Springfield Business Journal Articles


Doing Business As A Woman In Illinois

This issue of the Springfield Business Journal features five local Women of Influence, but these women are not alone in Springfield's business community or in the national business community.

According to the Center for Women's Business Research, there are 10.6 million business in the United States that are owned at least 50& by women. These businesses employ 19.1 million people and generate $2.5 trillion in sales. In Illinois there are 385,000 women-owned businesses, which represents 38% of all businesses in the state. Illinois women owned businesses employ over 1.4 million people and have sales of almost $195 billion.

Obviously, women can and are succeeding in business in Springfield, in Illinois, and throughout the country. Nevertheless, there are still obstacles for women in business. According to www.infoplease.com, "Women make up almost half of America's labor force, but only two Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, and 90 of those 500 companies don't have any women corporate officers." Likewise, there are currently only 70 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (out of 425 members) and 14 in the U.S. Senate.

In order to help women (and others) overcome these obstacles, the federal government has established various programs, including the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise ("DBE") Program. One of the purposes of the DBE program is to ensure that small disadvantaged business enterprises can compete fairly for federally funded transportation-related projects. The U.S. Department of Transportation DBE regulations require state and local transportation agencies that receive DOT financial assistance to establish goals for the participation of DBEs.

The Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT") program goal for the participation in highway and aviation construction/consultant contracts by DBEs for federal fiscal year 2006 beginning October 1, 2006 is 22.77%. IDOT estimates that, in meeting the overall goal of 22.77 percent, it will obtain 20.74% through race-conscious measures and 2.03% from race neutral measures.

According to the federal regulations, a DBE is a for-profit small business concern (1) that is at least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged or, in the case of a corporation, in which 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals; and (2) whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it. A "socially and economically disadvantaged individual" means any individual who is a citizen (or lawfully admitted permanent resident) of the United States and who is (1) any individual who a recipient finds to be a socially and economically disadvantaged individual on a case-by-case basis; or (2) any individual in certain groups, members of which are rebuttably presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged.

Women are one of the designated DBE groups. Therefore, they are presumed to be disadvantaged individuals. Additional requirements for DBE certification include: (1) the woman owner(s) of the business must have a personal net worth of less than $750,000, excluding certain assets such as her primary residence and her ownership in the business; and (2) the woman's ownership must be "real, substantial, and continuing."

The requirement of real, substantial and continuing ownership is intended to exclude businesses that are nominally owned by a woman but are actually controlled by a man. In making the determination, some of the factors considered are: (1) the woman owner must hold the highest officer position in the company (such as president); (2) in a corporation, the woman owner must control the board of directors; (3) in a partnership, one or more women must serve as general partners; (4) the woman owner may delegate various areas of management or daily operations of the business to other people, but the woman owner must retain the power to hire and fire any person to whom she delegates such authority; (5) the woman owner must have an overall understanding of, and managerial and technical competence and experience directly related to, the type of business in which the business is engaged. Generally, expertise limited to office management, administration, or bookkeeping functions unrelated to the principal business activities of the firm is insufficient to demonstrate control; and (6) if state or local law requires a person to have a particular license or other credential in order to own and/or control a certain type of firm, then the woman owner must possess the required license or credential.

If you are a woman business owner in construction or related industries who truly controls your business, you may want to be certified as a DBE. In order to be certified, you must file an application with the State of Illinois. The application, instructions and additional information can be found at www.dot.state.il.us/ucp/ucp.html.
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