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Certification programs at the federal, state and local level are all geared to help small disadvantaged firms enjoy more opportunities to compete for contract dollars. The key to picking the certifications that will benefit your company is to first determine which entities you want to do business with; then, find out which certification programs they recognize. 

With the exception of certain contracts that are set aside for only certified firms, you are not required to be certified to be eligible to bid on contracts. However, being certified as a woman-owned, minority or otherwise disadvantaged business can give your company a competitive advantage.

Federal contracting.

If you want to do business with the federal government or its large prime contractors, look at becoming certified as an 8(a) contractor or a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB). To find information about these programs, which are administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, click here. If your business is located in a distressed area, you might qualify for HUBZone certification.  To find out, click here.

Selling to the State of Texas.

If you want to sell to State of Texas agencies, apply for certification as a HUB, or Historically Underutilized Business, vendor. The HUB program is administered by the Texas Building and Procurement Commission. Application forms can be found here.  

Local governments.

Local entities such as the City of Houston and METRO also have certification programs, although METRO’s certification is based solely on business size, not on the owner’s race or gender. To find information on the City program, click here for METRO, click here.

Private Sector entities.

To sell to large corporations such as Reliant Energy or Continental Airlines, investigate the certifications available through the Women's Business Enterprise Alliance and/or the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. Certification through these two organizations means more than just access to contract opportunities; there are also opportunities for networking with potential customers, as well as training and education to help you improve your business management skills. If you are a woman-owned business, click here; minority-owned businesses, click here.

The University of Houston Procurement Technical Assistance Center offers free workshops on the benefits and eligibility factors of several of these certification programs. Access the UH Small Business Development Center's Training Calendar for dates, times and details.