Letter to the Editor: Minority Business Enterprise certification is vetted, credible

Posted online

Dear editor,

I am responding to the article posted online Feb. 3, 2020, authored by (Eric Olson) entitled “Opinion: Let’s rip the labels off minority-owned businesses.” Minority Business Enterprise certification is a denotation that is awarded to businesses that are at least 51% minority owned, operated and controlled.

The MBE program was governmentally established to make all state contracts, opportunities and benefits more available to economically disadvantaged and underserved businesses without discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or ancestry. The program was started to support minority/women/disadvantaged/disabled and veteran-owned businesses because they historically were not being afforded equal opportunities to be awarded contracts, too often due to historical de jure and de facto discrimination.

General misinformation exists that the government “gives” contracts to minorities simply because they are minorities; this is not the case. The certification provides the access to compete on equal footing and the opportunity to partner with majority businesses in the pursuit of state and/or federal contracts. The certification does not require anyone to contract with MBE/WBE/DBE/disabled/ and veteran-owned businesses that are not qualified to perform the work.

In addition to the access to corporate and government contracts, other benefits to certification include: networking opportunities, exposure for your business, education and training opportunities, and mentorship from more seasoned certified MBEs in a particular field and/or business.

There are a number of reasons why there are so few minority-owned businesses with this certification in southwest Missouri:

• southwest Missouri demographics (lower number of eligible applicants);

• some do not know about the certification;

• some have a distorted understanding of what the certification is and why it was created;

• some simply feel they don’t need it;

• some don’t want to go through the certification application process; and

• some may not be eligible for the certification.

Minorities In Business is a local nonprofit business association organized to empower diverse small businesses and professionals. Our mission is promoting economic development and business opportunities through advocacy, networking and capacity building for women and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in southwest Missouri.

We offer members technical assistance, including help in MBE/DBE certifications, and a variety of business and wealth building educational opportunities in collaboration with our local and regional business development resource partners. We also provide networking opportunities through monthly networking events, business development workshops, panel discussions and our Annual Heritage Awards Banquet.

Regardless of what people may have heard or choose to believe due to personal and professional biases, lack of knowledge and understanding, the MBE certification is viewed as a very credible and positive way to market your products or services to government agencies, businesses and corporations. We have testimonials from some of our associates stating that the MBE certification has positioned them to win (based on being qualified to do the work) some very profitable contracts and some who have had the opposite experience.

The notion that minorities are getting contracts due to their minority certification status alone is a fallacy and erroneous. Successful minority, disabled, women and veteran-owned businesses compete by having superior products and/or services, backed by a process of delivering those items with outstanding customer service and competitive price points.

—Samuel Knox, Minorities In Business executive director