Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

While the 3% goal for including certified disabled-veteran owned companies (DVBE) remains in place, goals for other ‘disadvantaged’ businesses providing goods and services in California have changed. Remember Proposition 209? We also open a ‘vent’ to let some fresh air in on unlicensed activity being promoted online…

Q: I would like to get certified as a Woman-Owned Business. I’ve operated this business for over 10 years and have heard there may be some benefit to getting certified as a WBE. Can you tell me anything about this program?

A: I have received a number of calls lately regarding woman-owned businesses, a program administered for over 20 years by CalTrans Division of Civil Rights. The Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) programs were discontinued and are now incorporated under the DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) category.

Until 1996, there were a significant number of opportunities for W/MBE (DBE) companies. This was the year however, where CA voters passed Proposition 209 that amended the state constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in public contracts. What many people do not know is that a provision of this ballot initiative stated “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state”. In other words, if the Proposition had included restrictions on projects with federal funding, CA risked losing billions of federal dollars in road, water and other infrastructure construction projects.

Jump ahead to 2009 with the passage of the Recovery Act. The stated purpose of this Act (i.e. Federal Stimulus Bill) “is to create and save jobs, jumpstart the economy, and build the foundation for long-term economic growth—including measures to modernize the nation’s infrastructure”. With the potential of billions of federal dollars rolling into CA and NO Prop 209 prohibitions, opportunities for DBE companies could be significant.

I would suggest contacting the Division of Civil Rights for information on their application procedures. Based on my prior experience dealing with the Civil Rights Division, it is generally not an easy process to navigate. A few things they will focus on: do you own at least 51% of the company; are you listed as owner or company President; do you have the authority to make all day to day decisions; and are you the qualifying individual on the contractors license? If you are a disabled California veteran, learn more and get free assistance in becoming certified as a DVBE at www.cadvbe.org.

Q: Here’s a good one for your column. I looked on Craig’s list in my area San Luis Obispo County and saw where a guy was advertising that he’s a handyman with years of experience and there was “no need to pay a contractor his outrageous fees”. Craig’s list is full of people such as him. Just need to vent!!

A: Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, all too often, Craig’s list and other “media” publish information soliciting ‘contractor’ work without requiring that a license number be listed. With Craig’s List, I believe the contractor only has to state that he is “unlicensed”. In all fairness, Craig’s list does provide a link to the CSLB where prospective customers can look to see when a license is needed and an admonition to “Inquire before you hire”.

Not sure if the Board will be able to nail these guys, however, if you know where an unlicensed “handymen” is working, report him to the CSLB using a S.W.I.F.T. HOT LEAD REFERRAL. You may also want to contact your local law enforcement including the County DA since they have the authority to pursue various types of illegal activities. As a Craig’s user, you may be able to ‘flag’ the post to have the service remove it as an illegal activity.