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Small Business Enterprise

Equity in Contracting Program 

As part of the City of Tacoma's ongoing work to advance broader strategic goals relating to equity and accessibility, as well as economic growth, it has expanded its efforts to achieve equity in contracting and support of minority and women-owned businesses. 

The Equity in Contracting Program offers access to contracting and procurement opportunities, as well as guidance and technical assistance, to historically underutilized businesses interested in providing supplies, services and public works support to the City of Tacoma.    

The first phase of the City's efforts, which took place in 2019, prepared the City to make meaningful change by implementing foundational improvements that include increased technical assistance, improved compliance tracking, an increase of its contractor and supplier pool, migration to state certification lists, and working more closely with labor organizations.


The City is currently transitioning its Small Business Enterprise (SBE) list to Washington state’s Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprise (OMWBE) list. Washington state's OMWBE will certify businesses in these categories beginning January 1, 2020: 

The next phase of the City's efforts, projected to take place from January 2020 – December 2020, will involve ongoing strategic planning with the City’s community partners and, ultimately, implementation of a range of programmatic improvements. From January 2021 – December 2023, the City anticipates analyzing its efforts to date and establishing baseline metrics for its programs, while also preparing for a new disparity study.  


The City authorized an extensive, year-long disparity study completed in 2018 that analyzed procurement and contracting barriers for small, disadvantaged, minority and women-owned businesses in construction, architecture and engineering, services and goods. This study determined that there exists a statistically significant under-utilization by the City of minority and women-owned businesses in these contract categories. 

More information is available in this final report.

A construction industry stakeholder committee convened by the City in 2018 - comprised of labor union leaders, private contractors, minority and women-owned businesses and residents from economically distressed communities - analyzed the use of local workforce agreements in the context of the findings and recommendations of the disparity study. Through a consensus process, the stakeholder group voted against adoption of a formal community workforce agreement or priority hire ordinance, but recommended expansion of support services offered to minority and women-owned businesses.



Equity in Contracting Program staff is available to help.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why are these changes being made?

Results of the last Disparity Study indicated that the City’s Small Business Enterprise Program had not effectively reduced barriers or increased opportunities for businesses owned by women or people of color. The City's Equity in Contracting program was developed to address these issues, with the aim of improving equity in contracting. 


Do I still need to certify my business with the City of Tacoma? 

The City is transitioning its SBE list to the State of  Washington’s Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprise (OMWBE) list beginning January 1, 2020. Although you do not have to be on the City's list at that point, to ensure that you do not have any lapse in certification between being on the City's list and the State's list, you can re-certify with the City in January 2020 while working on your application with the State. As your renewal date gets closer, a member of the City's Equity in Contracting staff will work with you as you prepare your documents for the State’s list. During this process, we are monitoring the amount of time it takes for a small business to get on the State’s SBE, MBE, WBE, and/or MWBE list(s). The City will continue to use its list during this transition and is preparing to shut down its list on December 31, 2020.  


Why do I need to apply for State certification? 

The State’s OMWBE certifications provide more opportunities for contractors and more options for the City. Currently, the City's SBE list does not help contractors get opportunities outside of Tacoma. By using the State's certifications, contractors enjoy a more streamlined process as well as more bidding opportunities. 

What type of State certification do I need? 

There are four types of State certification through OMWBE: 

  1. MBE- Minority Business Enterprise 
  2. WBE- Woman Business Enterprise  
  3. MWBE- Minority Women Business Enterprise  
  4. SBE- Small Business Enterprise  

Additional information is available in this OMWBE User Guide.

While other individuals may be found to be socially disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis, in general, to be an eligible business owner you must:

  • Be a minority or a woman. (A minority is defined as African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, or Native American.) 
  • Own at least 51 percent of the business and show contribution of capital and expertise. 
  • Control the managerial and day-to-day operations of the business. 
  • Be economically disadvantaged. (Being economically disadvantaged as a business owner is defined as having a personal net worth less than $1.32 million, not including a person's primary residence or an applicant business.) 

What does State certification cost?

There is no fee for SBE's. For MBE's, MWBE's and WBE's the fees are:

  • $50 for Sole Proprietor
  • $75 for a Partnership
  • $100 for an LLC
  • $100 for a Corporation

Mission Statement

Equity in Contracting Program Mission Statement 

To create and sustain a competitive and fair business environment for contracting, procurement and consulting opportunities that include small businesses owned by minority, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged people. 

How to Apply

City's Equity in Contracting Certification 


Any qualified business can easily get an application online or contact the City's SBE Office to request more information. The program requirements, application, affidavit and instructions can be downloaded online at any time. The SBE Office is staffed from 8 AM - 5 PM, Monday - Friday, with the exception of City-observed holidays. 


Training and Business Management Assistance

Ongoing Training and Business Management Assistance is Available 

For certified businesses, SBE helps to level the playing field when it comes to having an opportunity to secure public works and goods and services contracts. 


Get more information about Training and Business Management.

Small Works Roster Program

Small Works Roster 
The City of Tacoma's Small Works Roster Program (SWR) allows pre-registered contractors the opportunity to bid on small public works and improvement projects with a budget of $200,000 or less.  

For smaller qualifying companies, the Small Works Roster may allow for expedited payment and waiver of the bid bond.  This program utilizes categories under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).  Except for the Small Works Roster, the City of Tacoma does not maintain an ongoing vendor or bidders list for any categories of work.  

Small Works Roster bids are sent to approved and pre-registered contractors.
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Contact Us


Shakisha Ross

Community and Economic Development

Workforce Program and Investment Specialist

(253) 591-5075


Tacoma Municipal Building
747 Market Street
Room 900
Tacoma, WA 98402