If you're a female or a minority who owns a business in Illinois, you might be eligible for the Business Enterprise Program. This program can help your company grow faster by offering you opportunities to do business with the state government.
Discover how the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois works and how you can participate in the program.
What Is the Business Enterprise Program?
The Business Enterprise Program in Illinois is a small business enterprise program that provides assistance to minority and other business owners by awarding them contracts with the state government. Entrepreneurs who can use this program are individuals who own and control a small business and belong to one of the following categories of people:
- Members of a minority group.
- Disabled individuals.
To be eligible for the Business Enterprise Program, you must be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident, and your company must generate less than $75 million in annual gross sales. Additionally, you're required to obtain certification from the Illinois state government or another qualified agency. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for the certification regardless of the legal structure of your business.
According to the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act, the Business Enterprise Program is required to award a minimum of 20% of the total dollar amount of state business contracts to qualifying business owners, so plenty of business opportunities exist. The selected companies receive contracts to supply products and services to many state agencies. Examples of state agencies that offer the Business Enterprise Program include:
- The State of Illinois.
- The City of Chicago.
- Cook County Government.
- The Illinois Toll Highway Authority.
How to Obtain the Business Enterprise Program Certification
To get the required certification for the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois, you have to submit an application to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. Your application must include supporting documents that contain information about your company and its owners. It must show that your business passes the “owned and controlled” test. It usually takes about 60 days to process an application. Other agencies authorized to provide certification include:
- Illinois Unified Certification Program.
- Women's Business Development Center.
- Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.
- The City of Chicago.
- Cook County Government.
- Chicago Transit Authority.
- Chicago PACE.
Some local community colleges hold workshops and seminars on the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois. It's advisable that you attend one of these events if you need more information about certification for the program. Alternatively, you can work with a private business consulting firm to complete your application.
What Is the “Owned and Controlled” Test?
The “owned and controlled” test for the Business Enterprise Program certification is a requirement stating that the minority, female, disabled, or veteran owners must have at least 51% ownership of the company. This equates to at least 51% of the company's capital stock, membership units, and voting control.
In addition, you must have control over the company's business affairs. For example, a husband and wife jointly own a business. To be eligible for the small business enterprise program, the wife must own at least 51% of the company and more voting power than her husband. Your application for the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois might be rejected even if you can prove that you're a qualifying individual who owns a business. It's essential to be able to show that you have majority control over your company.
Your certification can be revoked if government auditors find that you fail to comply with any of the requirements at a later date. For instance, you might lose your certification if the auditors pay a surprise visit to your office and see a Caucasian male occupying the corner office. Also, you might face criminal proceedings if you provide false information on your application.
What You Need to Do to Maintain Your Certification
To avoid having your Business Enterprise Program certification revoked, keep records showing that you're consistently meeting the requirements. Such records should prove that you have at least 51% ownership of your company and hold the highest position among its directors and officers. For example, if you're a female owner of a corporation, make sure your company's articles of incorporation and annual report identify you as the majority shareholder and president.
You must also take daily measures because you never know when the government auditors will show up at your business premises. It's advisable that you keep minutes of board meetings to show that you presided at those meetings. You should also be authorized to sign checks from your company's bank account. Make it a habit to sign contracts, purchase orders, and other important documents as the president of your company.
If your company is participating in a trade show or conference, gather materials or information proving you attended the event. Also attend bid openings and meetings with customers, if possible. Additionally, it's a good idea to place a sign on your desk or office door that shows your name and title.
Why You Should Join the Business Enterprise Program
The main advantage of joining the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois is that you'll have access to more business opportunities. This can help your company generate more profit and grow faster. If you prove yourself to be a capable and reliable vendor, you can expect to have a steady stream of revenue or even secure additional contracts.
Another important benefit of being a part of the Business Enterprise Program is that it enables you to build strong credentials. As a government contractor, your company will gain a reputation in your industry as a trustworthy and competent business, which can help you attract more customers in the private sector.
Obtaining certification for the Business Enterprise Program in Illinois can be a difficult task. If you want to maximize your chances of getting your application approved, consider seeking advice from Pasquesi Sheppard LLC. Contact us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable business consultants.