Last updated:

Sheltered Market Program

We're designating  City of Boston contracts as available exclusively for minority- and women-owned businesses.

The goal of the Sheltered Market Program is to advance equity in procurement. On December 1, 2021, Mayor Wu filed an order with the City Council that allowed Boston to designate up to six City contracts for procurement from minority- and women-owned businesses. This pilot was approved by the City Council on December 15 and was signed by the Mayor on January 11, 2022. After completion of the pilot, Mayor Wu filed an order with the City Council to authorize a full scale Sheltered Market Program in Boston. 

What is a Sheltered Market Program?

Background

Sheltered Market Programs allow state and local governments to reserve certain contracts for minority- and/or women-owned businesses. The procurement process is still competitive. That means businesses will submit a proposal that will be evaluated against all other proposals according to specific criteria. But, in this case, only minority- and women-owned businesses are eligible to submit a bid.

Sheltered Market Programs can help promote equity and inclusion in state and local government contracting in two ways:

  1. They provide bidding opportunities for businesses that are often excluded from government contracts,
  2. They help build the capacity of small, local, diverse businesses so that they can submit bids for larger government contracts in the future.
HOW DOES IT WORK?

The City designates contracts as part of its Sheltered Market Program (SMP) for the following types of procurements:

  • Professional Services
  • Support Services, or
  • Goods and Services

Each contract has unique eligibility criteria. 

Eligibility for each contract is determined according to the findings of the City's Disparity Study, published in February 2021. Only groups for whom there is a demonstrable disparity between their utilization in City contracting and their availability will be eligible to bid on SMP contracts. These eligibility criteria will be determined and announced for each contract independently. Check this page to find helpful information about SMP contracts as they are announced. 

Prepare Your Business to Bid

GET CERTIFIED

All businesses who wish to compete for SMP contracts must be certified through the City's Business Certification Program. If you're not already certified as an MBE, WBE, SLBE, or Veteran-owned business, follow the link below. We have a step-by-step guide to submitting a certification application online or by mail or email.

Is your business already certified? We suggest getting re-certified to ensure that your certification is valid when you submit your bid for an SMP contract.

GET CERTIFIED

BECOME A CITY VENDOR 

Once you're certified, you'll need to become a City vendor by creating an account in our Supplier Portal. This account will allow your business to actually submit a bid for the SMP and other City contracts. Follow the link below to create an account on the Supplier Portal.

SUPPLIER PORTAL  

CHECK THIS PAGE FOR UPDATES 

As we designate SMP contracts, we will post information about:

  • contract types
  • eligibility criteria, and
  • important deadlines for each.

Check this page for updates and announcements.

Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers

Are there any target contract amounts (e.g less than $100,000 or greater than $100,000)?

We are focusing on finding procurements that are over $50K, which are performed as Requests for Proposals or Invitations for Bid under Massachusetts General Law c. 30B. 

Many contracts seem to be awarded to the same diverse businesses, will there be any allowances made for businesses that have never been awarded contracts before?

While there will not be any specific allowances or set-asides for businesses that have never been awarded City contracts, the law does have something to address the issue. Under this program, a firm may not have more than 1 active contract issued through a Sheltered Market at any time, and may not be awarded more than 3 Sheltered Market procurements within a 12 month period. This will prevent any one company from taking all of the work, and help broaden the supplier base.

In addition, we encourage all eligible businesses to submit bids for Sheltered Market Contracts and take advantage of resources offered by the Supplier Diversity Program. These include: 

Certification Office Hours: 

In order to bid on Sheltered Market contracts, your business will need to be certified as an MBE or WBE with the City of Boston. If you aren’t already certified, you can fill out our certification application online and if you need help completing an application, join us virtually every Wednesday at 11:00 am at our Certification Office Hours.

Technical Assistance:

If you need help becoming a City vendor or have questions about doing business with the City, our office can help. Contact samuel.hurtado@boston.gov to set up an appointment.

Will there be any specific support for these newly awarded businesses?

The Supplier Diversity Office typically provides technical assistance for businesses who are interested in contracting with the City, i.e before they are awarded contracts. But if your business is awarded a City contract through the Sheltered Market Program and you are in need of additional technical assistance, you can find additional resources through the Small Business Development Unit of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion.    

Our company is a minority owned high tech first responder system and to our knowledge we do not have any competition at this moment. If the program requires three (3) bids and there is no competition, would we be unable to apply?

Massachusetts General Law c. 30B s. 18 requires that procurements issued through the Sheltered Market Pilot Program receive a minimum of three bids, otherwise the City cannot make an award. To ensure that we receive at least three bids per contract, the City of Boston is working to identify contracts in areas where we can quantify available disadvantaged businesses.

So the short answer is that if there aren’t any other certified businesses that can perform this work, we would likely not issue such a procurement through the Sheltered Market, as we would be unlikely to receive 3 bids.

Businesses will need to be certified with the City of Boston or State of MA in order to compete for any of the six (6) Sheltered Market contracts. There will be further eligibility criteria for each contract based on the findings of the City of Boston’s Disparity Study. 

 

Back to top