have not been used for business. He said they are looking toward more specific outreach to serve these business owners. 

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said small business should be seeing a growth rate in securing federal contracts equal to the growth rate in federal contract spending.