Enterprise Law Column: Minority- or women-owned firms of the NYS Pillars

Becoming a minority or women-owned company (MWBE) in New York State has a number of advantages. The certification improves access to government contract options, promotes the business development of MWBE-certified companies and offers numerous educational and training opportunities. Unfortunately, you cannot simply declare your company as a company owned by women or minorities. There are qualifications and standards that must be met in order to receive certification.

Qualifications for certification as a minority or women-owned company:

• At least 51% of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by women

• At least 51% of the company must be owned, operated and controlled by minorities. (Minorities include people of African American, Hispanic, Asia-Pacific, Asia-Indian subcontinent, or Native American heritage.)

• Owners must be real, substantial, ongoing, and exercise authority in day-to-day decisions and business affairs.

• MWBEs cannot have assets of more than $ 3.5 million.

• MWBEs may not have more than 300 employees.

• Companies must have been in business for at least a year.

• Companies outside of the state must first obtain MWBE certification in their home state and be authorized to work in New York state.

The New York State Minority and Women Business Enterprise certification was created to ensure and develop equality in economic opportunity and remove barriers for women and minority business owners. Becoming a certified MWBE is not as easy as you might think. Certification involves a lengthy application and rigorous review process to help companies compete for the possibility of state government contracting. Fortunately, online resources and experienced professionals are available to assist in providing tips and tools to complete the application and to ensure that all detailed program eligibility requirements are met. Currently, Empire State Development (ESD) is taking a long time to process certification applications and recertifications, which must be completed every three years. So if you are planning to get MWBE certification or renew your certification, you should do so as soon as possible.

Is an increase in MWBE utilization a good thing?

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo took office, he has strongly promoted the use of MWBEs and increased the “usage rate” several times. In 2011, during his first speech on the state of the state, Governor Cuomo announced that he intended to increase the 10% usage target to 20%. In the 2019/20 financial year, MWBE in New York received 29.51% of all government contracts, which was well above the stated target of 20%. That nearly 30% rate, equivalent to over $ 3 billion in contracts, was one of the highest rates in the nation. Since 2011, government contracts worth over US $ 19 billion have been awarded to certified MWBE companies. These lofty goals play an important role in the success of all women and minority companies across the state. Our governor is committed to continuing this profitable endeavor to 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 receive great momentum for the growth of minority and women-owned companies. So the answer is yes. I would say increasing the MWBE usage is a good thing.

If you have any questions about minority and women-owned companies or to assist with your certification / recertification, please contact lawyer Jennifer Huse Granzow at the Wladis law firm at (315) 445-1700.

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