California is the most populous state in the nation and boasts it’s largest and most vibrant and economy. With a GDP in excess of $2.7 trillion, the state generates more income than its two closest competitors, Texas and New York, by over $1 trillion annually, and now ranks as the 5th largest economy in the world. As such, California offers a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs of all kinds. What’s more, the state sponsors a number of programs that benefit disadvantaged businesses. One of these is GO (General Order) 156, the supplier diversity program supervised by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
What Is GO 156?
GO 156 is a voluntary supplier diversity program that enourages investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in California to contract for goods and services with certain disadvantaged business entities, specifically those owned by women, minorities, disabled veterans and/or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals. Like similar programs in other states, it requires businesses that want to be recognized in one of these categories to undergo a certification process to verify that the business is at least 51 percent owned and operated by one of the following:
- A woman
- A member of an ethnic minority. (Recognized minorities include Asian Americans, African American, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and others. )
- An individual who identifies as either gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual
- A disabled veteran (Note: the disabled veteran who owns the business does not need to be an owner, as long as the owner is also a disabled veteran.)
The certification process for minority, women and LGBT-owned business is handled by the CPUC-supervised Supplier Clearinghouse, which also maintains the database of certified contractors. California’s Department of General Services certifies businesses owned by disabled veterans. Once certified, these DV-owned businesses are automatically included in the Supplier Clearinghouse database. No other action is required.
Certification is free, and is generally good for three years.
What Are the Benefits of Certification?
Women, minority, disabled veteran and LGBT-owned businesses that become certified under GO 156 are automatically entered into the supplier database, gaining visibility and access to the 16 independently owned utilities that operate throughout the state. All IOUs use the database when searching for diverse suppliers, and only businesses included in this directory can be included in an IOU’s annual filings. These filings establish whether or not the IOU is meeting the state’s GO 156 procurement goals for diverse suppliers, which currently are:
- 15 percent for minority-owned businesses
- 5 percent for woman-owned businesses
- 1.5 percent for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses
- No goals have been set for LGBT firms
addition to access to contracting opportunities, certification also offers businesses educational resources and inclusion in important marketing and bid announcements and similar events.
Who Can Apply
Certification through GO 156 is available to sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and certain non-profit organizations operating in the United States. The business does not need to be located in or doing business in California; the database is nationwide. If the business is a start-up, it must be actively conducting business at the time it applies.
How Long Does Certification Take?
Generally, certification takes about 45 to 90 days from the time the clearinghouse receives the completed application and all required documents. However, delays may occur if documentation is incomplete or if an on-site visit or telephone interview is required. Inconsistent or unclear information about the ownership or control of the business can delay the certification process as well.
What Is Comparable Agency Verification?
The Supplier Clearinghouse Comparable Agency Verification process streamlines GO 156 certification for certain minority, woman, veteran or LGBT-owned businesses that have already been certified by one of the following agencies:
- National Minority Supplier Development Council
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
- National Gay & Lesbian Chamber or Commerce
Although certification is not automatic, many businesses that have certifications in good standing through either of these agencies need only submit a CAV application along with a copy of their certificate from the issuing agency to get certified through the Clearinghouse. If an applicant is approved through the CAV process, its certification will expire on the same day as the original certificate from the NMSDC, the WBENC or the NGLCC.
Visit the Supplier Clearinghouse to learn more about eligibility, see a list of participating utilities, view frequently asked questions, or submit your application online.
About The Carmoon Group
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