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Business Certification: Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) Program

The State of Ohio’s Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) program establishes an annual goal for state agencies, boards and commissions, as well as guidelines for state universities in awarding contracts to certified EDGE businesses. The EDGE program is designed to assist socially and economically disadvantaged businesses in obtaining state government contracts in the following areas: construction, architecture and engineering; professional services; goods and services; and information technology services. (In contrast to the Minority Business Enterprise program, the EDGE program does apply to construction contracts.) The State of Ohio developed the program because it recognizes the need to encourage, nurture, and support the growth of economically and socially disadvantaged businesses to foster their development and increase the number of qualified competitors in the marketplace.

Ohio Administrative Code Updates

Proposed Ohio Administrative Code 123:2-14

Available documents for your reference:

If you wish to comment on the proposed rules or the Business Impact Analysis, please click here to send your comments to the Equal Opportunity Division and Common Sense Initiative Office by 5 p.m. April 20, 2020.

Proposed Rescissions Minority Set-Aside Review Board

Available documents for your reference: 

If you wish to comment on the proposed rules or the Business Impact Analysis, please click here to send your comments to the Equal Opportunity Division and Common Sense Initiative Office by 5 p.m. April 20, 2020.

EDGE Eligibility

An EDGE-certified business must be owned and controlled by a U.S. citizen who is a resident of Ohio. A business may qualify for EDGE certification if either (a) its owner is both socially and economically disadvantaged, or (b) the business is located in a qualified census tract and the owner is economically disadvantaged. (Economic disadvantage is based primarily on the owner’s personal net worth.) In addition, the following criteria must be met:

  • The business must
    • Have been in business for at least one year prior to applying; and
    • Be at least 51 percent owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and
  • The business owner must
    • Have day-to-day control over the business, exercising final authority over all aspects of the daily operations of the business, including but not limited to operations, financial and business management, and human resources and policy decisions; and
    • Possess all licenses and permits required by law to perform the scope of work within classifications requested.

Social disadvantage for the EDGE program:

  • Race or ethnic origin
    • ​Black or African American
      • All persons having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    • American Indian
      • All persons who maintain culture and have origins in a federally recognized Indian tribe as listed in the current "Federal Register Notice of Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services" from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
    • Asian
      • All persons having origins in any of the original people of the Far East, including China, Japan and Southeast Asia. India has been included in the definition of "Asian." Subsequent to that, Pakistan was included because the country came about as a division from India. 
    • Hispanic or Latino
      • All persons of Spanish or Portuguese culture with origins in Mexico, South or Central America or the Caribbean Islands, regardless of race.
  • Female gender
  • Chronic, physical or mental disability
  • Business owner's long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society

Benefits of EDGE Certification

Certified EDGE program participants are eligible for contract assistance, financial and bonding assistance, and management and technical assistance.

Procurement Preference for Contracts

  • Certified businesses are listed in a searchable database
  • Opportunity to compete for contracts from state agencies, boards, commissions and universities, which must meet annual EDGE spending goals

Financial and Bonding Assistance -- Exclusive access to certain loan and bond programs, which can provide access to capital and bonding for firms that may not qualify for traditional lending or bonding, including:

  • Capital Access Program
  • Ohio Mini-Loan Guarantee Program
  • Collateral Enhancement Program
  • Targeted investment Program

Management and Technical Assistance

  • Access to Minority Business Assistance Centers and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, which assist businesses with identifying federal, state, and local contracting and subcontracting opportunities
  • Access to free accounting assistance, structuring internal accounting systems, auditing management records, business plan development, technical advisory services, marketing plans and evaluation of company operations/management processes
  • Access to mentoring opportunities with major corporations

EDGE Graduation and Participation Time Limit

An EDGE-certified business and economically disadvantaged owner is subject to a 10-year time limit and the business or owner cannot exceed the personal net worth and size standards requirements while in the EDGE program. 

10-Year Time Limit

The maximum amount of time an EDGE-certified business or business owner may participate in the EDGE program is 10 total years.

  • Certification time begins the date a business is first certified.
  • Business or business owners that meet the total 10-year time-period are not eligible to re-enter the program. 


For an Economically Disadvantaged Business Owner:

  • The personal net worth of the economically disadvantaged business owner at the time of initial application must be less than $250,000 and not exceed $750,000 during any time of certification as an EDGE business.
  • If a business graduatues from the program because the economically disadvantaged business owner is no longer considered to be an "economically disadvantaged person," and the owner later becomes an "economically disadvantaged person" again, the owner may re-enter the program if other requirements are met. The business may re-enter the program after sitting out one year, but only for the amount of time the owner has left within the owner's 10-year time limit or until the owner's net worth again exceeds $750,000.

For an Economically Disadvantaged Business:

  • A business's participation in the program also will be limited if it grows beyond being a "small business" (as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)) while in the program. Size standards represent the largest size that a business (including its subsidiaries and affiliates) may be to remain classified as a small business. A business can be determined to be a small business based on one or two criteria:
  1. average of the gross receipts from the last three fiscal years, and/or
  2. average number of employees during the last three fiscal years.
  • In either case, the average amount of gross receipts or number of employees cannot exceed the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code size cap (established by the SBA). The Equal Opportunity Division (EOD) of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services assigns NAICS codes to businesses upon certification. 
    • When a business applies for recertification biannually, EOD reviews the gross receipts and the number of employees from the last three fiscal years.
  • If a business graduates from the EDGE program because it is no longer considered a small business, and later becomes "small" again, it may re-enter the program if all of the requirements are met. It may re-enter the program after sitting out at least one year, but only for the amount of time it has left within its 10-year time limit or until its size standards again exceed program thresholds.


Once a business graduates or is time-limited, the business will continue to be eligible for one or more of the programs offered through the Ohio Development Services Agency (click here).

For those businesses that are dual certified into both the EDGE and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) programs, the 10-year time limit and graduation has no impact on the MBE certification.

Steps for EDGE Certification

The applicant must complete a Unified Application through the Ohio Business Gateway and provide supporting documentation as required. (A list of the supporting documents can be found here (including the disability verification form, if applicable (click here)). Please note that only complete applications, which must include all required supporting documentation, will be reviewed.) Applications are subject to on-site review by state compliance officers. Upon application approval, the company receives an EDGE-certification by email. Reviews take an average of 60 business days or less from the time a completed application is submitted.

For certain applications, however, a “fast track” system reduces application time to approximately five days. To qualify for “fast track” processing, the applicant must (a) submit the application through one of the regional Minority Business Assistance Centers, which are operated by the Ohio Development Services Agency; and (b) have a pending contract award that requires certification or be a candidate for and in need of financing or bonding where certification is a requirement.

In addition to the requirement for EDGE certification, any EDGE-certified business bidding on a contract awarded by any state agency must meet all applicable pre-qualification requirements.

Steps to Certification

  • Visit Ohio Business Gateway
  • Log in using username and password (OH|ID)
  • Ensure "Equal Opportunity Division" is among available service areas
  • Select "Unified Application" and complete the form
  • Click "Accept" button on the Summary page to see a confirmation page (and print completed application)
  • Submit supporting documentation as required to

Business Resources

Ohio Business Gateway
Step-by-Step Video Tutorials

Wondering how to locate the forms you need to complete on the Ohio Business Gateway? Here are some tutorial videos the Gateway team put together to help you log in and add service areas (and forms) to your profile.




Statutory and Regulatory Authority

The enabling statutes for the EDGE program are R.C. 123.152. The regulations that govern the program are found in Ohio Adm. Code Chapter 123:2-16.



General Contact

4200 Surface Road
Columbus, Ohio 43228
Phone: 614-466-8380
Fax: 614-728-5628

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