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Columbus City Council workshopping legislation to expand Title 39 certifications

Columbus City Hall
David Holm

Columbus City Councilmembers are workshopping proposed changes to how small businesses, women-owned businesses and minority owned businesses qualify and apply for contracting opportunities with the city.

The proposed changes include expanding how small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses qualify for certification under Title 39 in the city's Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This includes removing a citizenship requirement and expanding the opportunity for small businesses from only Columbus businesses to any from Franklin County and its seven neighboring counties. This could help these businesses get contracts with the city for catering, cleaning and construction jobs.

Other changes the council is considering include:

  • prohibiting employee stock ownership plans from qualifying in favor of businesses that are independently and directly owned
  • adding a sunset provision for the evaluation and reauthorization of Title 39 programs on a five-year basis
  • amending eligibility from six months to one year
  • adding a one-year moratorium on re-applying for certification after a denial

Council member Lourdes Barroso de Padilla said these changes open up access as Columbus experiences an incredible population boom including from immigrants and refugees. Barroso de Padilla is working on this legislation with fellow Councilmember Nicholas Bankston.
"Of the two to three million folks that we think will come into the region, about a million of those will be immigrants, migrants and refugees. And so that changes the city and it changes how we do business," Barroso de Padilla said.

Barroso de Padilla said the city wants to now look at the central Ohio region beyond city limits, because Columbus knows a lot of people want to do business within Franklin County.

She called getting a contract with the city a "game-changing" move for small businesses and those owned by minorities and women.

Barroso de Padilla referenced her father's experience as a Cuban immigrant opening the first Latino food store in the city and said many minority business owners, particularly those of immigrant and refugee backgrounds, don't often think about expanding their business beyond their own communities.

"Going through that certification process that opens up new doors for them to really think bigger about how they can go from a small business to a midsize or a large business and how they can grow those opportunities," Barroso de Padilla said.

Barroso de Padilla said these changes could help businesses that may not have access to larger contracts, access to capital and sometimes no access to loans compared to other business owners that are more established.

Barroso de Padilla said she expects the legislation to come before council for a vote in October with the newly-qualified businesses able to apply for certification in late October or early November.

The last public hearing is set for Monday at 5 p.m. in Columbus City Council chambers.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.