Department of Small and Local Business Development

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Certification FAQs

What is a CBE?

A Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) is a business that is headquartered in the District of Columbia and has been certified by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). Businesses with CBE certification receive preferred procurement and contracting opportunities. 

Why should my business apply for CBE certification?

Businesses with CBE certification receive preferred procurement and contracting opportunities. The District directs spending to these DC-based businesses that support and contribute to job creation and the city tax base, which in turn results in a much stronger local economy. Each agency, including an agency that contracts or procures through the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), must exercise its contracting and procurement authority. It must meet, on an annual basis, the goal of procuring and contracting 50 percent of the dollar volume of its goods and services, including construction goods and services, to Small Business Enterprises (SBEs).

Is a non-profit eligible for certification? 

No.  Only for profit entities are eligible for CBE certification with the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).

If I am moving my business to the District, what is my first step?

If you are moving your business to the District, with the exception of sole proprietorships, you will need to register your business with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  For assistance, you can contact DCRA’s Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) on (202) 442-4400.

My business is incorporated in another state and my office is in DC.  Am I eligible?

Yes, you will need to register your business as a foreign entity with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  For assistance, you can contact DCRA’s Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) on (202) 442-4400.

Does DSLBD grant reciprocity from other jurisdictions? 

No.  DSLBD’s CBE program is designed for District-based businesses only. Other certification programs are not designed to comply with the legal requirements of the District's program.

For how long is my certification valid?

Businesses certified prior to March 11, 2015 are certified for two years.  Businesses certified on or after March 11, 2015 are certified for three (3) years.  

What are the different categories of certification?

Certification as a Local Business Enterprise (LBE) is a prerequisite to be certified in any additional business enterprise category within the CBE Program. In the CBE Program, once a business meets all LBE requirements, the business can request the Small Business Enterprise (SBE),  Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE),  Resident-owned Business Enterprise (ROB),  business enterprise located within a Development Enterprise Zone (DZE),  Longtime Resident Business Enterprise (LRB),  Veteran-owned Business Enterprise (VOB) or the Local Manufacturing Business Enterprise (LME) designation(s) for consideration to receive additional preference points or percentages.

What are the preference points associated with each category of certification?

CBE Category Proposal Points Bid % Price Reduction
Local Business Enterprise 2 2%
Small Business Enterprise 3 3%
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise* 2 2%
Development Enterprise Zone 2 2%
Resident-Owned Business 5 5%
Longtime Resident Business 5 10%
Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise 2 2%
Local Manufacturing Business Enterprise 2 2%

*Note: The personal net worth of the applicant seeking DBE certification must be less than $1,000,000, excluding the value of his/her primary residence and values if his/her ownership interest in the CBE.

How long will the CBE certification process take?

The CBE certification process can take up to 45 business days once you submit the application.  DSLBD does not expedite applications.

If you are completing a Certification application and you have never been certified or your CBE expiration date has lapsed for more than a year, you must take the mandatory CBE Program webinar. Once you are ready to apply, begin the online application (the application has a maximum of 16 steps).

Businesses submitting applications on or after November 1, 2013 are to upload the required checklist documents within the online application.  Within each step of the certification, recertification and upgrade applications, there is an Upload Checklist Items link (in red color) that allows you to upload the required documents any time during the application process. You will not be able to submit the application until all the required documents are uploaded. 

What does a CBE checklist look like?

Click to view a sample checklist. This is a sample only. Customized checklists are generated upon completion of the CBE Webinar.

Does CBE certification automatically confer DDOT DBE certification?

No, DSLBD certification has no bearing on federally-funded highway projects. Visit the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise page to learn more about DDOTs DBE program: http://ddot.dc.gov/dbe.

What happens if my application is not approved?

If your application is not approved, you will receive a notice of decision from the Director of DSLBD detailing the reasons for denial and rights to appeal.  If you are not approved you will not be able to submit a new application for six (6) months from the date you received the notice. 

How do I notify the Department of a change in my certification?

Notification, on business letterhead, should be sent to the Department to the attention of the Certification Manager at [email protected].  The notice should include the change the business is requesting and should be sent by the owner or an owner of the business.  If the business is reporting an address change, the business must submit the new lease (minimum of 12 months) or deed for the location and a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy  or Home Occupation Permit for the location. 

Pursuant to the CBE law, during the term of a certificate, a CBE shall report to the Department any change of address, change of ownership, or other change that may affect the continued eligibility of the CBE within thirty (30) days of the date of the change.  Upon learning of any changes, the Department may request documentation regarding continued eligibility and conduct onsite inspections.

How do I reset my username and password? 

The owner or an owner of the business can email the certification division at [email protected] or contact the certification team on (202) 727-3900.  If an email is sent, please include the name of your firm, notify us of any changes to the email address provided in the application and ask for your login and password to be reset.