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What is a mbe certification

what is a mbe certification

COMAR Regulations

23. What is the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program?

1. What is the Minority Business Enterprise Program?

In 1978, Maryland's General Assembly enacted legislation to create a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Program to encourage minority-owned firms to participate in the State procurement process.  Current MBE law requires agencies to make every effort to achieve an overall minimum goal of 29% of the total dollar value of their procurement contracts directly or indirectly from certified MBE firms. 

In furtherance of the State's MBE initiative, each State agency reviews and assesses its procurements for supplies, services, maintenance, construction and architectural/engineering contracts to determine an MBE participation goal

appropriate for each contract.

2. What is a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)?

To be eligible for certification as an MBE firm, a business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more socially-and economically-disadvantaged individuals. Under current State law, an individual is presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged if that individual belongs to one of the following groups: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Women.  Persons who own and control their business, but are not members of one of the above groups, also may be eligible for MBE certification if they establish their social and economic disadvantage.  Disabled individuals and non-profit organizations serving the physically or mentally disabled may also apply for MBE certification.  A determination of whether an individual meets MBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis. 

3. What is the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program?

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program provides a vehicle for increasing the participation by certified DBE firms in State and local procurements that are funded with assistance from USDOT.  USDOT DBE regulations require State and local transportation agencies to establish goals for the participation of DBE firms on USDOT-assisted procurements.  Each state and local transportation agency that receives financial assistance from the USDOT is required to establish tri-annual DBE goals and review the scope of anticipated contracts throughout the year.  In Maryland, only three administrations participate in the DBE program:  State Highway Administration (SHA), Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) and Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). 

4. What is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)?

The eligibility criteria for DBE certification is very similar to that for MBE certification.  To be eligible for certification as a DBE, a business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).  Under federal law, members of the following groups are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged: Women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and Subcontinent Asian Pacific Americans.  Persons who own and control their business, but are not members of one of the above groups, also may be eligible for DBE certification if they establish their social and economic disadvantage.  A determination of whether an individual meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis. 

5. What is DBE Interstate Certification?

The Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOT) Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE), the official certification agency for the State, reviews all out-of-state applications by firms currently certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) by their home state who wish to apply for certification as a DBE in Maryland.

Follow this link for more information about DBE Interstate Certification .

6. What are the Personal Net Worth eligibility requirements?

Both the MBE Program and the DBE Program have Personal Net Worth (PNW) eligibility requirements. PNW is the net value of assets held by an individual, and includes, if married, those assets held jointly or as community property with the spouse. 

The PNW cap for the MBE Program is $1,669,419 (January 1 - December 31, 2015).  PNW calculations for the MBE Program DO NOT include the applicant's personal residence, the value of the applicant's business or any other business owned by the applicant that is certified as an MBE, or $500,000 of qualified retirement savings. 

The PNW cap for the DBE Program is $1,320,000.  PNW calculations for the DBE Program DO NOT include the applicant's personal residence and the value of the applicant's business.

When an individual's PNW exceeds the threshold, the individual is no longer eligible to participate in the applicable program. 

7. How can I participate in the MBE/DBE Programs?

In order to participate in the MBE and/or DBE programs, a firm must obtain certification as an MBE and/or DBE.  The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is the official certification agency for the State of Maryland and is the only State agency that has authority to certify a firm as an MBE and/or DBE.  Certification is based on the requirements prescribed for each program, including the eligibility criteria set forth above.  Firms certified as MBEs may participate as MBE subcontractors on State contracts.  Firms certified as DBE subcontractors may participate as DBEs on USDOT-assisted contracts administered by the Maryland State Highway Administration, Maryland Aviation Administration and Maryland Transit Administration.

Applications for MBE/DBE certification are available online or by calling the MDOT Office of Minority Businesses Enterprise (OMBE) directly at 410-865-1269  or 800-544-6056.

8. How does MDOT determine which businesses can participate in the programs?

MDOT has a comprehensive certification process to determine the ownership and control of firms that apply for MBE and/or DBE certification.  Although there are specific eligibility criteria for certification under each program, firms seeking both MBE and DBE certification may apply for both simultaneously using the Uniform Certification Application.

Applications are carefully reviewed by the OMBE Intake Unit to confirm that all required documents have been submitted.  To see the list of documents that must be submitted in support of a certification application, (click here ) and select the structure of your firm.

Applications are then forwarded to the Certification Unit and assigned to an MBE Officer who conducts an interview at the firm's office and perform job-site visits if applicable.  As part of the certification process, applicants may be required to appear before the MBE Advisory Committee (MBEAC) to discuss their business and to respond to questions.  Appearances before the MBEAC are conducted during public meetings, which may be observed by prospective applicants.  The MBEAC makes recommendations to the MBEAC Chairperson, who then issues the certification decision.

The certification process is structured to ensure that only those businesses that meet the requirements set forth under State and federal law participate in the programs.

9. What are the advantages of becoming certified as an MBE/DBE?

Becoming certified as an MBE and/or DBE will expose your firm to work opportunities on State and local government projects.  When responding to a solicitation, contractors must provide evidence that they met the minority participation goal established on the contract by seeking out and utilizing certified MBE/DBE firms.  A contractor can only receive credit toward achievement of such goals if the firm is certified as an MBE (for State-funded contracts) or DBE (for USDOT-funded contracts).  The names of all certified MBE/DBE firms appear on MDOT's online directory.  The directory is widely used by State agencies, local governments, contractors and the public.

In fact, MDOT certification is accepted by most local county governments in support of their minority business inclusion efforts.  In addition to being used by contractors seeking to meet MBE/DBE contract goals, MDOT's online directory also is used by many State and local procurement officers to directly solicit MBE/DBE firms to bid on public contracts. 

10. Once certified, can a firm be assured of getting contracts and subcontracts?

No. Certification does not guarantee work to any certified firm.  Although certification enhances a firm's exposure to prime contractors, procurement officers, and the business community, certified firms must aggressively market its personnel and its services. 

11. Will certification allow me to bid as an MBE/DBE on all State contracts?

Any firm, whether it is certified or not, may participate directly or indirectly in any bid or project proposal.  Once a firm is certified through MDOT, it may participate as an MBE or

DBE on any State contract that has an MBE/DBE participation goal, regardless of the agency. 

12. Do firms graduate from the MBE/DBE Programs?

Yes. Graduation is defined as the removal of a firm's eligibility to be certified as an MBE/DBE based upon exceeding the small business size standards applicable to one or more of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes in which the firm is certified.  A firm certified in multiple codes may graduate in one or more of its NAICS Codes, depending on the size standards for each individual code.

Depending on the NAICS Codes, small business size standards are calculated based on a firm's three year average of annual gross receipts or the average number of employees for the past 12 months.  If a firm's business size meets or exceeds the revenue or employee totals as specified in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) regulations at 13 C.F.R. Part 121, that firm is determined to have graduated and it is no longer eligible to participate on any new State contracts as an MBE or DBE in the applicable NAICS Code.

The DBE Program includes an additional overall size cap.  According to federal regulations, if a firm's annual gross receipts exceeds $23,980,000 the firm is no longer eligible to participate in the DBE Program regardless of the SBA size standards. 

13. How are MBE/DBE participation goals established for specific contracts?

To meet the overall minority business procurement goals, State agencies set goals on those contracts that have subcontracting opportunities; thus, not every contract will have an MBE/DBE participation goal.  Some of the factors that State agencies take into consideration when setting minority participation goals include, but are not limited to, the type of work involved; potential subcontracting items; location of the project; locations of MBE/DBE firms that are currently certified; and availability of MBE/DBE firms. 

14. Where can I find information regarding State procurement opportunities?

All State agencies are required to use eMaryland Marketplace (eMM) to advertise contract opportunities.  In order to receive a contract award, a vendor must be registered on eMM.  Maryland's Department of General Services administers eMM, and the eMM web site can be found at:

In addition to eMM, State agencies also are encouraged to send notices of procurement opportunities to minority contractor associations and publications.

15. How does MDOT assure that "front" or "pass through" organizations do not benefit from the MBE/DBE programs?

The certification process is used to determine whether a firm is owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.  Applicants must demonstrate that the owner is socially and economically disadvantaged, and provide documentation establishing at least 51% ownership of the company. 

The applicant also must demonstrate that the disadvantaged individual controls the firm by establishing that he/she has, among other things, the technical knowledge and expertise to make independent business operating and management decisions.

Certified firms are reviewed annually to determine whether the ownership and control of the certified firm has changed.  Contract compliance monitoring procedures also facilitate the identification of "front" or "pass through" firms. 

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16. Are there other requirements and procedures applicable to the MBE/DBE programs in Maryland?

Yes. Additional information regarding the requirements and certification procedures for the MBE/DBE Programs maybe found in Title 14, Subtitle 3 of the State Finance and Procurement Article of the Maryland Annotated Code, Title 21, Subtitle 11, Chapter 3 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), USDOT regulations 49 CFR Parts 23 and 26, and the most current  MBE Program Manual and DBE Program Manual issued by MDOT. 

17. Does the general contractor have any responsibility in the MBE/DBE programs?

Yes. The contractor must first attempt to meet the MBE/DBE participation goal established on the contract by seeking out and utilizing certified MBE/DBE firms.  Once work begins, the contractor is responsible for all project activities including those of its subcontractors.

Regular monitoring assures that contractual items are performed in accordance with specifications, including MBE/DBE participation.  Monthly reports, such as payroll, cost and time estimation and progress reports, must be submitted by the contractor. 

18. How can suspected abuse of the MBE/DBE programs be reported?

Suspected abuse should be reported on the MBE/DBE Fraud Hotline: 800-544-6056.  Reports may also be submitted to the MBE/DBE liaison within the State agency. 

19. What happens to general contractors and MBE/DBE businesses that abuse the program?

Administrative sanctions can be applied for false, fraudulent, or dishonest conduct connection with the MBE/DBE Programs.  These sanctions include, but are not limited to:

    termination of contract referral to the Office of the Attorney General for criminal investigation initiation of any other specified in the contract or in applicable laws and  regulations remedy identified.   Top of Page

20. How can I file a complaint about the eligibility of a certified firm, fraud or any other matter?

Any person may file, with MDOT's OMBE, a written complaint alleging that an applicant seeking to be certified or a currently certified firm is ineligible for certification as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and/or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).  The complaint, which may be filed at any time, must specify the alleged reasons why the firm is ineligible, and may include any information, documents, or arguments supporting the complainant’s assertion that the firm does not meet the requirements for certification as an MBE/DBE.  OMBE will review its records, examine any additional information provided by the complainant and/or the firm, and conduct any investigation it deems necessary.  Upon completion of its review and investigation, OMBE will determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the firm is ineligible for certification and issue a written determination that sets forth its findings and conclusions. Additional information regarding the procedures for ineligibility complaints are set forth in 49 C.F.R. §§26.87 -.89, the MBE Program Manual (pg. 117) and the DBE Program Manual (pg. 78). Complaints regarding any other matters may be reported using the Fraud Hotline (1-800-544-6054) or submitting in writing to the MDOT's OMBE at 7201 Corporate Center Drive, Hanover, Maryland 20176.

Complaints about a member of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise staff may be reported by phone to MDOT's Office of Audits at 410-684-7059. 

21. How can I track the progress of a firm that has submitted an application for certification with MDOT?

A complete list of all firms who have applied for certification as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and/or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) is available online.  The listing includes a notation of the firm's current status (i.e. Intake, Investigation, MBEAC/Pending).

To access the list, (click here ) and s elect “View or download all applicant firms” to access the alphabetical listing of all applicant firms. 

22. Where can I find more information about upcoming minority business events?

The Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) maintains a Calendar of Events where you will find valuable information related to conferences, workshops, seminars, panel discussions and a host of other professional development and business networking events.

23. What is the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program?

The SBE Program is a race and gender neutral program designed to provide contracting opportunities to small businesses on federally-aided projects with the State Highway Administration (SHA), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), and Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA). 

SBE Program Eligibility:

(1) The firm must be a small business (as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) by applying current SBA business size standards that are applicable to the type of work the firm seeks to perform.  Size standards are measured by a three-year average of annual gross receipts or number of employees.

(2) The firms average gross receipts cannot exceed the USDOT size standard of ($22.41).

(3) At least 51% of the firm’s ownership must be held by individuals who do not exceed the personal net worth (PNW) limit cap of $1.32 million.

(4) The 51% owner(s) must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.

(5) The firm must be organized for profit.

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