Becoming a Minority or Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) in New York State has a number of benefits. Certification improves access to state contracting opportunities, promotes business development among MWBE certified companies, and offers many educational and training opportunities. Unfortunately, one can’t just declare their company a women or minority owned business. There are qualifications and standards that need to be met in order to earn certification.

Qualifications to obtain certification as a Minority or Woman Owned Enterprise:

  • At least fifty-one percent (51%) of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by women
  • At least fifty-one percent (51%) of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by minorities. (Minorities include those who are of black, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific, Asian-Indian Subcontinent or Native American heritage.)
  • Owners must be real, substantial and continuing, and must exercise authority over day-to-day decision making and business matters.
  • MWBEs cannot have a net-worth exceeding $3.5 million.
  • MWBEs may not have more than 300 employees.
  • Companies are required to be operating with at least one year of business.
  • Out of state companies must first obtain MWBE certification in their home state and must have authorization to do work in New York State.

New York State’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise certification was created to ensure and develop equality in regards to economic opportunities, as well as eliminate barriers for women and minority business owners. Becoming a certified MWBE isn’t as easy as one may think. Certification involves a lengthy application and a rigorous screening process in order to help businesses who seek to compete for state government contracting opportunities.  Fortunately, there are online resources and experienced professionals available who will assist in providing tips and tools to complete the application, along with making sure all of the detailed program eligibility requirements are met. Currently, it is taking Empire State Development (ESD) an extended period of time to process certification requests and re-certifications, which must be completed every three years. So, if you plan to gain MWBE certification or renew your certification, make sure to do so as soon as possible.

Is raising the MWBE utilization rate a good thing?

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken office, he has heavily promoted the use of MWBEs and increased the “utilization rate” multiple times. In 2011, during his first State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced that he planned to increase the 10% utilization goal to 20%. In the years leading up to 2014, New York’s MWBE’s were being awarded more than 25% of all state contracts, far exceeding the stated 20% goal. This 25% rate translated to nearly $2 billion in contracts and was one of the highest rates in the nation. As a result, at the 2014 New York State annual MWBE Forum in Albany, the Governor announced that he would again raise the state’s MWBE utilization to a rate of 30%. This percentage currently holds the highest state contracting goal in the United States. These goals play a major role in the success of all women and minority owned companies across the state. Our Governor is committed to the continuation of this profitable drive to advance and ensure that minority and women owned businesses are fully represented in New York. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, our state has and will continue to gain great momentum in growing minority and women owned businesses. So the answer is yes, I’d say the increase in MWBE utilization rate is a good thing.

Please feel free to reach out to the Wladis Law Firm with any questions regarding Minority and Women Owned Businesses or for assistance with your certification/re-certification!