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Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise Certification Overview

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Minority Business Enterprise, Women Business Enterprise, Service-Disabled Veteran owned and Small Business Enterprises

In general, to be eligible for the state of Tennessee's Diversity Business Enterprise program and be certified as Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) or Woman Business Enterprise (WBE), Service-Disabled Veteran (SDVBE) or Small Business Enterprise (SBE), persons must be a U.S. Citizen and resident in the state of Tennessee. Out of state firms may receive certification through Reciprocity from their Home.

Eligible businesses seeking certification as a Minority Business Enterprise, Woman Business Enterprise or a Service-disabled Veteran owned business must be independently owned and operated and must also prove that at least 51% of the business is owned and controlled by a minority, a person of female gender or service-disabled owned veteran within the meaning of T.C.A. §12-3-1102(2), (5), (7), (8) and (10) and related guidelines.

Applicants seeking certification as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) must meet with the eligibility guidelines for a small business as established Senate Bill 170 which states in paragraph 12-3-1102 (5) Small Business means ": business that is a continuing, independent, for profit business which performs a commercially useful function with residence in this state and has total gross receipts of no more than ten million dollars ($10,000,000) averaged over a three-year period or employs no more than ninety-nine (99) persons on a full-time basis".

All applications must be properly entered into the electronic Tennessee Go-DBE System.The Go-DBE processing time for certification is 30 - 45 days or less. This standard processing time is based upon the receipt of a completed registration application including all required supporting documentation in the electronic TN Go-DBE diversity software system.

Eligibility Guidelines (in general):

  • Burden of Proof Allocation - Applicants carry the burden of proof regarding their eligibility to meet program eligibility and guidelines.
  • Change in Ownership - Firms that are certified with the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise must notify Go-DBE within 10 days of the date of a change in ownership, company name, contact information and or location information. A new Registration application will be required in order to make changes to critical certification information. Additional information will be requested on a case by case basis. Certified businesses will be notified electronically by our office of how the change affects the status of their certification. Firms that fail to notify Go-DBE office of pertinent changes in ownership information may be removed from Go-DBE Directory of certified businesses.
  • Change in products or services offered - Firms that desire to add/delete or change the NIGP code for product or service initially registered for are required to update their Edison profile as well as to complete a change request in the TN diversity software system. The requested change will be assigned to their Diversity Business Liaison in order to approve the updated changes in the TN Go-DBE diversity software system. Request for changes in NIGP code for products and/or service changes must also be submitted electronically and approved by the assigned Diversity Business Liaison.
  • Control - An owner seeking certification must demonstrate "real and substantial" control of the daily operation of the business as well as an overall understanding of managerial and technical competence and experience directly related to the type of business in which the firm is engaged. All documentation submitted must support the person's ability to control of the daily operation of the business. Applicants may only apply for one (1) diversity status during their entire certification period with the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise.
  • Applicants seeking certification for more than one company may be reviewed and considered by the Go-DBE office on a case by case basis.
  • Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) - A member of the following minority group of persons: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian- Pacific Americans.
  • Service-Disabled Veteran owned Business Enterprise (SDVBE) - Tennessee Service Disabled Veteran mean any person who served honorably on active duty in the armed forces of the United States with at least a twenty percent (20%) disability that is service- connected, meaning that such disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval or air service.
  • Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) - Of female gender, may be non-minority or of the following ethnic group of persons: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian-Pacific Americans.
  • Ownership - Form minority, women and service-disable veterans, your business must be at least 51% owned and controlled in the day to day operation of the business by an ethnic minority, a person of female gender, or a service-disabled veteran.

Service-Disabled Veteran owned Business Enterprise (SDVBE)

Eligibility Guidelines (in general):

Tennessee Service-Disabled Veteran means a service-disabled veteran owned business that is a continuing, independent, for profit business located in the state of Tennessee that performs a commercially useful function and:

    1. Is at least fifty-one percent (51%) owned and controlled by one (1) or more service-disabled veterans;
    2. In the case of a business solely owned by one (1) service-disabled veteran and such person's spouse, is at least fifty percent (50%) owned and controlled by the service-disabled veteran; or
    3. In the case of any publicly owned business, at least fifty-one percent (51%) of the stock of which is owned and controlled by one (1) or more service disabled veterans and whose management and daily business operations are under the control of one (1) or more service-disabled veterans.
  • Business owner must be independently owned and operated.
  • Applicants must submit a copy of the most recent federal Tax Return
  • (Including all schedules) in order to verify annual sales volume.
  • Owner must present copy of their Department of Defense (DD) Form 214
  • Owner must present copy of Adjudication letter from the Veterans Administration
  • Business must be located in the state of Tennessee

Small Business Enterprise (SBE)

Applicants seeking certification as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) must meet with the eligibility guidelines for a small business as established Senate Bill 170 which states in paragraph 12-3-1102 (5) Small Business means "a business that is a continuing, independent, for profit business which performs a commercially useful function with residence in this state and has total gross receipts of no more than ten million dollars ($10,000,000) averaged over a three-year period or employs no more than ninety-nine (99) persons on a full-time basis".

Eligibility Guidelines (in general):

  • The business must be independently owned and operated.
  • Must meet annual sales volume OR the number of employees according to T.C.A. 12-3- 1102(5).
  • Must be a for-profit business and serve a commercially useful function.
  • Must be a state of Tennessee residence in order to qualify for the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) status. Out of state firms may be granted reciprocity with an existing certification from their home state.
  • New applicants must submit sufficient copies of previous owners most recent federal Tax Return (including all schedules) in order to prove they meet the eligibility guidelines for meeting annual sales volume.
  • Copies of three (3) most recent Employer's Quarterly Statement Form 941 form adopted by the Internal Revenue Service for the verifying of the number of employees.

Additional Requirements

On Site Visits and Questionnaire:

The Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise performs on-site visits of firms registering for certification. A Diversity Business Liaison will request an appointment at an agreed upon time to meet with business owners. Diversity firms seeking certification will be required to interview with the Diversity Business Liaison for completion of the On-site visit questionnaire. Additional documentation may be requested during the on-site visit in order to properly assess' ownership and control of the day to day operation of the business.

All applicants must be U.S. Citizens or a Permanent Resident Alien and must reside in the state of Tennessee. Out-of-State persons seeking certification with Go-DBE must possess an existing certification from their home state of residence and submit evidence of their existing certification at the time of registration. A copy of the most recent tax return along with copies of identification is also required for out of state firms.

The Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise is unable to certify out of state firms that do not have an existing certification.

Electronic Notification of Certificate of Certification

Firms that complete the certification process and have met with the program guidelines will receive an electronic notification of their certificate of certification. The Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise will no longer mail hard copy certifications.

Letter notices of certification are no longer issued by the Go-DBE office. Certifications are valid for a period of two years expiring on the date of certification. It is the responsibility of each business owner to maintain an active certification status with the Go-DBE office through the certification period. By accepting the certification from the Go-DBE office, business owners agree to provide any and all information and/or documentation to the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise upon request.

Certification Renewal

Certification with the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise is valid for a period of three (3) years from the date as shown on the original certification letter. A completed and signed electronic Affidavit of No Change is required for renewal of each certification as minority owned, woman owned, service-disabled veteran owned and small business enterprises. The following additional requirements must also be provided depending on diversity status:

  • All Businesses - must provide complete copies of their most recent Tax Return. In order to prove eligibility of the new guidelines taken effect April 2012, all certified firms that desire certification renewal must provide a sufficient number of prior tax return in order to prove that they meet with eligibility guidelines. Failure to provide ALL of the requested documentation may result in denial of applicant request for renewal.
  • Small Businesses - meeting the eligibility guidelines for the annual sales volume and the number of employees must provide copies of their prior tax return and three (3) most recent Employer Quarterly Statements Form 941.
  • All Out of State Firms - must provide a copy of current certification from their home state at the time of renewal.
  • Firms that provided an existing certification from an approved certification agency must provide a copy of their current certification with same or similar certification agency at the time of renewal of their certification with Go-DBE.
  • Firms with an active certification will receive electronic e-mail notification sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of their current certification.
  • The electronic notification of renewal will advise the firm of their username and password in order to access the TN Go-DBE software system for renewal.
  • Firms that have allowed their certification to expire must complete a new certification registration application in order to renew their certification with Go-DBE.

Reciprocity

The Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise may accept certifications from the U.S. Small Business Administration (8a) Program, Minority Purchasing Councils, and Airport Authorities, state Department of Transportation, Metro Transit Authorities or other Uniform Certification Agencies, Mid-South Certification Agency, National Women Business Enterprise Council, National Minority Certification Association and local chapters and other State certification programs. The Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise reserves its right to deny certification to any applicant not meeting guidelines according to T.C.A. §12-3-801 through 808 and Public Chapter 1140.

Reconsideration

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Firms that are denied certification by Go-DBE may reapply for certification in three (3) years from the date of denial. If an application for certification is denied applicants who wish to file for reconsideration, must send a letter to the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise within 10 days from the date of denial to request reconsideration.

An appeal must at a minimum be in writing, submitted in the electronic TN Go-DBE Software system and include additional documentation to prove ownership and control along with factual information to support why the decision to deny certification should be reversed.

Provide a copy of the denial letter, and all additional information believed to be pertinent to the appeal that was not present at the time of review or on-site visit. Firms must provide the name and address of any certification agency that it is currently certified or the agency that has rejected its application for certification; or removed the firm's eligibility within one year prior to the date of the appeal. All documents shall be forwarded to the attention of assigned Diversity Business Liaison assigned at the time of registration. All additional documentation must be provided electronically to the attention of the assigned Diversity Business Liaison.