The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday, Feb. 25, announced $9.9 million in grants to provide training and other services to minority- and women-owned businesses in 33 states to help them compete for highway contracts. “The U.S. Department of Transportation has an excellent history of reaching out to small businesses owned by women, veterans and minorities,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Nearly half the contracts we award each year go to these types of firms.”
The “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Supportive Service (DBE/SS)” grants are part of an ongoing federal effort to help state departments of transportation train certified DBE firms on subjects ranging from contract and business management, to procurement assistance and how to secure bonding. The goal of the program is to help them successfully compete for federal highway projects.
“By helping small businesses like DBEs, this program enriches the competition for federal highway contracts,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “More vigorous competition not only results in lower costs to taxpayers for roads and bridges, but more jobs for workers.”
A DBE is a for-profit small business owned by minorities, women or economically disadvantaged individuals or, in the case of a corporation, in which 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals. The daily business operations must be controlled by at least one of the socially and economically disadvantaged owners.
In 1982, FHWA began promoting the participation of DBEs in federal-aid highway contracts through the development of state-run supportive services programs. “Supportive services” are those activities that are designed to contribute to the growth and eventual self-sufficiency of DBEs so they may improve their ability to compete for federal highway contracts and subcontracts.