March 2015 Women in Business Feature Story: Independent Medical Evaluation Company

A seal of approval

Amy McEathron, president and owner of Independent Medical Evaluation Company, Carthage, has more than 20 years experience in the industry. Her business was recently certified as a New York State Minority Women-Owned Business Enterprise. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Amy McEathron, president and owner of Independent Medical Evaluation Company, Carthage, has more than 20 years experience in the industry. Her business was recently certified as a New York State Minority Women-Owned Business Enterprise. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Certification as Minority Women-Owned Business Enterprise a long path

By Lorna Oppedisano, NNY Business

Being a woman or minority in business can be a struggle. Thanks to efforts to promote equality, the playing field is beginning to level off.

In 1988, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo signed into law legislation to create the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Development, now the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development. According to its website, the office “promote[s] employment and business opportunities on state contracts for minorities and women. Under this statute, state agencies are charged with establishing employment and business participation goals for minorities and women.”

That goal is 30 percent, meaning that “30 percent of all New York State contracts have to go to a minority or women-owned business,” explained Roxanne Mutchler, director at Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center.

To be a Minority or Women-Owned Business Enterprise, a firm must get certified through Empire State Development, a process that’s free, but time consuming.

In terms of MWBE certification, it’s all because they really want to ascertain if that woman really owns the business, Ms. Mutchler said.

“No business will get certified unless they can show that that woman is making the long-term decisions and is really controlling the business,” she said.

Certification is available to any year-old small business that is least 51 percent woman-owned.
“The female side of the business has to be an integral part of the business,” explained Sarah O’Connell, a certified business advisor at SUNY Jefferson’s New York State Small Business Development Center. “[The woman has to be] at the very least 51 percent owner. She’s going to have to be contributing some assets to that.”

Within Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, there are 108 MWBE-certified businesses, according to the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development website.

Joining the ranks this year is Carthage’s Independent Medical Evaluation Company, LLC. The only independent medical evaluation company in the north country, Amy McEathron founded IMEC in 2006; Ms. McEathron has been the owner and president since.

“I wanted to get that certification years ago,” she said, explaining because the process is so time-consuming, it had to stay on the back burner.

Submitting paperwork is the first step to apply. It requires a great deal of personal and professional information, including what kind of equipment a company uses, the past three years’ tax returns, a resume and birth certificate and more.

“It’s a self-certifying process to qualify to make sure you’re a woman-owned business,” Ms. McEathron said.

Ms. McEathron’s firm started the process when Saana Gill, the company’s marketing assistant and human resources manager, was hired in March 2014. The online application process was the first big project Ms. Gill completed for the company, Ms. McEathron said. She started uploading the paperwork in March, and finished in June.

“When we were ready to hit that send button, it was really exciting,” Ms. McEathron said.
Then they played the waiting game for more than half a year. Ms. Gill called the state office every month and a half, and heard the same answer.

“She was always told that our file was pending,” Ms. McEathron said.

This is the hiccup in the certification process. All MWBE applications go through one office in New York City. Three years ago, a second Albany office that had handled all of upstate closed.

“Right now, they’re very backlogged because of the number of applications,” Ms. Mutchler explained. “Right now it’s taking at least six to nine months.”

This is a problem for all parties involved, including the government organizations trying to reach their utilization goal. Even if an organization uses a business they know to be minority or women-owned, it doesn’t count unless that business is MWBE certified.

Finally, IMEC was granted status as a MWBE in January.

“It was just a little disappointing how we got it back,” Ms. McEathron said. “Just an email. Literally that’s all it was.”

Usually the process of certification includes another step. Once the paperwork is in, an analyst reviews everything in detail, Ms. Mutchler said, and then reaches out for an interview.

Ms. McEathron thinks she simply received an email because she is the sole woman owner, and her documentation was clear. The final step is to reapply for certification every three years.

In the little more than a month since being certified, IMEC has already seen positive results.

“We’ve actually gotten a lot of calls from the Purple Heart Association on Fort Drum,” she said.

One of the best advantages to being MWBE-certified is the company’s addition to a searchable directory on the state’s website. The list is available to anyone from individuals to state contractors, and is often the first place people with contracting needs will look.

Ms. O’Connell and Ms. Mutchler stress that SBDCs are ready and willing to help with this, or any, process. Ms. McEathron said she received help from Ms. O’Connell on more than one occasion.

“They were the best asset that I had,” Ms. McEathron said.

Lorna Oppedisano is a staff writer and editorial assistant for NNY Magazines. Contact her at loppedisano@wdt.net or 661-2381.