How to Do Business with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

In this episode, we have guests from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. This is Part 1 of a two-part series, and the first question is: What do I need to do business with Mecklenburg County? Is it like the City?

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AB- Andrew Bowen             TM- Teresa McDow     NR- Nancy Rosado

AB – Hello, and welcome, world. It’s me, Andrew Bowen, the one and only host of CBR’s B2U podcast, bringing business resources directly to you. Our goal is to connect you to the information you need to start and run a successful business. This podcast is presented by CBRBiz.com.

Today, we have guests from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Teresa works in the county’s Economic Development Department with the Minority Women and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) program, and Nancy leads the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion (CBI) program. This is part one of a two-part podcast with Teresa and Nancy, so stay tuned.

Without further ado, let’s welcome our guests, Teresa McDow and Nancy Rosado, to the show. Welcome!

NR – Hello!

TM – Hello!

AB – It is awesome to have both of you here. We’re always start off with pretty basic introductions, so could you guys go ahead and just tell us little bit about yourselves and what you do.

TM – Sure, okay. Teresa McDow of Mecklenburg county MWSBE. I’ve been with Mecklenburg County doing MWSBE for about 18 years now.

AB – That’s awesome. How are you liking it?

TM – I love people, so I still enjoy my work.

AB – That’s always good. We deal a lot with people! Nancy, how about you?

NR – I’m Nancy Rosado. As you’ve said, I’m the manager for the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion program, which is housed in the Management and Financial Services Department of the City of Charlotte. I’ve been doing this role now for over seven years, managing the City’s Supplier Diversity and Inclusion program

AB – That’s great. So thank you guys again for being here. This first segment, I kind of want to ask, Teresa, you the questions, and then, Nancy, if you want to jump in with any thoughts, we’re always welcome to have thoughts and more information.

So, Teresa, my understanding is that you hear one question all the time, every day, from everyone…not this question, but what is it?

TM – The question is: What do I need to do business with Mecklenburg County? Are you like the City?

AB – We’re definitely not the same, right?

TM – That is correct. We are not the same; we are two different governing bodies, with two different policies.

AB – So on the County side, what is it that people need to do, or businesses need to do, to work with the County?

TM – Have a small business that has a tax ID number, a name, an EIN number or social, an email address, a checking account, and a routing number.

AB – So there are people that come and don’t have email addresses?

TM – That is correct.

AB – Okay.

TM – In this day and time, I still see a large number of small businesses that do not have an email address.

AB – And you said the EIN number, too, so there are people that are coming but not fully incorporated yet, is that right?

TM – Yes, when the County…What? Last year?…when the business license went away, a lot of small business owners don’t understand what took the place of a business license and going to the Secretary of State’s office to get the proper documents.

AB – Interesting. I didn’t realize that was one of the consequences. The loss of a business privilege license tax?

TM – Yes, yes

AB – Interesting. Any thoughts, Nancy? Similar things?

NR – Yeah, I mean, so definitely to register with the City as a business. And I think the most important thing that I always start off with in these conversations, and in speaking with many business owners in the community about the program, is that the first thing is you don’t have to be certified to do business with the City of Charlotte. That really is key.

I think that there are some folks that think that we have these types of programs—you know Teresa with her MWSBE program and the City with Charlotte Business Inclusion—that you have to be certified with the City in order to do business, and you do not. You do have to be a registered vendor with the City of Charlotte as you do with Mecklenburg County, and I think that’s the first step. That lets the City know that you, as a business owner, are interested in doing business with the City. It puts you in our database of registered vendors, so that then we know who’s available in the community and who to call upon when we are looking to procure a good or service. I think that, you know, for the audience listening, that really is kind of the beginning and the entry point to doing business with the City and with the County. From there, you really should look at the County MWSBE’s program and the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion program because there are advantages and benefits to getting certified, and that’s really going to open up a lot more doors for you.

AB – That makes sense to make the distinction between being a vendor and being certified. So what types of certifications are accepted or needed, specifically starting on the County side.

TM – With Mecklenburg County, the County does not certify small businesses, so we will accept (we meaning Mecklenburg County) the City of Charlotte’s small business inclusion certification and the state hub certification, the statewide uniform certification…any one of those will suffice in doing business with Mecklenburg County.

NR – Well, and I’ll add that to become registered with the City of Charlotte as an MWSBE—and we use a lot of acronyms, so MWSBE stands for Minority Women Small Business Enterprise—the City of Charlotte does have a certification team. We have two fabulous ladies that actually process certifications for the Small Businesses Enterprise certification. The City has its own definition on how we define a Small Business Enterprise. It’s important to go online and look up the information. I can share that with you, but all that information is available online at our website www.charlottebusinessinclusion.com.

AB – And I am pretty sure that is linked also from CBRBiz.com.

NR – It definitely is. All this information can be accessed as well through CBRBiz.com.

AB – That’s fantastic. So can you just do a very quick run through on what it looks like to become certified? Like starting at square one…“I am a…fill in the blank,” and then it ends with being certified.

NR – So for the City of Charlotte, we have our Small Business Enterprise certification, and so there are a few things you need to able to do as a business owner in order to get certified with the City of Charlotte.

The first thing is that the qualifying owner must own 51% of the business—any combination of thereof. If you have three partners, and they’re each 33 and ⅓%, they’re equal business partners…then of those individuals have to meet the requirements of the City’s Small Business Enterprise certification. We’ll look at the 51% owners, and we’re going to look first at the personal net worth of the owners to ensure that their personal net worth doesn’t exceed $750,000; that excludes business ownership, so any assets of the business it excludes…retirement accounts and any eligible equity in the primary owner’s residence. It excludes a lot of the assets people have their wealth tied up into it, and this is per the City Council’s adopted policy. The City Council is the one who has delineated these requirements.

We’re going to look at 51% of the owner. We’re going to look to make sure that the personal net worth doesn’t exceed $750,000. Currently, they have to be headquartered in the Charlotte combined statistical area, which is a 13 county region; we will make sure you are headquartered in one of those 13 counties. We’re also going to look that you provide a commercially useful function to the City; what that means is, do you provide a good or a service that the City is interested in purchasing or buying?

AB – So no pet sitting services?

NR – That’s right. No pet sitting services, unless there is a need for that, and there may be through animal control. Who knows—there may be an opportunity for that, so when somebody…that’s a great example…when somebody comes to our office with kind of an interesting, unique, kind of need, the first thing we do is really not assume that there isn’t that need in the community, within our departments. We’ll reach out to our departments, and say, “Hey, is this something you would procure?” because we don’t portray to know everything about the City’s departments. There’s 14 City departments, so who knows what are all the things they purchase and buy?

We’ll look to make sure you provide some kind of commercially useful function, and really that’s to not waste the business owner’s time as well; we would never want them to go through an application process and provide all the supporting documentation if there really isn’t going to be an opportunity there for them to participate and do business with the City of Charlotte.

We also look at a quarter of the SBA size standard for Small Business Enterprise certification with the City. So if you’re a general contractor, you know the SBA (Small Business Administration) says that… a small business is defined as 36 million revenue, for example…the City of Charlotte is going to take a quarter of that size in order to certify a business. You also have to be in business for a year in order to obtain certification as a Small Business Enterprise with the City.

AB – So that’s great. You have to be in business for at least a year?

NR – That’s currently the policy, however, our City Council is looking at amending the policy and to remove the requirement for one year in business. And that would be consistent with how the state of North Carolina…certifies minority women business enterprises.

AB – That seems to make sense because I imagine a lot of folks starting a business specifically to service local government or to see the government as a large customer.

NR – And it’s important to note that, whether you are a start up or whether you’ve been in business a long time—and this goes for the County as well, Teresa, right?—you know you have to be able to do the business. Just because you are certified doesn’t mean you’re going to have some type of an opportunity without having the experience and being able to deliver the good or the product. Certification is really kind of an icing on the cake. It’s not your sales pitch.

AB – That’s great. Outside of the certification process, is becoming a vendor and then bidding on projects similar though the City and the County, or at least closely enough aligned that it stays…?

TM – Yes, a year ago, the purchasing department was the City and the County. Last year, Mecklenburg County—I guess we have the size standard to have a standalone procurement department, and with that, the process is similar. Right now, Mecklenburg County is trying to populate that vendor database so we do not have a large population of vendors in there right now.

AB – So are you pulling those at all from the City?

TM – Yes.

AB – Is it just a big copy and paste practically? Or not exactly?

NR – I’m sure it’s a little more complicated than that!

AB – I am absolutely certain that’s it more complicated than that copy and paste.

NR – Well, with the City of Charlotte…and I don’t know—that’s a good question because I don’t know if there’s a difference in the way the County solicits versus the City in that the city’s procurement process is pretty decentralized. The City has a procurement management office which handles certain procurements for some departments, but there are some of our larger departments that actually have their own contracting procurement personnel, and they issue their own soliciations. They handle the procurement process individually and separate from the City’s procurement management office. That’s something that’s important for vendors and businesses that are looking to do business with the City to understand—you may not always be contacting the procurement management team. There may be a better avenue.

AB – Yeah.

TM – On the County side, since we are so new, we’re still trying to work out the kinks and to get the database populated.

A few weeks ago, we did a community outreach because of the mowing contracts. You’re aware that we have over 200 parks here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. We’re trying to get new vendors to come to the table to get ready for this fall opportunity, and we found again that it was difficult to find that population of mowing contractors that have the staff and the size to be at the work.

AB – I imagine that’s a big problem to have, because we are working on scales like you said—200 parks…that’s a lot of grass.

TM – Yes, but the packages are broken up.

AB – Oh, yes, that’s great.

TM – Yeah.

AB – Alright, well, I think we’re going to talk a little bit more specially about the CBI piece in the next section. Any closing thoughts on what we’ve just discussed before I close it up?

TM – Can’t think of anything. I can share with you the County’s website is mecknc.gov. 

AB – Alright, and are you the point of contact if somebody has any questions?

TM – Yes.

AB – And they can find you on there I imagine.

TM – Yes, they can.

AB – Google is a powerful thing. Alright, Teresa and Nancy, thank you very much for being here with us.

Listeners, this was part one of a two-part series with Teresa McDow from the County and Nancy Rosado from the City. Up next, we are going to direct some questions specifically at Nancy, where we’ll be learning more about the City of Charlotte’s Business Inclusion program and what business need to do to join and become certified.

For more information about doing business with the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, or to find the archived podcasts, please be sure to find CBRBiz.com. Thanks for tuning in to CBR’s B2U podcast, presented by CBRBiz.com. Until next time, which is coming up shortly, we mean business.

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