Business Certification: Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Program

The State of Ohio’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program establishes a 15 percent set-aside procurement goal for state agencies, boards and commissions in awarding contracts to certified MBE businesses. The MBE program is designed to assist minority businesses in obtaining state government contracts for goods and services. (Unlike the Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity program, the MBE program does not apply to construction contracts.) The State of Ohio developed the program because it recognized the need to encourage, nurture and support the growth of minority businesses to foster their development and increase the number of qualified competitors in the marketplace. 


MBE Eligibility

An MBE certified business must be owned and controlled by a U.S. citizen who is a resident of Ohio and a member of one or more of the following minority groups: Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics or Latinos, and Asians. In addition, the following criteria must be met:

  • The business must
    • have been in business for at least one year prior to applying; and
    • be at least 51 percent minority-owned; and
  • The business owner must
    • possess requisite knowledge of the business and industry in which he or she is applying;
    • have day-to-day control over the business, exercising final authority over all aspects of daily operations, including but not limited to, operations, financial and business management, human resources and policy decisions;
    • demonstrate capability or expertise within the classifications identified (which can be found here) for a period of one year prior to certification; and
    • possess all licenses and permits required by law to perform the scope of work within classifications requested.


Steps for MBE Certification

The applicant must complete a Unified Application through the Ohio Business Gateway and provide supporting documentation as required. (A list of the supporting documents can be found here. Please note that only complete applications, which must include all required supporting documentation, will be reviewed.) Applications are subject to on-site review by state compliance officers. Upon application approval, the company receives its MBE-certification by email. Reviews take an average of 60 business days or less from the time a completed application is submitted.

For certain applications, however, a “fast track” system reduces application time to approximately five days. To qualify for “fast track” processing, the applicant must (a) submit the application through one of the regional Minority Business Assistance Centers, which are operated by the Ohio Development Services Agency; and (b) have a pending contract award that requires certification or be a candidate for and in need of financing or bonding where certification is a requirement.

In addition to the requirement for MBE certification, any MBE-certified business bidding on a contract awarded by any state agency must meet all applicable pre-qualification requirements.

Steps to Certification

  1. Visit Ohio Business Gateway
  2. Log in using username and password
  3. Select "Start a Transaction"
  4. Select "Equal Opportunity Division"
  5. Select "Unified Application" and complete the form
  6. Complete the confirmation and checkout process
  7. Submit supporting documentation as required to


Benefits of MBE Certification

Certified MBE program participants are eligible for contract assistance, financial and bonding assistance, and management and technical assistance.

Eligibility for Set-Aside Contracts

  • Certified businesses are listed in a searchable database
  • Certified businesses have the opportunity to complete for 15 percent of state agencies' spending budgets in a sheltered bidding process

Financial and Bonding Assistance -- Exclusive access to certain loan and bond programs, which can provide access to capital and bonding for firms that may not qualify for traditional lending or bonding, including:

  • Minority Business Bonding Program
  • Capital Access Program
  • Ohio Mini-Loan Guarantee Program
  • Collateral Enhancement Program
  • Targeted Investment Program

Management and Technical Assistance

  • Access to Minority Business Assistance Centers and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, which assist business with identifying federal, state and local contracting and subcontracting opportunities
  • Access to free accounting assistance, structuring internal accounting systems, auditing management records, business plan development, technical advisory services, marketing plans and evaluation of company operations/management processes
  • Access to minority business development organizations that facilitate training, strategic management, networking and mentoring opportunities with major corporations


Business Resources


Statutory and Regulatory Authority

The enabling statutes for the MBE program are R.C. 123.151 and 125.081. The regulations that govern the program are found in Ohio Adm. Code Chapter 123:2-15.