Waiver helps disadvantaged businesses compete for work
ODOT will be able to continue setting goals for hiring specific types of minority-owned businesses on select projects over the next three years after receiving a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The waiver allows ODOT to set contract goals for groups that have experienced significant disparities in receiving ODOT contracts.
Matt Garrett, Director of ODOT, affirmed the department’s commitment to ensuring equal economic opportunity for all Oregon businesses. “These goals are another tool ODOT will use to ensure that the benefits of transportation projects flow to all Oregonians and that all have a chance to compete for contracts.”
For 2011, the goals and other measures ODOT has taken helped achieve success with reaching DBE goals: ODOT’s overall goal was 11.5 percent, but the agency surpassed its goal by achieving 15.13 percent, putting it among the top states in the nation in terms of DBE utilization.
With the approval of the waiver, the Federal Highway Administration has granted an increased goal for ODOT’s DBE program. FHWA approved an overall goal of 16.95 percent, of which 5.45 percent is expected to be attained through race and gender-conscious means. The previous overall goal was 11.5 percent, with a 3 percent race and gender-conscious breakout. To meet the race and gender-conscious portion of the overall goal, ODOT will set DBE goals on select contracts in the areas of construction and architectural and engineering (A&E) services.
Under federal court decisions, state departments of transportation are allowed to set goals on contracts only for groups where significant disparity in state contracting has been proven. Studies conducted in 2007 and 2011 on ODOT contracting activities found disparities in certain areas, such as awarding construction contracts to African-American owned and Subcontinent Asian-owned DBE firms. The studies also found disparity for all DBE groups except Asian-Pacific owned firms in the area of A&E contracts. The studies also determined that setting goals helped reduce those disparities to a degree, though underutilization still exists for those for those groups approved in the waiver.
DBEs include small businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by minorities, women, and other individuals on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please visit ODOT’s Office of Civil Rights website.