Sept. 08--As a minority business owner, Kevin Billue understands the need to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. He started his non-emergency transfer service, S-N-S Transportation, in 2012. He was interested in the field for a couple of reasons -- he saw a need in the community and he had experience in the area.
"I actually did it back when I was 19. My mom was a social worker and I love dealing with the people," he said. "But I noticed that there was a real need for it. A lot of the businesses that were open then were closing."
Since then, he's kept his eyes open, always on the lookout for a way to promote his business and find more customers. To get a little direction, he recently visited David Lewis, the director of the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Brunswick. It wasn't the first time Billue sought help there. "I knew about the SBDC because back in 1994, I had a small car wash," he said. "So I knew David. I had been looking into getting the minority business enterprise certification (through the Georgia DOT) but in everything I read it said that a) you had to be in business for two years and b) you had to pay $2,500."
Since he has now been in business for two years, Billue had met the first requirement. The second, however, was a bit more daunting. And since he would be technically eligible for two certifications -- one with the Georgia Department of Administrative Services and one with the Georgia DOT -- Billue would end up owing $5,000 to pay private consultants to complete the paper work. Since that amount is hard to come by for a small business, he wanted to see if there were any alternatives.
"David and I sat down to see what we could do," he said.
Turns out, it was a lot. Since the SBDC is a non-profit organization, Billue and Lewis were able to go through the certification internally. That meant Billue didn't have to pay the fees.
Of course, the process itself did require some work. Billue had to complete the Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) certification application and personal net worth affidavit, as well as a small mountain of other paper work.
"The paperwork could make you discouraged but you have to get through it. Then you come out and do an on-site interview," he said. "The woman told me that the reason they do an on-site interview is to make sure you are who you say you are. She said there were big businesses in the past that would pay smaller businesses to get that certification and then run them. Then when they got in trouble for things they did, the small business was left holding the bag."
But once he was cleared, the process didn't take long. According to the Department of Administrative Services, suppliers can expect an evaluation period of 60 to 90 days. Once approved, Minority Business Enterprises are valid for a year at a time.
It may have been a rigorous progress, but Billue has already seen returns, not the least of which is being added to the state's list of contractors that allows businesses that use him to get a 10 to 15 percent tax break.
"I got the certification in June and I'm already getting so many emails about other certifications and meetings," he said. "And it's not just for minorities.
"There are certifications for women too."
For his part, Lewis agrees. The director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Brunswick feels it's well worth the effort to seek the certification.
"If you are in an industry that sells products or services purchased by the state of Georgia I do recommend a business owner give consideration to the certification. It can give you exposure to purchasing agents by making the business owner aware of bidding opportunities and the purchaser aware of the business," he said.
"It also affords some no cost educational opportunities related to marketing your products and services to government purchasers."
-- Minimizes duplication of effort for suppliers by consolidating the certification forms that can be used by both GDOT and DOAS;
-- Enables suppliers to certify with two entities, DOAS and GDOT;
-- Provides suppliers that certify with greater exposure to larger companies by listing on both the DOAS list of certified minority businesses and the GDOT list of disadvantaged business enterprises;
-- Provides suppliers greater exposure to government procurement staff seeking minority suppliers to extend bid opportunities; and
-- Allows access to federal GDOT programs intended to increase participation of small, minority and woman-owned businesse;.
-- Aligns certified minority subcontractors with Georgia corporations desiring to earn tax credits authorized through O.C.G.A. 48-7-38.
Copyright 2014 - The Brunswick News, Ga.