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Minority Business Enterprise Program (MBE)

Minority Business Enterprise Program (MBE)

The MBE program is designed to assist minority businesses in obtaining state government contracts for goods and services. The state of Ohio developed the program because it recognized the need to encourage, nurture, and support the growth of minority businesses to foster their development and increase the number of qualified competitors in the marketplace.

MBE Eligibility

An MBE-certified business must be owned and controlled by a U.S. citizen who is a resident of Ohio and a member of one or more of the following minority groups: Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics or Latinos, and Asians.

In addition, they must:

  • Have been in business for at least one year prior to applying.
  • Be at least 51 percent minority-owned.

Benefits of MBE Certification

  • Contract assistance, financial and bonding assistance, and management and technical assistance.
  • Eligibility for set-aside contracts:
    • Certified businesses are listed in a searchable database.
    • Certified businesses have the opportunity to compete for 15 percent of state agencies’ spending budgets in a sheltered bidding process. 
  • Financial and Bonding Assistance:
    • Minority Business Bonding Program.
    • Ohio Capital Access Program.
    • Collateral Enhancement Program.
    • Ohio Micro-Loan Program.
    • Management and technical assistance.

Steps for MBE Certification

The applicant must complete a Unified Application through the Ohio Business Gateway and provide supporting documentation as required. Only complete applications, including all required supporting documentation, will be reviewed. Applications are subject to on-site review by state compliance officers. Upon application approval, the company receives its MBE certification by email. Reviews take an average of 60 business days or less from the time a completed application is submitted.

For certain applications, however, a “fast track” system reduces application time to approximately five days. To qualify for “fast track” processing, the applicant must submit the application through one of the regional Minority Business Assistance Centers, which are operated by the Ohio Department of Development, and the applicant must have a pending contract award that requires certification or be a candidate for and in need of financing or bonding where certification is a requirement.

Business Certification: Recertification

Certification into the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or the Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) programs can be for up to two years. To be recertified, the applicant must demonstrate to the Ohio Department of Development (Development) that the business owner and the business continue to qualify for certification. Note that to be eligible for recertification, a business must apply for recertification prior to the current expiration date of the certification.

If there are no changes to the ownership or business structure of the company, such as changes to Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, Partnership Agreement, stockholders, board of directors, etc., the applicant must complete an online Recertification Affidavit through the Ohio Business Gateway and provide last year’s business federal tax returns. Note that only complete applications, which must include the tax returns, will be reviewed. If changes have occurred to the ownership or business structure of the company or if the expiration date of the current certification has lapsed, the applicant must complete an online Unified Application through the Ohio Business Gateway and provide supporting documentation based on business structure.

If the applicant successfully demonstrates that both the business owner and the business continue to qualify for certification, Development will recertify the business for up to two years. The applicant will be notified by email of the certification approval and will be provided with information how to download a new certificate.

But if Development determines that either the business owner or business no longer meets the certification criteria for the MBE or EDGE program, the applicant will be notified by registered mail, return receipt requested. The notification will include information detailing the applicant’s appeal rights.

Recertifications may be subject to on-site review by state compliance officers. Reviews take an average of five to 10 days.

If the initial certification was issued as a result of cross-certification, a unified application with required documentation is necessary to verify continued eligibility at the conclusion of the initial certification period, not a recertification form.

Steps for Recertification:

  1. Visit Ohio Business Gateway.
  2. Log in using username and password (OH|ID).
  3. Ensure "Equal Opportunity Division" is among available service areas.
  4. Ensure "Recertification Affidavit" is among available transaction types.
  5. Ensure filing access (read, edit, submit) is available; work with your account's Gateway filing administrator.
  6. Select "Recertification Affidavit" and complete the form.
  7. Click "File" button on the Summary page to see a confirmation page (and print completed form).
  8. Submit supporting documents to dev-eod.bccu@development.ohio.gov.

Cross-Certification

The Cross-Certification process reduces application time to an average of five business days after submission of required supporting documents. To qualify for cross-certification, the applicant must submit a Cross-Certification application through the Ohio Business Gateway and a copy of the current certification with one of the entities listed below, which vary by program.

Cross Certification into the Minority Business Enterprise Program

For cross-certification into the Minority Business Enterprise program, the Ohio Department of Development (Development) will accept a current certification from any of the following entities:

  • City of Canton MBE Program
  • City of Cincinnati Business Enterprise Program
  • City of Cleveland MBE Program
  • City of Columbus MBE Certification and Verification Program
  • City of Dayton Procurement Enhancement Program (PEP) (MBE portion of the PEP program only)
  • City of Springfield MBE/FBE Program (MBE portion of the MBE/FBE program only)
  • City of Toledo MBE Program
  • Cuyahoga County Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program (MBE portion of the SBE program only)
  • Ohio Turnpike Commission MBE/FBE Program (MBE portion of the MBE/FBE program only)
  • Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council

Note that in addition to having one of the above listed entity's certification, the business owner and the business must meet all the requirements listed in Ohio Adm. 123:2-14-02 and may be subject to an on-site inspection.

Steps for Cross-Certification:

  • Visit Ohio Business Gateway.
  • Log in using OH|ID username and password.
  • Ensure "Equal Opportunity Division" is among available service areas.
  • Ensure "Cross Certification Application" is among available transaction types.
  • Ensure filing access (read, edit, submit) is available; work with your account's Gateway filing administrator.
  • Select "Cross Certification Application" and complete the form.
  • Click "File" button on the Summary page to see a confirmation page (and print completed application).

A unified application with required documentation is necessary to verify continued eligibility at the conclusion of the initial cross-certification period.

Joint Ventures

A joint venture is a commercial collaboration in which two or more separate businesses — one of which must be certified already by either the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program or the Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) program — legally join together for the purpose of obtaining a specific contract or undertaking a specific transaction, while at the same time remaining independent. Generally, each member of a joint venture shares the risks of, has an interest in, and contributes assets to the joint venture. Joint ventures can be formed to submit bids or proposals for a contract in any applicable procurement category (i.e., professional services, goods and services, or information technology services). An MBE-certified business cannot participate in a joint venture that submits bids or proposals for construction, architecture, or engineering projects.

Joint Venture Eligibility

To have the joint venture certified into either the MBE or EDGE program, the joint venture must be controlled by the certified business owner. In addition, the certified business owner must have an interest in the capital, assets, and profits and losses of the joint venture at least proportionate to their capital in the venture, but the interest must be at least 51 percent for MBE or 30 percent for EDGE.

Steps for Certifying a Joint Venture

To obtain MBE or EDGE certification of a joint venture, the applicant must complete an online application through the Ohio Business Gateway. In addition, the applicant must submit a copy of the Joint Venture Agreement to dev-eod.bccu@development.ohio.gov. Among other things, the Joint Venture Agreement must include:

  • Name of project and contract number, if known.
  • Location, bid date and type of project.
  • Description of job to be performed by joint venture partners.
  • Percentage of the project to be subcontracted and of actual work being conducted by the subcontractor.
  • Appropriate contract start and completion dates.

Upon receipt and review of the Joint Venture Agreement, the Ohio Department of Development may require an on-site review by a state compliance officer.

Steps for Joint Venture:

  • Visit Ohio Business Gateway.
  • Log in using username and password (OH|ID).
  • Ensure "Equal Opportunity Division" is among available service areas.
  • Ensure "Unified Application" is among available transaction types.
  • Ensure filing access (read, edit, submit) is available; work with your account's Gateway filing administrator.
  • Select "Unified Application" and complete the form.
  • Click "File" button on the Summary page to see a confirmation page (and print completed application).
  • Submit Joint Venture Agreement to dev-eod.bccu@development.ohio.gov

See Something, Say Something

A hotline is available to receive allegations of possible fraud or abuse in the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE); Encouraging Diversity, Growth, and Equity (EDGE); Women-owned Business Enterprise (WBE); or Veteran-friendly Business Enterprise (VBE) programs. Tips about alleged violations may be reported to the toll-free hotline by calling 1-888-623-8477 (MBE-TIPS). Allegations may be reported between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday by state employees, contractors, or the public. Callers have the option to remain anonymous. Businesses that violate certification laws or rules risk decertification and the loss of business opportunities. Click here for frequently asked questions about the hotline.

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