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Diversity workshop for businesses will be held Thursday

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 1/10/23

There are many benefits for businesses being a part of the state’s Diversity Business Enterprise, or DBE.

According to Kimberly Fox, one of the Diversity Business Liaisons, some 2,174 …

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Diversity workshop for businesses will be held Thursday

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There are many benefits for businesses being a part of the state’s Diversity Business Enterprise, or DBE.

According to Kimberly Fox, one of the Diversity Business Liaisons, some 2,174 businesses across the state are certified. However, there are many businesses that are left out.

So, the Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership along with Tennessee’s Department of General Services’ Central Procurement Office is hosting a workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the Tennessee College of Applied Technoloy’s facility on Madison Street.

“So that’s what we’re trying to put together is an opportunity for our local folks to get registered,” said Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership CEO Shane Hooper.

‘Diversity owned’

There are five categories that businesses can be certified in including minority-owned (Hispanic American, Native American, African American, Asian American), women-owned, disabled veteran or active military, disabled person-owned, and small business.

According to the state’s website, a small business means a business that is “a continuing, independent, for-profit business which performs a commercially useful function with residence within this state and has total gross receipts of no more than $10,000,000 averaged over a three-year period or employs no more than 99 persons on a full-time basis.”

Of those 2,174, some 478 are small business, while 780 businesses are minority-owned, 816 are women-owned, 93 are service and disabled veteran-owned, and seven are owned by persons with disabilities.

“Sometimes people think their business is too small or they don’t qualify or that it’s strictly for minorities or veterans, but that’s not the case,” said Hooper.

Certification benefits

The certification is free and is valid for three years. Businesses looking to apply should have available a copy of two forms of ID (like a U.S. birth certificate, passport, or driver's license), a copy of business license, business tax identification number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), a complete copy of most recent business tax return (2020 or 2021), and an equipment list (that is, items essential to operate your business).

The certification allows them access to any kind of procurement, according to Fox.

She explained that state agencies as well as colleges and universities have a diversity goal, meaning they have a certain amount of money that is to be spent on some kind of diversity business.

Fox said in the fiscal year of 2022, the state of Tennessee contracted $1.05 billion with certified, diverse-owned businesses. “Those are huge contracts,” said Fox. But many businesses are not involved because they may think they have enough clientele, so they’re not looking for additional businesses, Fox explained.

Once certified, the state goes in and adds commodity codes that are specific to what they do. For example, a painting business will get notified of any upcoming painting jobs.

Businesses also get one-on-one access to any of the five Diversity Business Liaisons to ask questions about any procurements as well as walking them through the steps of certification.

In Shelbyville, Messer Construction has a prime contract with the new Tennessee College of Applied Technology facility that’s being built on U.S. 231. They, too, have a diversity goal so the state will give notification of any upcoming outreach programs. According to Fox, businesses tend to look for these “big name” contractors to get their foot in the door.

Though Messer is the general contractor for the TCAT project, there are many opportunities for local subcontractors and small businesses, like landscaping, furniture, windows.

“The TCAT building is a government project. So, when they get ready to do their bidding, there’s an opportunity for local vendors, suppliers, contractors to participate,” said Hooper.

He said since Messer has a local participation percentage that they would like to meet. Essentially, they wanted the Partnership to round up the local folks. However, that list was not found in one complete spot.

“It opens up a new frontier,” said Hooper. "You’ve got other projects coming along that are government buildings...and I wanted as many of our local bidders and contractors to be involved as possible.”

Often businesses don’t get registered due to lack of information and because businesses tend to work in their businesses versus working on their business.

Hooper said, “We have a lot of people around here who work in the construction industry, and we can’t forget about them. In other words, this is an attempt to bring them into the fold of economic development and let them participate in the prosperity. We want to include as many people in Bedford as possible in the growth and development.”

“We’ve got a lot of stuff in the pipeline, so it’s better to be prepared now.”

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