COLUMBUS – In applying for State money for the Baard Energy coal refinery last year, the Columbiana County Port Authority told development officials, “. . . Baard Energy is a woman owned business enterprise (WBE).” The phrase “woman owned business enterprise” is important in applying for State funding because of the priority given to fostering women- and minority-owned businesses.
Governments and third-party agencies have developed specific criteria for defining a woman-owned business to eliminate sham-operations. In such cases, the CEO of a male-run company, in an effort to qualify for certain contracts, will appoint his wife as the President but in name only. While she has the title, she does not have the authority to control or manage the company.
What about Baard Energy?
- According to State of Washington records, Baard’s owners are Kathie Baardson and John Baardson. Their ownership shares are not listed. Baard Energy is not certified in Washington State as a woman-owned firm. The certification criteria in Washington are as follows:
To be eligible the firm must demonstrate that at least 51% of the firm is legitimately owned by eligible persons. The owner(s) must provide documentary proof of the contributions and/or expenditures made to gain that ownership. The eligible owner(s) must make a “real, substantial, and continuing” contribution to the business and proportionally share in the risks and profits of the business. Ownership must not be merely “in name only”. Married women are not excluded from the state or federal programs. The eligible owner(s) must actually control the day-to-day operations of the business and have the legal authority and the technical ability to manage the firm’s critical operations. The eligible owner(s) must actually participate in the business. Accounting, personnel, office management, or legal experience is not considered “technical expertise” unless this is the field of the firm’s operations.
- Baard is not certified in Ohio as a woman-owned firm. Ohio’s criteria are similar to Washington’s, except that the owner also has to live in Ohio, which Kathie Baardson does not.
- Baard Energy is not certified as a woman-owned business in Delaware, where the company was incorporated in 2005. Nor could it be. “An out of state company must first be certified in its home state before it can be considered for certification in Delaware.” Since Baard Energy is not certified in the State of Washington, it cannot be in Delaware.
- The authoritative third-party certification agency is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. They have not certified Baard Energy either.
Does Baard Energy meet the criteria for a woman-owned business? Given the benefits of certification, if Baard Energy met the criteria, why wouldn’t it have applied for it? And since it is not certified, why is its partner, the Columbiana County Port Authority, telling state authorities that it is a ‘woman-owned business enterprise’?
— Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action