‘SHOULD MY BUSINESS BE CERTIFIED?’ …In many cases, yes, says URA Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker

by Diane I. Daniels, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Businesses of all types and sizes have been learning the ins and outs and the significance of Minority Women Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certification in various ways.

During a recent Google Digital Coaches presentation hosted by Kyshira Moffett, MBA, Google Digital Coach and owner of the Power Collective, more than 25 aspiring and developing entrepreneurs participated in her Jan. 29 Positioning Yourself for B2B Contracts workshop.

Its goal was to address how to gain contracts to grow a business. It covered how to identify marketable skills for contracts and how to leverage certifications to get in front of ideal partners. In addition, tips were provided on how to get their businesses online with Google by creating a free profile.

DIANE I. DANIELS ON BUSINESS NEWS

Small business and entrepreneurship have been a focus in the region for decades. Organizations like the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council and the UPMC Supplier Diversity Program have been working with minority- and women-owned businesses to prepare them to receive a greater share of publicly-awarded contracts and equal access to procurement opportunities.

Deputy Executive Director of the URA, Diamonte Walker, during the Google Digital Coaches event explained diversity certification. She helped answer the question many entrepreneurs operating businesses like jewelry design, visual arts, furniture making, body painting, event planning, life coaching, caterers, janitorial and information technology wonder: “Should I be certified?”

Diversity certification, she explained, is a designation assigned to socially and economically disadvantaged firms through an application verification process designed to ensure the groups receive equal opportunity when competing for publicly-funded contracts. Socially and economically disadvantaged populations in most situations include Black, minority- and women-owned businesses. Veteran- and LGBTQ-owned businesses are also often included.

“Certified MWDBE firms are normally sought out first to ensure the agency or company achieves the established MBE or WBE participation goal,” said Walker, who is focused on removing barriers to entry to increase revenue generation opportunities. She also wants to ensure certification is not a barrier for the businesses looking to work with the URA; she explained that the reason for entrepreneurs to become certified is because a certain portion of publicly-funded contracts must include the utilization of certified MBE, WBE and or DBE businesses. “Public agencies are audited by the city, state and federal government on the number of minority- and women-owned businesses directly awarded or included on contracts,” Walker said, explaining that the MBE, WBE or DBE firms must be certified for the monies paid to those firms to count toward the goals. Non-certified firms cannot count toward MWDBE utilization goals.

During the presentation she also indicated that the URA’s goals are 18 percent MBE and 7 percent WBE utilization on construction and professional services contracts.

Area certification entities include the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program, the Eastern Minority Supplier Diversity Council, the Women Business Enterprise Council, the Section 3 Business Concern through the Housing and Urban Development and the PA Department of General Services. Programs through the Small Business Administration include 8A Business Development, HubZones and Economically Disadvantaged Businesses.

Walker pointed out that the URA’s MWDBE Program Office serves as a central point of contact for diverse companies looking to do business with the URA and helps firms navigate the MWDBE certification process. Sensitive to the needs and situations of some businesses aiming to do business with them, she indicated that they take into consideration businesses that aren’t certified but going through the process. “We offer a notary certification process that enables companies to do business with us while going through the process,” Walker said, who strongly encourages businesses to contact her office.

“Minority-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of the economy. They have been responsible for over 73 percent of new jobs added to the economy since the great recession,” Valarie J. Cofield, president and CEO of EMSDC, reported during their first quarter 2020 kickoff meeting. “This analysis provides an assessment of the impact of EMSDC’s certified MBEs on the U.S. economy. The MBEs create jobs and help create wealth in their communities.”

In other matters, Cofield also announced that Tricina Cash had been hired as Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Relations for EMSDC, and that their partnership with UPMC, a long-standing supporter of the Council, is continuing.

“UPMC is a leader in supplier diversity, and always pushing the bar in terms of making sure that there are opportunities to engage with diverse suppliers. They are the largest employer in the state of Pennsylvania and leading the way in terms of opportunities and reflecting the communities that they serve, but more importantly of making sure that your voice is heard and your businesses are presented with the opportunity to engage with their decision-makers,” Cofield said. “We are excited to be working with Dr. George Robinson.”

Dr. Robinson was recently appointed Director of Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Supply Chain Management at UPMC.

UPMC’s Supplier Diversity Program is designed to provide minority, woman-owned, and disadvantaged businesses, LGTBQ and Veteran-owned vendors equal access to procurement opportunities. The program ensures that certified diverse business partners are provided the maximum opportunity to participate as partners and suppliers of goods and services to UPMC.

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: LOVER OF ALL THINGS DIGITAL—Google Digital Coach and the Power Collective owner, Kyshira Moffett, teaching one in a series of many Google workshops.—Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

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