(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s website recently launched an updated map that makes it easier for businesses looking for HUBZone benefits to find out whether they fall in the program’s boundaries. A Baltimore company was behind the overhaul, and the team members drew on their own experience using the map.
HUBZone, short for Historically Underutilized Business Zone, is a program designed to help business located in economically challenged areas get access to contracts. Fearless, based at Spark Baltimore, has a contract to overhaul the HUBZone web offerings. CEO Delali Dzirasa has said an underlying goal for the dev shop is to help more people know about the program.
Part of that involves making features more user-friendly. The eight-member team at Fearless created a new map that speeds up the process of delivering answers on whether a business is in a HUBZone.
Fearless is a HUBZone business itself, so its employees know the program. One additional benefit is a credit for employees who live in a HUBZone. When he was moving, Fearless’ Felix Gilbert used the old map to search whether the homes were in the boundaries. The lines are tight in some places. Gilbert’s old house, for instance, sat just outside the line.
“It was all of maybe 70 ft. outside our front door,” he said of the boundary.
So when searching for a new place, it was important to have real-time info. He often found himself turning to Google Maps to compare against the map on the government’s website.
“When you’re driving around, it could not keep up with you,” said Gilbert, who led the revamp for Fearless.
To fix that, a key new feature allows users to search for an address and provides an immediate answer about whether it lies within a HUBZone. The new version also includes a street view for the government to verify addresses after folks apply.
Another feature takes paper out of the process of applying for the program. With the old map, a company that found they qualified had to take screenshots and print out a copy to scan and send to the government as proof. The new map has a way to generate a .pdf report to send in, which takes out a few of those steps.
With the map released, Fearless plans to turn its attention to the application process itself next.-30-
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