This Wednesday I convened a public oversight roundtable to review and evaluate the District’s Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) program, the goal of which is to connect small & local businesses to D.C. government contracting opportunities. In order to make sure the CBE program is having its desired effect, the Council passed a law in 2005 requiring the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) to submit a report every three years on the effectiveness of the CBE program. However, DSLBD has never actually produced the report and I have continued to push the agency to do just that.
Over the summer, I held a series of Business Engagement Forums in each of the District's eight wards, engaging small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs across the District. One consistent message I heard was that business owners want reassurance that the CBE Program is working for them. There are some very positive indicators about the program, since 2015, the District has reported record spending for businesses under the CBE Program and during that time the District has set a new record high number of CBEs, over 1,600. However, without a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the CBE Program, it remains to be seen, if the program is in fact living up to its goal to connect small, local, and disadvantaged businesses with contracting and procurement opportunities.
Small and local businesses contribute to the District of Columbia by bringing employment opportunities and innovation to our communities. They are the driving force of our economy. We must ensure that the District’s Certified Business Enterprise program is fulfilling its responsibilities to our businesses and residents. The changing economic environment in our city clearly shows that the cost of not evaluating the CBE program may be detrimental to our small businesses and residents. As Chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, I am committed to ensuring that all District of Columbia residents and businesses have equal opportunity to be a part of the economic prosperity in our great city.