Should Your Business Seek WBE Status?

By: Mary Anne Cody

What is WBE status?

WBE status is the certification that the business is a woman owned business enterprise (WBE).

Who certifies WBE status?

It depends (this is a law firm blog remember). There are various third party agencies and different governmental certifications for a WBE certification. Third party agency certification is generally geared towards WBE use in the private sector.

There are at least two types of governmental certification for WBE status, one at the Federal level and one at the State level. For a New York State business hoping to work on public projects certification by New York State is the goal.

Why would we want our business to have WBE certification?

Participation in NYS public works is the primary reason most businesses seek this status.

Also many companies now understand that it makes sense to utilize woman owned vendors for public relation purposes and to show support of the local community.

WBE certification status from New York State is public information readily found on the New York State works website. In other words, WBE certification can result in additional opportunities for your business, both with large companies and in the public/governmental sector.

What is the New York State definition of a WBE?

Article 15 of the New York State Executive Law defines a WBE as a business enterprise with at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by women.

Does a woman really have to run the Company?

Yes. The woman’s (or women if multiple owners to reach the 51% ownership of the company) role must be a real, substantial and a continuing exercise of authority to independently control the business and the day to day business decisions.

Are there any other restrictions applicable to WBE certification from New York State?

There is a personal net worth restriction of $3.5 million for the women owners after allowable deductions for a primary residence, company ownership and $500,000 in a retirement account. Also the company must have no more than 300 full time equivalent employees and the company has been in operation for at least one year.

How long does the process take and how much detailed information is required?

The review process can take approximately 12 weeks. The documentation of the company must clearly illustrate the woman’s authority in the ongoing decision making of the company. This documentation would include company ownership information signature authority on bank accounts, company contracts, human resource records in addition to the income tax returns of the women and the company.

How do I start?

To determine if your business can qualify for WBE status, a good starting point would be the website of the New York State Empire State Development, Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development.


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