MWBOO Frequently Asked Questions
The Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office (MWBOO) is committed to assisting businesses with all inquiries related to MBE/WBE certification, bids, contract performance and payment. To render proactive assistance, we have provided a FAQ list that may assist with some clarification about our processes before contacting our office. We respectfully request that you please review this information prior to submitting a question via the online form.
- What is the preferred method to contact MWBOO?
Due to the volume of matters that MWBOO handles it is preferred that you communicate electronically. The preferred method of contacting the Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office is via the Online Question Submission Form or via email to the specific MWBOO staff member that is reviewing your application or has previously contacted you.
Questions about MWBOO MBE/WBE certification
- I submitted a certification application or renewal application and have not yet heard anything, should I be concerned?
No, there is no need to be concerned. If you applied for certification or renewal you will receive an electronic notice via email advising you of MWBOO’s decision. MWBOO no longer mails hard copy certification certificates. You may rely upon the MWBOO database entry as evidence of your valid certification status.
- Do I need to update my contact information if it changes with MWBOO?
Yes. It is imperative that you keep your email and full contact information updated with MWBOO. MBE/WBE subcontractors can fill out an Expansion of Services Form or Change in Contact Form to inform MWBOO of any changes to your business, including a change of address or contact information. MWBOO is environmentally friendly and in the digital age. All notices regarding your certification status will be sent via email.
- I submitted a renewal application and I have not heard anything but want to continue to work as a certified MBE/WBE, what should I do?
If you are certified as a MBE/WBE and submitted a renewal application, your certification remains active until you receive a final determination regarding your renewal application. You will be advised of your right to protest a denial, seek review by the Certification Appeals Board, and the ability to seek judicial review of the final agency decision. The decision of MWBOO is not a final decision until after the expiration of the applicable time for you to seek review.
- How long does it take to process certification for a new or existing business?
MWBOO is not able to provide a timeframe for completion given the extensive review we conduct for each application submitted. Often, the timeframe can be 90 to 180 business days or longer given the in-depth nature of the review and the need for additional information. As a result, please allow some time for processing.
- I have a MBE/WBE certification with the State of Maryland. Can I apply for certification in Baltimore City?
Yes. MDOT certified businesses with an operating office within the Baltimore City geographical market area are welcome to apply for MBE/WBE certification. In addition, if all other required documents that are submitted meet sufficiency, MWBOO may be able to approve a MDOT certified business for certification.
- How can I submit my certification application?
The acceptable form of application submission is online at https://law.baltimorecity.gov/mwboo
- How long is MBE/WBE certification valid?
Certification as a MBE/WBE by MWBOO is valid for two (2) years.
- Is licensing required for my business area of expertise?
Depending upon the type of services rendered, some businesses do require Maryland State issued licenses (i.e. construction, insurance brokerage, professional engineering, etc.). Please be sure to know the qualifications required for your business in order to ensure proper licensing is accompanied with your new or renewal application documents. Please click here https://onestop.md.gov/ to search the listing of professional and organizational licenses that MUST be obtained in Maryland and are required for Baltimore City’s MBE/WBE program.
- I need to bid on a contract, but my certification has not been updated. Can I receive an extension or expedited processing for bidding purposes?
MWBOO understands the importance of businesses being able to bid on new contracts. While we work diligently to process applications as efficiently as possible, our office typically encounters some delays given the extensive review conducted on each application. Extensions for bidding purposes are discretionary and can only be approved by management. Therefore, a formal request such as this can be submitted via the Online Question Submission Form.
- My business headquarters is in Miami, Florida and we have an office located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Can we still be approved for MBE/WBE certification in Baltimore City?
Unfortunately, this business would be ineligible for certification. Foreign entities or out of state businesses must have an actual fully functioning operating business office or site with staffing in the geographical market areas shown below:
• Baltimore City
• Baltimore County
• Anne Arundel County
• Carroll County
• Harford County
• Howard County
• Queen Anne’s County
- I have a virtual address within the market area but not an actual building or location. Is this acceptable?
Arrangements such as this will be subjected to intense scrutiny. All businesses must have a fully operational and functional business location with staffing in the market area. MWBOO does conduct random site visits as well as investigations to verify and confirm the validity of businesses seeking certification. Failure to meet this requirement may result in businesses being denied certification or existing certification being revoked.
- What if a wife is listed as 51% owner of a business but her husband is the primary license holder and decision maker?
The City Code mandates that proper ownership reflects a fair proportion of control. Failure for a business to demonstrate this balance will result in certification denial for a new company or revocation of certification for an existing business. The ability to dictate and control day to day operations of the business must be reflected by your business practices and be evidenced by the operating agreement for your business. The minority or woman owner’s control must not be limited in any way by the non-minority or male business owners/partners.
- We need to designate our business with the proper code that will identify the services and/or goods we offer. What are the codes called and how to select them for my business?
MWBOO identifies the services and/or goods for a business by using NAICS codes, which are the classification codes issued by the Federal SBA. All new businesses applying for certification in Baltimore City’s MBE/WBE program must select its own NAICS codes to define their specialization of services. Our staff will not make these designations for a new business and failure to list this on the application will result in delays with processing or denial of your application. To acquire the NAICS codes, please feel free click on the SBA website: https://www.naics.com/search/
- We need to add new NAICS codes to our business certification profile. How do we add these services?
In order to add new NAICS codes for your business, you will need to request an Expansion of Services Form. Please read the form carefully and submit all the required documents. We cannot specify a timetable for completion but please allow up to 90 business days or longer for processing.Questions about contracts
- I am bidding on a contract. What is evaluated to determine if my bid is compliant?
MWBOO reviews bid participation forms to evaluate if the bid details the ability, absent a waiver, to meet the applicable MBE/WBE goals for the contract. The participation affidavit must be submitted in which the bidder commits to utilize certified businesses in a percentage that meets or exceeds the contract goals. Only MWBOO certified MBE and WBEs work will count towards the participation goals. Any bid that does not include the certified business participation affidavit is non-responsive. The participation affidavit will detail the name of each certified business, whether it is MBE/WBE, and the dollar value to be subcontracted.
It is each bidder’s responsibility to verify that all MBE/WBEs to be used have an active MWBOO certification before bid opening. City Code Article 5, §28-48(d). Certification can be determined via the MWBOO database: https://cityservices.baltimorecity.gov/mwboo/default.aspx
To ensure fairness in the procurement process, MWBOO cannot specifically advise you how to complete the participation forms. MWBOO can assist you in navigating the database and identifying certified businesses to provide the goods or services for the contract. MBE and WBE Statements of Intent must add up to the requisite goal. Please be sure to read the entire instructions carefully concerning participation forms. If they are incomplete or not properly completed it may result in your bid being found non-compliant.
- I am no longer being utilized as a MBE/WBE subcontractor or the percentage of my utilization has changed from what was stated in the bid documents, do I need to contact MWBOO?
Yes. The Statement of Intent that you signed obligates your business to perform as a MBE/WBE for the stated percentage and dollar amount. If you are no longer able to perform or the prime contractor has asked you to do less work than agreed to in the Statement of Intent please contact MWBOO via the Online Question Submission Form. There cannot be a valid substitution, addition, or change in subcontractor utilization without MWBOO approval.
- When working on a City contract do I need to keep payment records?
Yes. You are obligated by the City Code and all City contracts to “maintain records reasonably necessary for monitoring compliance with this chapter.” City Code Article 5, §28-54(3)(iii). MWBOO will require records evidencing your timely payment, within seven (7) days of receiving payment from the City, to the subcontractor. You should maintain a record throughout the contract of the date and payment amount of all payments to your subcontractors. These records may be submitted to the project manager and/or agency contracting administration on a monthly or quarterly basis to avoid waiting to provide these records in bulk to MWBOO. As a MBE/WBE subcontractor it is imperative that you keep accurate records as to the date and amount of all payments in the event of a discrepancy with what has been reported by the prime contractor.
- I am a prime that is no longer utilizing a MBE/WBE at the same level as stated in bid documents, should I contact MWBOO?
Yes. The MBE/WBE commitment papers that you signed obligates your business to utilize the detailed MBE/WBE subcontractors for the stated percentage and dollar amount. If you are no longer utilizing the MBE/WBE at the same level as indicated in the submitted Statement of Intent please contact MWBOO via the Online Question Submission Form. There cannot be a valid substitution, addition, or change in subcontractor utilization without MWBOO approval.
- I am a prime contractor and I am having trouble achieving the MBE/WBE participation goals on a contract, what should I do?
Please contact MWBOO for assistance via the Online Question Submission Form. MWBOO can assist in identifying MBE/WBE and explore the option of adding additional MBE/WBE contractors. MWBOO wants you to achieve your MBE/WBE contract participation goals and continue to work on City contracts.
- I am a prime contractor and I am having trouble achieving the MBE/WBE participation goals on a contract, can I get a waiver?
You may seek a waiver if you believe that it is impracticable to achieve the MBE/WBE contract participation goals. There is never any guarantee of a waiver of MBE/WBE contract participation goals. Please note that MWBOO is highly scrutinizing all waiver requests to ensure that you have conducted market research by searching the MWBOO certification database for eligible MBE/WBEs to perform the contract services, exhausted all commercially useful functions that can be performed by MBE/WBEs on the contract, discussed the difficulties you are experiencing achieving compliance with the contracting agency, and contacted MWBOO for assistance. It is MWBOO’s desire to only grant waivers when it is truly necessitated by the totality of circumstances. Waivers undercut MWBOO’s goals of providing opportunities to MBE/WBEs by setting MBE/WBE participation goals on as many City contracts as practicable.
- What is the importance of MBE/WBE contract participation goals?
Past discrimination in the City’s contracting process by prime contractors against minority and women’s business enterprises has resulted in significant underutilization of minority and women’s business enterprises in contracts awarded by the City of Baltimore. The most recent 2014 disparity study found that there is a disparity for MBE/WBEs in the City procurement process and in the Baltimore City market area. An updated disparity study is currently ongoing. Information regarding the ongoing disparity study can be found at: https://cityofbaltimore-habcdisparitystudy.com/
The MBE/WBE participation goals are set on contracts in a narrowly tailored fashion to address the historical and ongoing disparity that impact contractual opportunities for MBE/WBEs. Ensuring an equitable procurement process with MBE/WBE participation is a top priority of the City. The MBE/WBE contract participation goals are mandated by the City Code and incorporated into every City contract.
- What happens if I fail to achieve the set MBE/WBE utilization and am found to be non-compliance with the MBE/WBE participation goals set on my contract?
The inability to achieve MBE/WBE participation goals will be considered when and if the contract is up for a subsequent renewal or extension. A contractor’s history of failing to utilize MBE/WBEs will be viewed negatively when considering awarding additional City funded contracts to the business.