Alphabet Soup: Decoding Small Business Certification Acronyms

Alphabet Soup: Decoding Small Business Certification Acronyms

Whether it’s DBE, MBE, WBE, or SBE… applying for certifications with the State of North Carolina or the City of Charlotte can be confusing. What do all these letters mean? Which program is right for you? We will quickly run down the different certification programs for small and underutilized businesses. These programs are designed to increase participation on federal, state, and locally funded projects by underutilized businesses. Businesses in these programs also recieve special access to State and City Bids/Opportunities. No matter your business type, professional services, construction or even landscape management, you can benefit from these 5 certification programs.

State Administered Programs

DBE Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

The DBE Program is a USDOT program administered by the state that applies to projects funded by USDOT federal-aid dollars, typically through state agencies, i.e. airports, local governments. To be eligible for DBE certification, the social and economic criteria of 49 CFR Part 26 must be met.

Eligibility:  

  • You are presumed to be disadvantaged if you are a woman, Black American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Anyone outside of these groups may be eligible if they can establish their social and economic disadvantage.

  • Must be a small business as determined by SBA standards

  • For-profit business

  • Personal Net Worth under $1.32 million

  • At least 51% owned, operated, and control by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual

SBE – Small Business Enterprise Program

The Small Business Enterprise Program is a state program developed to provide contract opportunities for firms that meet the eligibility criteria, compete in their industries and markets. This program gives smaller businesses the opportunity to paritcipate in NCDOT (Department of Transportation) Construction Projects.

Eligibility:

  • Annual gross incomes up to $1.5 million

  • For-profit business

HUB – Historically Underutilized Business Program

The Historically Underutilized Business Program is a state program developed to provide contract opportunities for firms that meet the eligibility criteria, compete in their industries and markets.

Eligibility:

  • 51% owned, operated, and controlled by  

    • Minorities (Black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American)

    • Women

    • Disabled Persons

    • Socially or economically disadvantaged persons

MBE/WBE – Minority/Women Business Enterprise Program

Minority Business Enterprise/Women Business Enterprise is a state program designed to ensure firms that meet the eligibility requirements are afforded the maximum opportunity to participate in contracts financed with state funds.

Eligibility:

  • The DBE certification process is used to become a certified MBE/WBE with NCDOT.

City Administered Programs

CBI-Charlotte Business Inclusion Program

The Charlotte Business Inclusion Program is a City of Charlotte program designed to enhance competition and participation of small, minority, and women owned firms in City contracting.

Eligibility:

  • 51% owned, operated, and controlled by qualifying individual

  • Personal net worth not to exceed $750,000

  • Significant business presence in the Charlotte CSA (Anson, Cabarrus, Chester, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lancaster, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, Union, York

  • Provides a commercially useful function to the City

  • ¼ SBA Size Standards

  • MWBEs must be certified through the HUB Program

For more information on each program and to apply for certification, please visit the website links below.

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