6 Things You Should Know: Regional Small Business Enterprise Programs
by Yolanda Cowart | April 9, 2019
There has been a lot of interest surrounding local Small Business Enterprise (SBE) programs this year. This is the perfect time for local small business owners who do business with the government to strike while the iron is hot and start exploring various SBE programs that can help secure further procurement.
In an effort to improve their level of engagement and commitment to small businesses, local municipalities in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk County have recently been evaluating their small business initiatives, ramping up their small business outreach and enhancing their small business programs.
If you’re not totally familiar with SBE Programs, here are six things you should know:
- What is a Small Business Enterprise?
A SBE meets specific economic criteria and is owned, operated and controlled by one or more people. The SBE certifications determine if a small-scale enterprise is a business that employs a small number of workers and does not have a high volume of sales. Such enterprises are generally privately owned and operated sole proprietorships, corporations or partnerships. The legal definition of a small business and the specific criteria for an agency’s SBE Program may vary from agency to agency.
- It is an all-inclusive program.
Many entrepreneurs are familiar with Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Veteran Owned Small Business Enterprise (VOSB) certifications. These programs have to be owned, operated, and controlled by one member of a minority race, a woman or an entrepreneur that served in the U.S. Military, respectively. A SBE certification is a race and gender neutral designation that is based on economic criteria established by the local municipality or governing agency.
- It is a business development program.
Many local government agencies have a dedicated office or dedicated staff to help small businesses search and compete for contract opportunities within the agency. Most SBE programs include business development resources that work with small business owners to increase their company’s capabilities. These business services include technical, financial and management assistance that can improve a company’s ability to compete for government contracts. Many of these services are provided at little to no cost and include virtually any type of a business that needs to pursue government contracts.
- What are the benefits of participation?
SBE programs are specifically designed to encourage government buyers to source products and services from certified small businesses enterprises. The certification allows small businesses to compete for contract opportunities in a sheltered market, in which certain contracts are selected and specifically set aside for small owned businesses on a competitive bid or negotiated basis allowing SBE’s to compete in the open market at a prime contracting level.
- How can your business apply?
Once you have identified the agency that you are interested in doing business with, visit their website and conduct a search for “Small Business Enterprise Programs.” In order to be considered for bid opportunities, you will need to register as a vendor with their purchasing departments and then certify your small business with the department, division or office responsible for registering small businesses into the program. Some agencies, such as Pinellas County Government, have simple self-certification processes. Others may require you to submit a certification packet that include corporate documents such as business tax returns, articles of incorporation and operating agreements.
- SBE Certification can provide unique business opportunities.
Local SBE certifications have been utilized in the past by the National Football League (NFL) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) for small business opportunities. Both organizations rely on local certification programs for the National Football League Emerging Entrepreneurial Program and the National Republican Convention Small Business Resource Network. It is also recognized and sometimes utilized by private commercial firms with corporate social responsibility, small business initiatives, and supplier diversity programs.
Many small businesses aspire to win and work on government contracts. These contracts offer the opportunity to work with some of the largest spenders in the United States. Small business certification programs can provide businesses with the tools for successful execution.
Local government agencies spend millions of dollars in contracts, making them some of the biggest purchasers of goods and services in the local economy. Local government business certification programs and contracts can be a crucial source of revenue to help small business succeed in a highly profitable market.
Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development
Yolanda Cowart has more than 20 years of experience in public service at the local and municipal levels. Early in her career, she worked as a human resources and relations professional while serving as a liaison to the business community and advocacy groups. Her prior experience includes being a human relations specialist for Lee County Government, and an equal opportunity director for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Her background combines public service and human relations experience with hands on leadership in equal opportunity, supplier diversity, business certifications programs, organizational training and development, and managing workforce diversity principles. Cowart is the procurement specialist for the Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development. She connects businesses to resources and tools for state, local, and federal contracting opportunities. She is a Certified Procurement Professional (CPP), a Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP), and a Certified Verification Counselor. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor of arts in political science and history.