§5B-2-18. Small Business Supplier Certification Assistance Program.

(a) The Legislature finds that there is currently no standardized certification process for small business enterprises in West Virginia. As a result, there is no uniform method for verifying or certifying small business contractors or suppliers seeking to participate in government contracting and procurement processes. The Legislature further finds that it is important to develop such a certification program to promote more in-state businesses and to strengthen regional supply chains within the institutions of the state or its political subdivisions. Therefore, it is the purpose of this section to establish the Small Business Supplier Certification Assistance Pilot Program, to develop and implement a certification process for the benefit of small business enterprises seeking to further engage in the government contracting and bidding processes.

(b) The Department of Economic Development is hereby authorized to work in collaboration with Marshall University to establish a Small Business Supplier Certification Assistance Pilot Program to be implemented for purposes of developing a certification process for small business enterprises.

(c) Prior to implementation of the pilot program, Marshall University shall coordinate with the Department to develop a master plan for the pilot program, the focus of which should include, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) A mission statement and small business participation plan for the program aimed at creating a competitive business environment by promoting the growth and success of small businesses through meaningful participation in the procurement process. The small business participation plan shall include:

(A) A study to determine any inequities that exist in public procurement and contracting that adversely affect small business vendors;

(B) An outreach program to identify and provide education to small business vendors;

(C) Initial and continuing education opportunities for the small business vendor community through both virtual and in-person workshops;

(D) A small business vendor notification process for bidding opportunities; and

(E) A method of assessing overall program results and establishing recommendations for future goals and participation.

(2) Development of an application and certification process for small business enterprises, including guidelines for certification, based upon existing federal Small Business Administration guidelines;

(3) Education and outreach proposals relating to program certifications and the benefits of small business participation;

(4) Technical training to be provided on state and government contracting and the public bidding process;

(5) Notification of current bidding opportunities for small business providers;

(6) Opportunities for collaboration with other public and private sector entities; and

(7) Methods of implementation of the pilot program, which shall include:

(A) Defined program goals;

(B) Program research to be conducted;

(C) Scheduling milestones, assignment of tasks, and allocation of resources; and

(D) Reporting of program certifications, successes, and benefits to the economy and small business opportunities.

(d) The pilot program shall continue in duration through December 31, 2023, and unless continued by the legislature, the program will terminate at midnight on January 1, 2024. Prior to the conclusion of the program, the Department, in coordination with Marshall University, shall report to the Legislature’s Joint Commission on Economic Development on the following:

(1) Progress towards and methods of implementation of the pilot program, including the required certifications and training for small business enterprises;

(2) An analysis of the overall program results based on the metrics created in the master plan of the pilot program;

(3) Recommendations as to whether the pilot program should continue beyond its current duration; and

(4) Any proposed plan or legislation necessary to accomplish the purpose of making the program permanent.

(e) For purposes of the pilot program, any information provided by a small business enterprise for purposes of the certification process shall be considered private and confidential and exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, as provided in §29B-1-1, et seq. of this code. Neither the Department nor Marshall University may share any information provided by a small business enterprise with any other state or federal agencies unless required by law.