1. What is the preferred method to contact the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Small and Minority Business Advocacy & Development (SMBA&D)?
Due to the volume of matters that SMBA&D handles it is preferred that you communicate electronically. The preferred method is via the Online Question Submission Form or via email to the specific SMBA&D staff member that is reviewing your application or has previously contacted you.
Questions about SMBA&D City M/WBE Certification
2. 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 SMBA&D 's decision. SMBA&D does not mail hard copy certification certificates. Once certified, you should rely upon the SMBA&D active certification directory entry as evidence of your valid certification status.
3. Do I need to update my contact information if it changes with SMBA&D?
Yes. It is imperative that you keep your email and full contact information updated with SMBA&D. MBE/WBE subcontractors can fill out an requests to expand services or update their directory information at https://baltimorecity.diversitycompliance.com/ to inform SMBA&D of any changes to your business, including a change of address or contact information. SMBA&D is environmentally friendly and in the digital age. All notices regarding your certification status will be sent via email.
4. 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 were certified at the time of bid opening for a contract, your active certification will allow your work to count towards the M/WBE utilization goals. If you are certified as an 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 SMBA&D is not a final decision until after the expiration of the applicable time for you to seek review.
5. How long does it take to process certification for a new or existing business?
SMBA&D typically completes the review of applications within 60 days.
6. I have an 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, SMBA&D may be able to approve an MDOT certified business for certification.
7. How can I submit my certification application?
8. How long is MBE/WBE certification valid?
Certification as an MBE/WBE by SMBA&D is valid for two (2) years.
9. 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 by your new or renewal application documents. To view the listing of professional and organizational licenses that MUST be obtained in Maryland and are required for Baltimore City's MBE/WBE program.
10. 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?
SMBA&D 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. We encourage you to plan ahead and get certified as soon as your business is eligible.
11. 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 Baltimore City Market Area:
- Baltimore City
- Baltimore County
- Anne Arundel County
- Carroll County
- Harford County
- Howard County
- Queen Anne's County
12. 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. We 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.
13. 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 majority ownership accurately reflect their 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.
14. 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?
SMBA&D identifies the services and/or goods of a business by using the North American Industry Classification System (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 visit the NAICS website.
15. 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 the expansion at https://baltimorecity.diversitycompliance.com/. Please submit all the required documents.
Questions about Contracts
16. I am bidding on a contract. What is evaluated to determine if my bid is compliant?
SMBA&D 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 utilizing certified businesses in a percentage that meets or exceeds the contract goals. Only SMBA&D City 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 active M/WBE Certification Directory.
To ensure fairness in the procurement process, we cannot specifically advise you on how to complete the participation forms. SMBA&D 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.
Please note that our review is only a part of the procurement process. Your bid M/WBE participation forms being found compliance does not guarantee that your bid will be found responsible & responsive, nor does it guarantee that you will be awarded the contract. Even if you are recommended for award, it is within the discretion of the Board of Estimates to ultimately approve the award of the contract.
17. I am no longer being utilized as an 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 an 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 us via the Online Question Submission Form. There cannot be a valid substitution, addition, or change in subcontractor utilization without SMBA&D approval.
18. 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). SMBA&D 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 SMBA&D. As an 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.
19. I am a prime that is no longer utilizing an MBE/WBE at the same level as stated in bid documents, should I contact SMBA&D?
Yes. The MBE/WBE commitment papers that you signed obligate 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 SMBA&D via the Online Question Submission Form. There cannot be a valid substitution, addition, or change in subcontractor utilization without SMBA&D approval.
20. 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 SMBA&D for assistance via the Online Question Submission Form. We can assist in identifying MBE/WBE and explore the option of adding additional MBE/WBE contractors. We want you to achieve your MBE/WBE contract utilization goals and continue to work on City contracts.
21. I am a prime contractor having trouble achieving the MBE/WBE participation goals on a contract I was awarded; 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 SMBA&D is highly scrutinizing all waiver requests to ensure that you have conducted market research by searching the active 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, and discussed the difficulties you are experiencing achieving compliance with the contracting agency. It is our desire to only grant waivers when it is truly necessitated by the totality of circumstances. Waivers undercut the MWB Program’s goals of providing opportunities to MBE/WBEs by setting MBE/WBE participation goals on as many City contracts as practicable.
22. 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 2022 MGT Disparity Study found that there is a disparity for MBE/WBEs in the City procurement process and in the Baltimore City market area.
The MBE/WBE participation goals are set on contracts in a narrowly tailored fashion to address the historical and ongoing disparity that impacts 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.
23. 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 release of retainage (if applicable), 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.
Questions About MBE/WBE Bid Participation Forms
A failure to properly complete the forms in a way that shows that you will meet the applicable contract MBE/WBE participation goals will result in SMBA&D finding your bid to be non-compliant. Failure to respond or properly execute the forms can result in disqualification and possible rejection of the bid.
24. I am bidding on a City contract. Do I need to read the instructions for the MBE/WBE Bid Participation Forms?
Yes, you must read all of the instructions. Please fully read all Part A instructions and additional information within the MBE/WBE participation commitment forms. All information provided by the bidder must be consistent throughout the forms, including: the business name, participation percentage, and dollar amount (if applicable, if this is a requirements contract, the subcontract dollar amount may be omitted; however, the subcontract percentage must be included).
25. What are the bid requirements for the MBE/WBE bid participation forms?
The bid must include a commitment to utilize MBEs and WBEs at a percentage that equals or exceeds the contract goals indicated in the contract specifications. Bidders must submit the following completed documents with the bid:
Part B: Statement of Intent Form(s) – to be signed by Bidder and MBE and/or WBE
Part C: Statement of Self-Performance – to be signed by Bidder
Part D: MBE/WBE Participation Affidavit – to be completed and signed by Bidder and must be notarized
Part E: MBE/WBE Participation Waiver Request – to be completed and submitted by Bidder if unable to meet the participation goals (Please note: Substantial documentation must be provided to justify reasons for not being able to meet the applicable participation goals. Please additionally see FAQ #28-29).
26. What are some common mistakes or omissions that I should try to avoid and things to keep in mind?
- Any bid that does not include a signed Statement of Intent Form(s) and the MBE/WBE Participation Affidavit is non-responsive and will be rejected.
- Any Statement of Intent Form(s) and/or MBE/WBE Participation Affidavit that are not properly executed will result in a finding of non-compliance and will be rejected.
- Utilizing a business that is not certified with the City of Baltimore or that has an expired certification, without an extension due to a pending application for renewal, will not count towards meeting a MBE/WBE participation goal. City Code Article 5, §28-41(d) states that each bidder is responsible for verifying that all MBEs and WBEs to be used have been certified by the Office before bid opening.
- The failure to exercise good faith efforts when requesting a waiver and not meeting the applicable MBE/WBE goals for the contract. (Please see FAQ #29-30)
- A business enterprise that is Baltimore City certified as both an MBE and WBE (M/WBE) may not be counted toward both the MBE and WBE goals for the same project. The bidder must select the goal to which the business enterprise is to be counted. (Art. 5, §28-31(b) and §28-35)
- A bidder that is a City certified MBE/WBE may only count up to 50% of the dollar value of the work it intends to perform with its own forces toward the applicable MBE or WBE goal. The amount of credit may not exceed the MBE/WBE’s available work capacity as calculated with the Contractor Prequalification rules. Intentions to count self-performance toward the MBE or WBE goal must be indicated on Part C: Statement of Intent to Self-Perform. A bidder that states that they will self-perform, but is not City certified as a MBE/WBE may result in the bid being found non-compliant.
- A bidder may count toward the contract goal the portion of its expenditure to a joint venture that is equal to the percentage of the MBE or WBE participation in the joint venture. The MBE or WBE member of the joint venture must have an interest in the control, management, risks and operation of the joint venture commensurate with the member’s percentage of ownership. The MBE or WBE member of the joint venture must be responsible for a clearly defined portion of the work to be performed, equal to its share in the ownership, control and management of the joint venture. (Art. 5, §28-33)
- A bidder may not count toward its contract goal any agreement with a certified MBE or WBE subcontractor who intends to subcontract more than 10% of the dollar amount of the services to be performed under its agreement with the bidder. This restriction does not apply to an MBE/WBEs contracts for the purchase of materials, equipment or supplies that are incidental to the performance of services under its agreement with the bidder. (Art. 5, §28-34)
- A bidder may count toward the contract goal its entire expenditure to a certified MBE or WBE that manufactures the goods supplied. (Art. 5, §28-36)
- Only 25% of each contract goal may be attained by expenditures to MBEs and WBEs that are non-manufacturing suppliers. (Art. 5, §28-37)
- A bidder may count toward the contract goals only the fees or commissions charged by an MBE or WBE insurance company or travel agent (Art. 5, §28-38)
- A bidder may count toward the contract goals only the fees charged and earned by an MBE or WBE financial institution. (Art. 5, §28-39)
- A bidder may not use an MBE or WBE to meet a contract goal if the bidder has a financial interest in, has an interest in the ownership or control of, or is significantly involved in the operation of the MBE or WBE. (Art. 5§28-41).
27. Is there any limitation of what services a MBE/WBE can perform that count towards the contract participation goals?
MBE/WBEs subcontractors must perform a commercially useful function. Commercially useful function is defined in the City Code as the performance of real and distinct work for which the business enterprise has the skill, expertise, and actual responsibility to perform, manage and supervise. (Art. 5, §28-32). As a result, the bidder should think broadly and consider all functions and services necessary to fully perform the contract.
28. Can I get a waiver of the contract participation goals?
If a bidder is unable to comply with a contract goal, the bidder may submit a waiver request with the bid. The waiver request must be made on the MBE/WBE Participation Waiver Request Form. A waiver will not be granted unless the waiver request includes documentation that demonstrates good faith efforts to meet the goals. (Art. 5, §28-62). The bidder should have previously consulted the active M/WBE certification directory and made attempts to secure MBE/WBE subcontractor participation.
Each waiver request must include documentation of your good faith efforts to secure, contact and negotiate with MBEs and WBEs, including:
(1) The reasons your company is unable to secure sufficient MBE/WBE participation to meet the stated goals;
(2) The efforts made by your company to select portions of the contract to be performed by MBEs and WBEs; &
(3) For each MBE or WBE that placed a bid that you consider to be unacceptable, a statement that explains the basis for that conclusion.
Each waiver is reviewed individually, highly scrutinized, and will not be granted if the bidder’s submission does not evidence that they undertook several steps to secure participation in good faith.
SMBA&D uses the term good faith efforts in several contexts including bid participation forms, waivers, and in evaluating efforts to meet contract participation goals by bidders. All efforts must begin with an evaluation of the availability of certified MBE/WBEs to perform the contract services by consulting the active M/WBE certification directory. If there are certified MBE/WBEs that can provide the goods or services under the contract the contractor/vendor must undertake efforts to contact those businesses, secure price quotes, and exercise diligence in determining if they have the capabilities and expertise to perform. The availability of MBE/WBEs strongly undercuts any request for participation goals to be waived.
The following are additional examples of actions that can show that efforts were undertaken in good faith to meet the applicable contract goals, including but limited to:
- The bidder should solicit interest as early in the acquisition process as practicable to allow the MBE/WBEs to respond to the solicitation and submit a timely offer for the subcontract. The bidder should determine with certainty if the MBE/WBEs are interested by taking appropriate steps to follow-up on initial solicitations.
- The bidder should identify parts of the scope of work to be performed by MBE/WBEs in order to increase the likelihood that the MBE/WBE goals will be achieved. This includes, where appropriate, breaking out contract work items into economically feasible units (for example, smaller tasks or quantities) to facilitate MBE/WBE participation, even when the prime contractor might otherwise prefer to perform these work items with its own forces. This may include, where possible, establishing flexible timeframes for performance and delivery schedules in a manner that encourages and facilitates MBE/WBE participation.
- The bidder should provide interested MBE/WBEs with adequate information about the plans, specifications, and requirements of the contract in a timely manner to assist them in responding to a solicitation with their offer for the subcontract.
- A bidder using good business judgment would consider multiple factors in negotiating with subcontractors, including MBE/WBEs subcontractors, and would take a firm's price and capabilities as well as contract goals into consideration. However, the fact that there may be some additional costs involved in finding and using MBE/WBEs is not sufficient reason for a bidder's failure to meet the contract MBE/WBEs goal, provided that such costs are reasonable and not excessive.
- The bidder should engage in negotiations in good faith with interested MBE/WBEs. It is the bidder's responsibility to make a portion of the work available to MBE/WBEs subcontractors and suppliers and to select those portions of the work or material needed that is consistent with the available MBE/WBEs subcontractors and suppliers to facilitate MBE/WBEs participation.
- Evidence of such negotiation includes: the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of MBE/WBEs that were considered; a description of the information provided regarding the plans and specifications for the work selected for subcontracting; and evidence as to why additional agreements could not be reached for MBE/WBEs to perform the work.
- Bidders should include detailed information regarding their attempts to secure participation. SMBA&D cannot accept unsupported statements about efforts to secure MBE/WBE participation. All waivers must include documentation of those efforts. For example: you should include email correspondence with subcontractors to show their response or lack of response.
- It is insufficient to simply state that you contacted a business and provide their directory entry or contact information. It is insufficient to make arguments why you believe the goals should be waived and you should be permitted to perform the entire contract with no participation goals. It is insufficient to detail that the contract was previously granted a waiver or that you were previously awarded this contract. A promise to use MBE/WBEs after contract award is not considered to be responsive to the contract solicitation or to constitute good faith efforts. Also, the ability or desire of a prime contractor to perform the work of a contract with its own organization does not relieve the bidder of the responsibility to make good faith efforts or to meet the contract MBE/WBE participation goals.
- It is the bidder’s responsibility to establish and document the efforts that were undertaken to secure MBE/WBE participation. Waivers are judged solely based upon the information provided and detailed to MWBOO in the written bid submission.
- There are numerous ways to identify subcontractors to participate on the contract such as: the active M/WBE certification directory, attending pre-bid information sessions, business matchmaking meetings and events, advertising and/or written notices, posting of Notices of Sources Sought and/or Requests for Proposals, and/or written notices or emails to all MBE/WBEs listed in the directory that specialize in the services or goods required to perform the contract.
- MBE/WBEs should not be rejected as unqualified without sound reasons based on a thorough investigation of their capabilities. Factors such as the contractor's standing within their industry, membership in specific groups, organizations, or associations and political or social affiliations (for example union vs. non-union status) are not legitimate causes for the rejection or non-solicitation of bids in the contractor's efforts to meet the project goal.
- Bidders should make reasonable efforts, if needed, to assist interested MBE/WBEs in obtaining bonding, lines of credit, insurance, or related assistance or services as required by the subcontractor.
- Contacting and utilizing the services of available minority/women community organizations; minority/women contractors' groups; local, State, and Federal minority/women business assistance offices (including SMBA&D); and other organizations as allowed on a case-by-case basis to assist in the recruitment and placement of MBE/WBEs. When considering a waiver, you may contact SMBA&D if you feel as though you have exhausted the ability to identify additional MBE/WBEs who could perform on the contract.
MWBOO will evaluate all detailed efforts in determining if the bidder has exercised good faith efforts.
30. What do I do if I need to substitute the MBE/WBE subcontractor that I listed with my bid?
SMBA&D must approve the substitution of an MBE/WBE specified at bid opening. Any unjustified failure to comply with this requirement is a material breach of contract. (Art. 5, §28-63(a)). You can submit the request via the Question Submission Form.
31. Does my subcontractor need to be in good standing with the State (SDAT)?
MBE/WBE subcontractors should be in good standing with SDAT. A subcontractor who is not in good standing with the State of Maryland has 10 days to come into good standing with the State of Maryland or the bidder may substitute the subcontractor. Please note that a subcontractor who is not in good standing with the State of Maryland is ineligible to participate on a contract with the City of Baltimore.
32. What is required after I am awarded the contract?
During the term of the contract, any unjustified failure to comply with the levels of MBE and WBE participation identified in the bid is a material breach of contract. (Art. 5, §28-48 (e)). Before final payment, the contractor must submit the Subcontractor Utilization Form with its final payment request. The Subcontractor Utilization Form will include a list of the names of all subcontractors utilized on the contract, both MBE/WBE and non-MBE/WBE, the total amount paid to each subcontractor, and the owner’s race/ethnicity and gender.
33. Can I use a MBE or WBE that is certified with the State of Maryland (MDOT certified) but not certified with the City of Baltimore to fulfill participation on a City contract?
No! The MDOT (State) certification and City certification are two different certifications that involve two different processes. The MBE/WBE must be certified with the City of Baltimore for participation to count towards the contract goals.
34. What do I do if I still have questions about my bid?
You should plan to attend the pre-bid information session for the contract where MWBOO may answers your questions. Thereafter, you should submit questions in the manner detailed in the bid packet. Additionally, prior to bidding you can submit questions to MWBOO via the Question Submission Form.