HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — Construction on the new Bills stadium continues on Abbott Road. In the meantime, minority and women-owned companies are hoping for the opportunity to pitch in on the project.

But one owner says despite being a woman who owns a business, the state says she doesn’t fit the mold.

Lauren Chmielowiec’s mother ran Upstate Steel alongside her father for decades. The Hamburg business was certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise through New York State for nearly 20 years.

But that changed in 2017 just as Chmielowiec took over the reigns. Empire State Development, which oversees the state’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise program, denied the company’s recertification as a WBE.

“Throughout my entire career, I’ve been scrutinized. I think I’ve been scrutinized more than any male would be, having to prove myself and my knowledge, technical aptitude, expertise and experience,” Chmielowiec said. “To have to do it right now after being in this business for 20-plus years and being the owner is extremely disappointing.”

Chmielowiec said she’s now losing jobs as a result of losing certification. State law requires projects to hire a number of minority or women owned businesses – that includes the new Bills stadium project, which must have 30-percent of construction to be done by MWBEs.

“Every day, every week I get multiple emails, phone calls asking me to bid on work because they need WBE participation and I have to tell them I am more than happy to bid, but I can’t meet the WBE requirement,” Chmielowiec said.

In a statement, a spokesperson with Empire State Development said they do not comment on individual applications decisions due to sensitive business information of the applying entities, but each application is “evaluated thoroughly based on the requirements and criteria outlined in state regulations.”

Chmielowiec has appealed the state’s ruling. She now has a hearing scheduled for November, but does not know when a decision will be made.

“I think women need to speak up and want more in terms of their positions in this industry,” Chmielowiec said. “It all starts with being your own advocate.”

Marlee Tuskes is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.