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Banner Biz QandA

9/8/2010, 6:50 a.m.
Reginald A. Nunnally, Executive Director, Commonwealth Supplier Diversity Office

Q: Why was the State Office of Minority and Women Owned Business Assistance merged with the Affirmative Marketing Program to become the Commonwealth Supplier Diversity Office?

On May 1, 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick merged the State Office of Minority and Women Owned Business Assistance (SOMWBA) and the Affirmative Market Program (AMP) to create a new Commonwealth Supplier Diversity Office (SDO). Minority- and women-owned businesses now have a single point of entry for certification services, training on how to do business with the Commonwealth, technical assistance and business development services for business plans, marketing strategies, financial literacy, loan preparation and access to capital.

Q: How does the certification process work?

The SDO reviews and investigates applicants that seek to participate in affirmative business opportunities in order to determine that they meet the requirements of state and federal statutes and regulations. SDO certifies companies for both state and federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification programs.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 7, Section 40N establishes the state’s affirmative purchasing programs for minority- and women-owned businesses. SDO certification verifies the eligibility of a business to participate in these business programs.

Q: What is federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification?

DBE certification is a federal designation used in conjunction with U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) funded projects and contracts. State agencies and organizations using DBE certification include the Executive Office of Transportation, Massachusetts Highway Department (Massachusetts Highway), the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project, the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort), the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (Aeronautics), Worcester Airport, Barnstable Airport and many Regional Transit Authorities throughout the Commonwealth.

To qualify as a DBE, the business must be owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged persons as defined by DBE Regulation 49 CFR Parts 23 and 26. These regulations require all owner applicants to complete a Statement of Disadvantage and a Personal Financial Statement. All eligible owners must prove that they are members of a disadvantaged group, such as an eligible ethnic minority or female. In addition, the personal net worth of each eligible owner applicant must be less than $750,000, excluding the values of the applicant’s ownership interest in the business seeking certification and the owner’s primary residence.

Q: What is the benefit of being certified?

SDO certification is a marketing tool used to enhance a firm’s ability to do business in public markets. Although certification does not guarantee that a business will be successful every time it bids, it adds a competitive edge to a bid. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts spends more than $4 billion each year doing business with firms. More than $240 million of this amount is targeted for SDO certified minority- and women-owned businesses. Becoming SDO certified can help firms seeking contracts with the government.

Q: What has been the impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions against racial preferences?

These decisions have made it much more competitive for small minority firms. The elimination of race based goals clearly has its draw backs for minority firms. They must become more competitive in marketing their services. Networking is more a necessity today than ever before, and closing the digital divide will ensure that the companies have access to information relative to new contracts. The SDO has developed partnerships with many of the state’s transportation agencies, such as Mass DOT, MBTA, Aeronautics, Mass Highway, MassPort and the 17 regional transit authorities throughout the Commonwealth, to identify minority- and women-owned firms that can do the job. Each of these agencies, along with the Operational Services Department and the state’s purchasing agency, have committed to providing the SDO with up-coming contract opportunities.