VOL. 133 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 18, 2018
Chamber to Host Free MWBE Certification Fair on Jan. 23
By Patrick Lantrip
In an effort to generate more certified minority and women-owned businesses in Shelby County, the Greater Memphis Chamber will host its first joint certification fair with the county on Jan. 23.
At the event, which will be held at the 6200 Poplar Ave. Regions Bank branch from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., minority and women business owners will be able to take advantage of a free and streamlined certification process.
“What we wanted to do is open up the available tools out there for businesses to get certified to be able to identify themselves as possible vendors for city and county government,” Chamber economic development project manager Andre Gibson said. “A lot of intention is being paid on contracting with minority and women-owned small businesses and this is one of the necessary steps to get yourself in that game.”
Gibson said it’s important for MWBEs to get certified to better take advantage of the city and county’s minority and women-owned spending goals.
“You’re not eligible to be counted toward that without certification,” Gibson said.
In addition to the possible city and county contracts, public-sector companies such as Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, the Memphis Area Transit Authority and Memphis International Airport have their own contract goals. While it gets a little different in the private sector, some businesses that accept federal grant money also have an obligation to seek out diverse vendors, he added.
At the certification fair, perspective businesses will have two options.
The first is for minority or woman-owned companies that are not on the certified roll to start the process. However, these companies would not be able to complete the process the same day, because of certain required verifications, such as a site visit.
Another option is for businesses that are already certified, but with another entity, to become eligible for what’s known as “reciprocal certification.”
“Not making companies go through the entire process twice is a big deal for us,” Gibson said. “It’s a much shorter process, much shorter application.”
Conversely, this process will be able to be completed on site.
While construction contracts usually come to mind, Gibson said MWBEs could also land janitorial, security and office supply contracts to just name a few.
Shea Flinn, senior vice president of the Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, said programs like this are important to the Chamber’s larger goal of growing the number of MWBEs in the Memphis area.
“This was one of the key metrics when we grade ourselves,” Flinn said. “But we can’t take those numbers as gospel, because of the lack of certification. We might be doing better than we think, we might be doing worse, but we don’t know, and we need to know to hold ourselves accountable.”
Flinn said growing the number MWBEs is an important goal because it is important to the economics of the city as whole.
“As we go forward and look to grow our economy, this is a critical, critical piece of it,” he said.
Though the Jan. 23 event is geared toward Shelby County certification, the Chamber plans on holding more certification fairs in the future, including ones geared toward city of Memphis certification.
More information can be found on the Greater Memphis Chamber’s website at: http://events.memphischamber.com/events/details/free-business-certification-fair-12771