Certification - Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE)


What is VBE certification?

The City of Chicago VBE certification can be awarded to small and local business that are owned and operated by veterans who have been generally or honorably discharged. To take advantage of City of Chicago veteran programs/incentives, veteran-owned businesses must be VBE certified by the City of Chicago.

How do you get City of Chicago VBE certified?

New applicants:

Existing Certified Firms: Email dps.certification@cityofchicago.org to receive an online request through the Certification & Compliance (C2) system.  At that time you will be required to upload a letter on company letterhead and supporting documentation including the DD-214 and/or DD-215 forms.

Benefits of City of Chicago VBE certification

  • Opportunities to participate in a number of programs which are designed to promote contracting opportunities for VBE firms
  • Veteran/small business JV bid incentive – 5% for eligible joint ventures and small, local, veteran-owned businesses
  • Veteran-owned subcontractor bid incentive – up to 2% for utilization of veteran-owned subcontractors
  • Service-disabled veteran-owned businesses can also apply to be certified as a Business Enterprises Owned or Operated by People with Disabilities (BEPD)
  • Listing in City of Chicago Certified Firms Directory.

FAQs: Frequently asked questions regarding VBE certification

Eligibility Requirements

Ownership: At least 51% of the business entity must be owned by one or more veterans.

Independence: Must demonstrate the ability to independently perform in the firms’ area of specialty/expertise without substantial reliance upon non-minority or non-women business enterprises.

Control: Must exercise majority control over the management and daily business operations of the firm in the specialty area (s) the firm is applying.

Expertise: Must demonstrate prior experience and expertise in the desired specialty area (i.e. training, licenses, certifications or academic credentials).

Location: Must be located in the Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Will, Lake, McHenry

Size: Firm’s gross receipts must not exceed the maximum dollar threshold value and must meet other U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards.

Does the City have goals on VBE? How can I use this certification?

No. The City is in the process of taking first steps in determining potential goals for VBE certification. DPS provides programs and incentives for utilizing veterans. The Veteran’s Preference Bid Incentive provides a 5% bid incentive to small, local veteran businesses or joint ventures between small local businesses and veteran-owned businesses. Additionally, there is a bid incentive for up to 2% for utilization of veteran-owned construction subcontractors. 

What are the processing times?

New certification applications will take an average of 90-120 days to process upon receipt of all required application documents. For existing certified firms, the addition of the VBE certification will be processed within  30 days or less. 

Will I receive a certification letter listing all of my certifications?

Yes. Once processed and approved, the certified firm will receive a letter listing all applicable certifications. For firms with existing certifications, once VBE documentation is received and approved, a new letter will be issued that will include the new VBE certification as well as all previous certifications.  To maximize efficiency, the VBE certification end date will align with any previous certifications so that renewal dates are the same and a single application can be submitted for recertification. 

Is there reciprocity for the VBE certification with Cook County?

No. The City of Chicago certification program has geographic boundaries.  The program is limited to the 6 regional counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Will, Lake, and McHenry.

Is there a fee?

For a new VBE certification, yes. The fee is $250 for a 5-year certification. If you are applying as a disabled veteran for the BEPD certification, there is no fee required. For existing certified firms who are adding VBE certification, there is no fee until recertification.

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