DBE Certifications in South Carolina

Small businesses in South Carolina may qualify for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification in a variety of cases, such as when the majority owner of a small business is a legal resident and member of a ‘disadvantaged’ population in the United States. Obtaining DBE certification allows the enrollment in a distinct director for DBE certified companies, as well as increases the odds of participating as a contractor in federal projects.

DBE certification in South Carolina lasts on an annual basis, with the encouraging possibility of seeking renewal. To qualify, the business must be an independent, for-profit company that meets the Small Business Administration’s size requirements. Further, the majority owner, who is a member of a ‘disadvantaged’ population in the U.S., must have a personal net worth below $750,000 and maintain control over the business, including decisions related to management and daily operations.

Statewide Certification Programs

South Carolina Unified Certification Program (SCUCP)

The state’s Department of Transportation (SCDOT) administers SCUCP through a department called its Business Development Center (BDC).  Because SCDOT is statewide, this is one of the most widely accessible ways to get certified as a DBE. After a socially and economically disadvantaged business is certified as a DBE through SCUPCP, the BDC can also help them with a variety of other valuable services like:    

  • Marketing Assistance (developing business and marketing plans)
  • Training and Business Development
  • Special Events
  • Bid Information
  • Bidding & Contract Assistance
  • On-site Technical Project Consultation
  • Financial Management Assistance (bond and loan)

Certification is granted through SCUCP after it verifies that a business is bona-fide in its claim to be a disadvantaged business enterprise. Certified firms are used to meet goals on federally assisted contracts. The SCDOT is required to provide a list of certified contractors to firms bidding on prime contracts who in turn, agree to utilize certified minority businesses on construction projects throughout the state. In order for DOT agencies to meet these goals, disadvantaged businesses are encouraged to apply to the State for certification to participate in the DBE Program. Applications are gathered, on-site reviews performed, certification meetings held, and certification status granted if qualified. If the application is denied, the State has an appeal hearing on the issues of denial.

Small and Minority Business Contracting and Certification (SMBCC)

This second statewide program in South Carolina to provide DBE certification occurs through the SMBCC program. This program is designed to connect minority-owned businesses with state government agencies. The SMBCC program goes beyond mere contractor support, however, and also provides guidance through consultation and educational programs. When accepted, your company is registered into the SMBCC directory, allowing potential partners to quickly find your company in the contractor list.

The SMBCC’s application process is fairly simple. On this application, you may find a few additional requirements, namely:

  • The business has to have been ongoing for at least one year prior
  • The SMBCC team will interview the majority business owner, as well as visit the company’s offices
  • The Certification board will provide recommendations of approval/denial to SMBCC

You can find the SMBCC’s certification application as well as the recertification application.

      Local and Regional Programs

      City of Charleston Minority & Women Owned Business Enterprise office (MWBE)

      The City of Charleston offers the MWBE office to increase participation of minority and women-owned business enterprises in the full array of contracting opportunities available in Charleston. The MWBE office assists potential entrepreneurs and existing small business owners through:

      1. Assisting potential entrepreneurs to identify and evaluate resources related to the start-up of his or her business
      2. Aiding existing business owners in the capacity of business growth and expansion
      3. Providing access to potential economic and financial opportunities through the use of business databases
      4. Providing guidance and counsel to assist businesses become more efficient by improving management skills and operational effectiveness
      5. Providing information on local skills-based training opportunities to interested business owners
      6. Assisting with the MWBE certification process to enhance contracting opportunities.

      This office works closely with the Local Development Corporation (LDC) to facilitate access to loan programs. Apply to the City of Charleston MWBE Certification Application.

      The Charleston County Aviation Authority

      The Aviation Authority runs the airports in the county, and established a DBE program in accordance with regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). It is the policy of the Authority to ensure that certified DBEs have an equal opportunity to receive and participate in USDOT assisted contract. The Authority has designated a DBE Liaison to implement all aspects of the DBE program, which may include certification. While there is no listed email address, potential DBE’s may call Mr. Robert Carew, A.A.E. Director of Properties and Contracts Charleston County Aviation Authority 5500 International Blvd, Suite 101 Charleston, SC 29418 Phone (843)-767-7000.

      Charleston County Small Business Enterprise Program (SBEP)

      The Charleston County government created the SBEP to help DBE’s get certification, more exposure to the public procurement process, and improved training, networking and development opportunities.

      To be certified as an SBE, your business will:

      1. Have an annual gross sales volume not exceeding $7.5 million (averaged over the previous three years)
      2. Be actively managed and controlled on a day-to-day basis by the owner(s)
      3. Have been in operation for at least one year
      4. Be current on any applicable business license(s) and on any Charleston County taxes and fees

      What Certification Can Mean to Your Small Business

      1. Mandatory quote from SBE on procurements between $5,000 and $25,000
      2. Mandatory SBE subcontractors on projects of $25,000 and above
      3. Technical and financial referrals
      4. Workshops, seminars and training programs to assist business owners in the competition process.

      Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council (CVMSDC)

      Businesses that are at least 51% owned by one or more ethnic minorities can get an MBE certification from the CVMSDC, the regional branch of the national organization called the Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC). It offers minority business certifications for companies across all of South Carolina, as well as North Carolina and Virginia.

      CVMSDC promotes and facilitates business relationships between the public/private sector and certified minority-owned businesses. CVMSDC is a membership organization of major corporations, financial institutions, government agencies, and universities that operate within North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.  Divided into eight regions, the Council is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina with a regional office located in Richmond, Virginia.

      Eligibility is established by conducting a series of screenings, interviews and site visits. 

      City Of Columbia Contractor And Supplier Diversity Program

      Columbia’s diversity program works to accelerate the viability and strategic growth of procurement and contracting opportunities for small, women, and minority-owned business enterprises (SWMBEs). Its goal is to build capacity, increase access to contracts and capital and support inclusive relationships between private and public sectors in the City of Columbia.

      To qualify, a business must be:

      1) Located within the Columbia-Orangeburg-Newberry Combined Statistical Area (CSA) for at least one year, which includes the counties of Calhoun, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, and Saluda.

      2)  A Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), which can include certification from any of the state and regional agencies shown above, as well as the following nationally-managed Certification Programs:

      • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise  DBE Department of Transportation (DOT)
      • Historically Underutilized Business Zone HUBZone Small Business Administration (SBA)
      • Minority Business Enterprise MBE
      • National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC)
      • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise SDVOBE
      • Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Enterprise WBE
      • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
      • 8(a) Business Development Program 8(a) Small Business Administration (SBA) C.