Certifications aim to help women-, minority-owned companies

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By Robin Wojtanik

An entrepreneurial spirit, combined with ingenuity and determination has helped Salina Savage grow her Richland-based business to the point where she may no longer be designated a small business.

She’s had help along the way from the Washington State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, or OMWBE.

The Olympia-based office certifies businesses as woman-owned and minority-owned, among other federal certifications.

Gigi Zenk, OMWBE communications director, said it’s not a designation intended to provide preferential treatment to women or minorities, but rather “to level the playing field” when it comes to public contracting and procurement.

Having the certification is “one more tool in the toolbox for small businesses to grow and succeed,” Zenk said.

Roughly 2,500 small businesses in the state of Washington hold a certification. This includes state designations as woman-owned and/or minority-owned and federal designations as a disadvantaged business enterprise, an airport concessionaire disadvantaged business enterprise or a small business enterprise.

Just under three dozen businesses in Benton and Franklin counties are certified, with most at the state level.

Certified businesses may sign up for an email notification list to learn about government contracts coming up for bid. Many of the contracts available are connected to the transportation industry. Because of this, OMWBE also works with the Washington State Department of Transportation, which awards a number of contracts connected to state highways and transportation, as well as contracts available through the Federal Highway Administration.

In Savage’s case, a consultant with the transportation department encouraged her to apply for the Seattle Tunnel Partners Project.

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