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Denver’s Small Business Certifications: How to Increase Your Contract Opportunities


Denver’s Small Business Certifications: How to Increase Your Contract Opportunities

The City of Denver has adopted policies to ensure that small businesses have equal opportunity to participate in the city’s procurement processes. As part of Denver’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity the city introduced Executive Order 101, which states that all city departments and agencies soliciting goods and services must take into account a vendor’s status in regards to diversity and inclusivity when entering into contracts. [i]

By obtaining certification as a small business, a vendor’s status will then be known by soliciting agencies and departments, which grants the vendor certain advantages in the bidding process. The city offers a number of different certifications that vendors can apply for, each of which has its own set of criteria.

Business Certification in Denver

The Small Business Enterprise Concessionaire (SBEC) certification is for Denver-area businesses that have been operating in the food, beverage and retail sector for more than six months and that have a three-year annual revenue average of less than $7.5 million. With SBEC certification, these businesses can bid and compete as a designated Concessionaire for city contracts.

To asset emerging Denver construction firms, the city introduced the Emerging Business Enterprise (EBE) certification, which allows certified businesses to bid against each other for construction and professional services contracts that are specifically reserved for EBE businesses. Construction firms applying for EBE certification must have annual revenue of $3 million or less, averaged over three years.

Also available for construction firms is the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification, which is designed to promote the use of small businesses for construction-related projects that are funded by the City of Denver.  Businesses applying for the SBE certification must have average three-year revenue of $23.98 million or less.  As part of Denver’s focus on small businesses, a number of city construction and design projects are reserved exclusively for SBE certified businesses, as are specific contracts for city entities including the Denver International Airport. Another benefit to obtaining SBE certification is that certified business can bid on construction and professional design contracts as a prime contractor.

The SBEC, SBE and EBE certifications are all race and gender-neutral. In order to be certified, a business must have been in active operation for a minimum of six months, and the primary owner (defined as owning 51 percent or more of the business) must have a personal net worth not exceeding $1.32 million (excluding their primary residence and ownership interest in the applying company).

Denver does have two race and gender-conscious certifications that were created to prevent discrimination during the city’s bidding processes. The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification allows certified businesses to access a greater number of bid opportunities, while the Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification is reserved exclusively for construction-related businesses. Businesses applying for DBE or M/WBE certification must be 51% owned by a person from a group considered to be economically and socially disadvantaged (such as women, Hispanic, Asian, Black or Native American). As well, the owner’s  personal net worth must not exceed $1.32 million. In the case of the DBE, the business only needs to have been in operation for one day (with a trade name registered with the State of Colorado) to be eligible for certification.

(Source: Kinds of Certification. Office of Economic Development. Denver the Mile High City. 2017)

M/WBE Opportunities in Construction

One of the hardest areas for minority and women owned businesses to break into is the construction industry, which is why the city of Denver has created several certification programs specifically for construction businesses. The M/WBE certification requires applying businesses to have had at least 6 months of continuous operations and annual revenue that does not exceed $23.98 million (for construction projects) or $11.99 million (for professional projects).[ii]

In addition to the M/WBE certification program, Denver offers a Mentor-Protégé program to aid the growth of minority and women-owned construction businesses in the city. Through the program, M/WBE’s looking to enter the construction industry are paired with established, successful businesses that provide coaching to the protégé M/WBE’s on a variety of subjects, including contract applications, business management, strategic planning and marketing. By working closely with their mentors, M/WBE’s gain the tools and knowledge they need to be competitive in Denver’s solicitation process. [iii]

Denver Small Business Certifications: Promoting Opportunity and Growth

Many small businesses are unfamiliar with the bidding opportunities issued by local governments. The solicitations put out by city agencies and departments cover a broad range of goods and services; building management, maintenance and janitorial services, landscaping, printing, transportation and office equipment are just a few of the areas of opportunity available with the city of Denver.[iv] By offering a variety of certifications for small businesses, Denver’s pool of vendors has become more diverse and better informed about a system where they have the opportunity to grow and profit for years to come.

Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com

[i] Executive Order 101. Ordinances & Executive Orders. 2017. denvergov.org Web 27 June 2017

[ii] Kinds of Certification. Office of Economic Development. 2017. denvergov.org Web 27 June 2017

[iii] MWBE Mentorship Program. Office of Economic Development. 2017. denvergov.org Web 27 June 2017

[iv] Do Business with Denver. Office of Economic Development. 2017. denvergov.org Web 27 June 2017

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Keep up to date with the evolving world of government bidding with tips, best practices, trends, research and observations. Let BidNet’s knowledge and experience work for you.

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