In efforts to increase cooperation between minority-run businesses and the government, Minnesota has established the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification program. This program sets annual quotas to dictate the amount of overall Department of Transportation funds that are allocated toward DBE certified (and thus, minority run) businesses. The current requirements of the Minnesota Department of Transportation are for 11.7 percent of all Federal Highway Agency contracts to be allocated toward DBE certified businesses and 7.13 percent of Federal Transportation Agency contracts. As a result, this program provides opportunities for ‘disadvantaged’ owners to excel their small businesses with government contracts.
In order to qualify, the majority owner of the business must be a member of a socially or economically ‘disadvantaged’ group in the United States with legal residence. In addition, the owner have proof of expertise in the given field of work, as well as maintain a personal net worth below $1.32 million.
Statewide Certification Programs
Minnesota Unified Certification Program (MN UCP)
To qualify for DBE certification, the business owner should apply through the Minnesota Unified Certification Program. The MNUCP functions as a “one stop shop” for DBE certification throughout Minnesota, so a company can apply once for DBE certification and when granted it applies throughout the state. Qualifying applicants receive recognition from each state agency that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This makes it easy for qualified businesses to apply for multiple opportunities.
There are four steps of the application process:
- Complete the UCP certification application and provide the required documents.
- An audit of the documentation will be conducted to determine preliminary eligibility.
- An on-site visit/review by a UCP Specialist will be performed to determine program compliance and eligibility.
- Once eligibility is determined and all program requirements have met a certificate of participation will be issued.
The biggest provider of DBE projects is the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and it requires certification through MNUCP. MnDOT’s DBE Program was established by the federal government to ensure women- and minority-owned businesses have the opportunity to participate in contracts financed in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The MnDOT Office of Civil Rights administers the DBE program and sets goals for DBE participation on applicable MnDOT contracts.
Other providers of DBE projects using MNUCP are the Metropolitan Council, the Metropolitan Airport Commission, the City of Minneapolis, and the Small and Disadvantaged Business Opportunity Council (SADBOC). SADBOC is a council under the Federal Executive Board of Minnesota whose mission is to promote supplier diversity in the public sector through collaboration and information sharing between its members and through education and outreach to the small business public.
Local And Regional Programs
The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and surrounding Hennipin and Ramsey counties have joined together for a single DBE certification program creatively called CERT. The CERT System provides an easy way for eligible small, minority, and woman-owned business to apply for and manage certifications. This online platform replaces the cumbersome paper application and supporting documents from the past with a simple user interface.
Processing time for CERT applications is about 90 days. Participating businesses instantly boost their market exposure because they are included in a CERT directory. Participating businesses are also eligible to participate in various activities specifically for certified vendors sponsored by the four jurisdictions.
State of Minnesota Dept. of Administration, Office of Equity in Procurement (OEP)
The OEP is tasked with enabling more DBEs to bid on and win state contracts for services and procurement. The OEP sets goals and encourages the following state agencies to set aside projects for DBE bids:
OEP offers certification for three types of businesses:
- Targeted group business certification – To be certified the business must be at least 51% owned by a woman, racial minority, or person with a substantial physical disability. In addition, the business must be operated and controlled on a day-to-day as well as long-term basis by the qualifying owner. In other words, ownership is not enough; operational control is also required.
- Economically Disadvantaged small business – To be certified the business must be located (or the owner must reside) in an Economically Disadvantaged Area in Minnesota. These areas include labor surplus areas, as designated by the federal government, and low-income counties in Minnesota. Economically Disadvantaged small businesses must be certified as such by MMD in order to participate in the program.
- Veteran-owned business group certification — the business must be at least 51% owned by a veteran or service-disabled veteran as determined by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the business must be operated and controlled on a day-to-day as well as long-term basis by the qualifying owner. In other words, ownership is not enough; operational control is also required
The WBDC can help small businesses that qualify to get certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). This nationally recognized certification is accepted by more than 1,000 corporations representing America’s most prestigious brands, in addition to many states, cities and other entities.
Some of the benefits of WBE certification include invitations to networking events with supplier diversity representatives, contact information for supplier diversity representatives, and opportunities to attend corporate panels, procurement events, and education opportunities. To qualify, your business must be 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.
North Central Minority Supplier Development Council (NCMSDC)
Businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by one or more ethnic minorities can get an MBE certification from this regional branch of the national organization called the Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC). The MSCD offers minority business certifications for companies across all of Minnesota through its location in Minneapolis. Eligibility is established by conducting a series of screenings, interviews and site visits. Click on this link for more information or to apply: http://www.northcentralmsdc.net/