Earlier this month, the state of Ohio certified over 800 companies as Women-Owned Business Enterprises. This mass-certification effort occurred Oct. 9 after the Department of Administrative Services used existing documentation from firms certified through the Minority Business Enterprise and Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity programs to identify companies that qualified for the new initiative.
The certification came about through an amendment to House Bill 494 of the 132nd General Assembly. The underlying bill – which involved franchisee/franchisor clarifications – as well as the amendment which created the Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program were both supported by the Ohio Chamber.
The amendment to HB 494 did the following as it relates to the Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program:
- Required the Director of Administrative Services to establish the Women-owned Business Enterprise Program.
- Required the Director to adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act to establish specified elements of the program, including eligibility, certification and outreach.
- Extended eligibility under the program to women-owned businesses that are certified by another state under a similar business assistance program if the director has entered into a reciprocal agreement with the state.
- Exempted generally from disclosure as a public record any business and personal financial information and trade secrets submitted by a program applicant.
- Required the director to file an annual report with the governor and General Assembly describing the progress made by state agencies in advancing the program.
This issue was brought to our attention as there was not previously a certification for women-owned businesses in Ohio. This was particularly troublesome for one business owner as she had applied for a contract out-of-state. In this situation, the other state stipulated that in order to be considered for this contract, the business must establish that they are a women-owned business in their own state. The amendment to HB 494 would resolve this issue and assist women-owned businesses in the future.