SBS answers your questions

Q:  I am an Asian woman who owns and operates a five-year-old small construction business in Jamaica. I’ve been told that I should apply to become a certified Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE). What does this mean and how could it benefit my business?

A: Thanks for your question. The Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) program was created in 2005 when Mayor Bloomberg signed Local Law 129 to promote government contracting opportunities for businesses owned by minorities and women. In order to be eligible to become certified, your company must be located in one of the five boroughs of the City, be at least 51 percent owned and operated by a woman or member of a recognized minority group, and in operation for more than a year. From your description, it sounds like your business would be eligible. I would strongly encourage you to become M/WBE certified.

Certified businesses obtain greater access to and information about contracting opportunities; attend classes such as certification seminars and workshops on selling to government; attend exclusive networking events; and receive targeted solicitations and technical assistance to better compete for contracts. Certified firms are listed in the City’s Online Directory of Certified Businesses at www.nyc.gov/buycertified, an excellent resource for promoting your business to buyers.

As a City-certified firm, you can also take advantage of industry-specific programs, like Fundamentals of Construction Management, a seven-course certificate program at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology. In the four years since the program began, over 19,000 contracts valued at nearly $1.2 billion have been awarded to City-certified M/WBEs. As a small business owner, doing business with the City of New York would be an excellent opportunity for you to expand your client base and grow your business.

To get started, you can call or visit the NYC Business Solutions Center in Queens for help with the certification process and to learn more about the suite of services offered by SBS to help businesses start, operate and expand in New York City. The Queens Business Solutions Center is located at 168-25 Jamaica Avenue, 2nd floor, Jamaica, NY and the phone number is 718-577-2148.  For more information on NYC Business Solutions Centers located around the City, visit www.nyc.gov/sbs or call 3-1-1 and ask for NYC Business Solutions Centers.

You can also begin your M/WBE application online at www.nyc.gov/businessexpress. This website also allows you to apply online for licenses, permits, and certificates that are required of your business and can also generate a customized list of incentives for which your business might be eligible.

Robert W. Walsh is the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS).  SBS is dedicated to helping businesses in New York City start, operate and expand providing direct assistance to business owners, fostering neighborhood development, and linking employers to skilled New Yorkers seeking jobs.

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