Women In Trucking: Certification For Government Contracts

August 1, 2010

Women may no longer be a minority in every workplace, but when it comes to government contracts, the designation remains.  Women who own businesses have the option to obtain certification, which will provide a way to increase the visibility of their companies to corporate and government partners.

In the past, fewer buyers turned to women owned firms who then felt stymied in their efforts for a level playing field in the competition to supply large contracts in the public and private arena.  Through the certification process, women owned businesses might now demonstrate their credibility and initiative in providing products and services to potential customers.

There are currently numerous state level certification programs, such as the one Pat Sterling of Orland Hills, Illinois, received. This past March Pat obtained MBE/WBE/DBE certification through the city of Chicago’s Department of Procurement office.   The letters stand for Minority, Women or Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

As a small trucking company (one dump truck) owner, Pat was able to secure work through the process.  According to Pat, the certification process definitely levels the playing field – somewhat.”  She agrees that, “it gives smaller, unknown, minority and/or women-owned businesses a shot at receiving a percentage of work administered by various municipal and governmental (public works) agencies.”

As an example, Pat described how in the past, an excavation contractor could have a “preferred” trucking company (possibly family and/or friends) to haul the excavated dirt to the dump.  Without M/WBE/DBE goals, many companies (like Pat’s) would be left out in the cold while the same trucking companies were being utilized over and over. The allocated percentage for each project, known as M/WBE/DBE participation, is listed in the bid solicitations and must be performed by certified companies.

Now, Pat can submit a bid to haul construction materials with her dump truck and she can feel confident that her service will be considered, along with the other, bigger, carriers in her area.

Although Pat used a state certification process, the National Women Business Owners Corporation (nwboc.org) was the first national certifier of Women Business Enterprises.  The nonprofit organization was created to provide a standard process for obtaining the certification for businesses controlled (at least 51 percent) by women.

The certification process sounds daunting, but if you look at the NWBOC site you will find assistance in understanding how the process works and how it can benefit you, as a woman owned business. Private sector partners, as well as some government entities, readily accept the NWBOC designation but other public sector agencies still require state or local programs, such as the one Pat received.

Companies looking for women owned carriers to supply dump trucks and flat beds have contacted us at Women In Trucking Association.  We then notify our members in that area to determine if they are certified and if we can refer them to the customer.  We encourage our members to obtain certification for this reason.  As Pat described, government contracts often require the use of women or minority owned companies for their projects.

Whether you agree with the model or not, it’s a part of the process in this country, so you might want to explore the opportunity for yourself. If you have 51 percent or more ownership and control of your company, you may qualify for NWBOC certification.  You must also hold the highest office in the company and do so for six months before applying. The size of your organization is not a factor; so one truck qualifies if you are the primary decision maker.  It’s not a difficult process, but it will require you to complete the application and submit it to the organization.

Once you have obtained your Women Owned Business Certification, your company will be designated as such and your name will be included in their list for potential company procurement.  As Pat said, “it definitely levels the playing field.”

Janet Harris-Lange, President of NWBOC, agrees, “Certified woman-owned enterprises will find new opportunities to secure procurement leads.”  Consider joining Pat and the thousands of other women who have completed the process and are now enjoying a higher level of competitiveness in the trucking industry.