The total dollar amount of government construction contracts awarded to businesses annually is multi-billions. Increasingly, government contracts both at the federal and local level are awarded to organizations that reserve a certain percentage of the total award for minority owned businesses. Now more than ever it pays to be a certified Minority Business Enterprise. MBE certification is the process by which a business is validated by a certifying agency as being at least 51% owned, managed, operated and controlled by an ethnic minority or a group of minorities. Most agencies recognize minority group members as U.S. citizens who are African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American and Asian-Indian American. MBE certification at the federal, state and local level grants bidders additional evaluation credit if they use MBEs. It also allows businesses to be eligible to bid on contracts set aside specifically for minority companies and provides minority companies with positive exposure by getting them into minority business directories and databases used by corporations for referrals. Furthermore, government agencies and private sector companies may have specific goals for minority owned businesses. Even if a firm does not intend to do business with government agencies minority certification still provides a means to distinguish a business in the market place during these challenging economic times. In order to be eligible to become certified as a minority business enterprise with the State of Florida, a business must meet all of the following criteria:
- Engaged in commercial transactions.
- Domiciled in Florida.
- At least 51% owned by minority person(s) who are permanent residents of Florida.
- “minority” is defined in Chapter 288.703, Florida Statutes as African America, Hispanic American, Asian America, Native American or American Woman.
- “American” is defined as a citizen of the United States of America.
- Managed and controlled by minority person(s).
- Performing a useful business function.
- A small business which:
- is independently owned and operated;
- has a net worth of not more than $5 million; and
- employs 200 or fewer full-time, permanent employees.
At present, there are literally billions of dollars of pending contract opportunities in Florida each containing minority business owner goals. Receiving these lucrative contracts takes more than an offer to provide the service or goods at a low price.If a company is not certified, then these dollars may be going to other companies who took the time and effort to become certified. In spite of the paperwork, the certification process can be lucrative and rewarding. As companies gain expertise and develop business relationships in this market, owners find that a mix of government and private contracts is a major factor assisting continued work and cash flow during economic downturns.