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Frequently Asked Questions

What is SDO certification?

Certification is the process by which Massachusetts' State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance (SDO) verifies that a company is minority or woman owned and controlled in accordance with state and federal regulations. SDO performs two types of certifications. One is for Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded projects and contracts per 425 CMR 2.00 et seq. The other certification is for US Department of Transportation (US DOT) funded projects and contracts per 49 CFR Part 26 et seq.

How long does it take to become SDO certified?

SDO will generally process it in thirty (30) business days from the time the application is deemed complete, with all required documentation. If we happen to need additional documentation, the thirty day clock pauses until we receive the additional documentation.

How do I get an application? Do I have to attend a workshop?

SDO requires all applicants to attend one precertification workshop. Applications are available at the workshop. Applicants may also take the workshop online at our website; Workshops explain in detail the certification requirements, as well as all required supporting documents. Applicants who attend workshops generally have more complete and clear applications, enabling faster processing of their package, than those who did not.

How do I register for a workshop? Where are they held?

Precertification workshops are held across the state monthly. They are held in Boston, Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, Holyoke, Fall River, New Bedford, Hyannis, Brockton, and many other cities. For a complete schedule of workshops, please see our web site, or request an information package from our front desk staff at 617.973.8692. Preregistration is required, and may be done by mail or fax, or on-line at the web site. If your business group of ten or more would like a workshop to be held in your area, please call us.

Why does SDO ask me for so much information to become certified?

The Commonwealth targets a portion of public contracting dollars to minority and women businesses, to help them grow and gain economic parity in public bidding and contracting. Massachusetts wants to know that your tax dollars are going to economically benefit bona fide minority and female business owners. It is SDO's job, as the state's certification agent, to ensure that the businesses participating in these public affirmative purchasing programs are indeed legitimate businesses that meet the regulatory requirements to be certified. The information we request mostly consists of standard business documents - tax returns, financial statements, corporate documents - that any business should have on hand.

Can I do business with the State without SDO certification?

Yes! You do not have to be certified to bid on state contracts. But in evaluating your bid, agencies may take into account your certification status. Being certified can enhance your chances of being awarded a contract.

Do I have to update my certification?

SDO is required to periodically check to see that companies still meet the requirements to be certified. State (MBE/WBE) certification lasts for two years. After two years you must renew your certification; which is done by sending in specific business documents, such as financial statements, tax returns, corporate annual report, etc. After six years all companies must be recertified; meaning that a full review of the company, including a site visit, is conducted. With respect to the Federal transportation certification (DBE) renewals occur annually by sending an affidavit, along with a copy of company tax returns, to SDO. There is no six year full review for DBE.

Where can I use my certification?

SDO certification is good with all state agencies, Massachusetts quasi-public authorities, general and prime contractors who hold major state contracts with affirmative purchasing benchmarks, and with many cities and towns. In researching public market opportunities, it is an excellent idea to ask the agency or private entity you hope to do business with what certification they use and recognize. SDO prides itself in being a "one-stop" certification agent whose certification is widely recognized across the state. There are many private companies who have affirmative purchasing programs, and those companies may also recognize SDO certification.

How do I find contract opportunities?

There are quite a few resources available to you.

Comm-PASS ( is the state's website featuring contract opportunities from state agencies and general or prime contractors who hold major state contracts. You do not need a Login ID or Password to search for or download solicitations, contracts, or Bidder Forums; access to these is free. A $275 yearly subscription entitles you to additional benefits including:

  • Full-cycle Email Notification - Stay informed at every step of the process -from when bid is issued through updates and the award process. No more phone calls and searching for information.
  • Online Bid Submission - At the purchaser's discretion, bidders can submit responses to an encrypted electronic lockbox. No more fighting traffic to make the submission deadline!
  • Online Bidder Conferences - Tired of attending Bidders Forums in person? With a subscription, you can submit questions online and review buyer responses in real time.

The Secretary of State's office ( publishes the Goods and Services Bulletin and Central Register, weekly publications which respectively list non-construction related and construction related contracts from state agencies and cities and towns. You may purchase subscriptions online or view individual copies at your local library. The Goods and Services Bulletin costs $45 dollars annually, and the Central Register costs $225 annually.

Another service you might consider is the Massachusetts Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC; The PTAC is part of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC) network, based at the University of Massachusetts. PTAC can guide you through the bid process for federal, state and municipal contracts and give you information and referral on how to be more competitive. Their services are free (your tax dollars pay for them) and easy to access. The experienced staff is fully mobile and ready to work with you at your location.

PTAC can assist your firm by:
  • Assessing your potential as a government contractor
  • Identifying government contract and subcontract opportunities
  • Providing specifications and standards
  • Helping to develop a quality control program
  • Providing electronic commerce information
  • Providing access to research and development funds
  • Assisting with contract management

If I change my business from a proprietorship to a corporation, am I still certified?

No. Your certification is not only linked to your eligibility as a business owner, but to the legal structure of the business. When you incorporate, the proprietorship - the legal business structure that was certified - no longer exists. The corporation must become certified to be eligible for affirmative market opportunities. Whenever you change your legal form of business operation, you must notify SDO in writing within thirty (30) days of the change. SDO must conduct a review of the company to ensure that it meets certification requirements. Similarly, if the 51% dominant ownership of the business changes hands, even from one minority or female to another minority or female, SDO must verify that the new owners meet the requirements of certification. Also, new W-9 and Commonwealth Terms and Conditions forms must be filed with the state by the new entity. These forms are available on the SDO website.

I recently moved. What should I do?

If your certified company moves, or changes its telephone number, you must notify SDO in writing within thirty (30) days, so that we may update our files and your listing in the online directory. You should also file a new W-9 form and a Commonwealth Terms and Conditions form, so that we may keep your listing current in the state vendor files. The forms are available via the SDO web site.

What other resources are available to my business?

Check out the Massachusetts Business Resource Team. The Business Resource Team helps businesses identify and access state programs and resources that match their current needs. Whether you're expanding, re-locating, hiring new employees or looking for working capital, they can help you. Tell the Team your business needs and they will match you with the right resources and programs. See their website at or call 1.877.BIZTEAM (249.8326).

Text of SDO and DBE Regulations

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