Minority-Owned Businesses

Small, Women and Minority-Owned Certification Programs

Arlington County: Minority Participation Policy

The County has a policy for increasing the participation of small, minority, and women owned businesses. To obtain a copy, please contact the Purchasing Office at (703) 228-3410.

Commonwealth of Virginia: Small, Woman and Minority Business Certification (SWAM)

The Virginia Department of Minority Business Enterprise (VDMBE) has the unique responsibility to assure that minority, disadvantaged and woman-owned businesses are an integral part of the communication with other Commonwealth Departments to promote the inclusion of Virginia's diverse population to access capital, receive small business assistance and provide minority certification procurement opportunities.

Agencies of the Commonwealth are encouraged to use an affirmative outreach program that includes solicitation to minority businesses selected from those that are certified by VDMBE. While other entities may also provide recognition of minority firms, state agencies and many local governments recognize those firms certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia and its Department of Minority Business Enterprise.

Among its many activities, VDMBE provides for the Certification of those businesses that wish to achieve the benefits of participation in the Commonwealth's minority business programs. The most important of these programs are designed to open doors to state and local government contracting opportunities by assuring that a contractor is a bonafide minority-owned business.

Other programs include management and technical assistance on an individual or group basis, as well as a variety of educational, training, marketing, and outreach programs. While programs sponsored by VDMBE are open to all firms, Certified Firms are targeted, contacted directly, and as appropriate, given priority status for receiving services offered by the department. 

Federal Programs

8(a) Business Development Program

The new and improved 8(a) Program has become an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. SBA has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs over the years to gain a foothold in government contracting. Participation is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage. In fiscal year 1998, more than 6,100 firms participated in the 8(a) Program and were awarded $6.4 billion in federal contract awards.

Small Disadvantaged Business Program

The SBA administers two particular business assistance programs for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs). These programs are the 8(a) Business Development Program and the Small Disadvantaged Business Certification Program. While the 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged firms, SDB certification strictly pertains to benefits in federal procurement. 8(a) firms automatically qualify for SDB certification. SBA certifies SDBs to make them eligible for special bidding benefits. Evaluation credits available to prime contractors boost subcontracting opportunities for SDBs. They have become, in effect, the gateway to opportunity for small contractors and subcontractors.

The SBA also directs the HUBZone Program that allows small firms located in many urban or rural areas to qualify for sole-source and other types of federal contract benefits. HUBZone stands for "historically underutilized business zone." 8(a) companies and SDBs located in these areas are eligible for benefits under both programs. Their task is to teach 8(a) and other small companies how to compete in the federal contracting arena and how to take advantage of greater subcontracting opportunities available from large firms as the result of public-private partnerships.