Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program - Guide to the Application Process

This US DOT video explains the intent of the DBE Program.


Becoming certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) or Small Business Concern (SBC) can be beneficial for a small business.

The information below and in the DBE and SBC Guides tell you more about these programs and may help you decide if these programs are right for your firm.


What is the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

The Federal DBE Program is a federally mandated program designed to aid socially and economically disadvantaged groups so that they may compete for federally funded transportation contracts on a level playing field. The DBE Program provides a number of different resources, services and opportunities to qualifying firms. It also sets “goals” for participation expressed as percentage of contract dollars to be performed by certified DBEs.

Firms owned by women or members of certain racial or ethnic minority groups are presumed to be socially disadvantaged. However, white male-owned firms can and do become DBE certified if they can show social disadvantage.

A firm is presumed to be economically disadvantaged if its annual gross revenue is below certain revenue ceilings for its subindustry (e.g., $15 million for engineering firms based on the 2015 standards) and each owner’s personal net worth does not exceed $1.32 million (with certain assets excluded). However, an individual who meets these criteria might not be deemed economically disadvantaged if he or she has the ability to accumulate substantial wealth.

Federal regulations govern which firms can be certified as a DBE. The application process can vary between relatively simple and fairly complicated depending on the complexity of the ownership structure and operations of the applying company. Visit the DBE Guide to learn more about the benefits and requirements of DBE certification, as well as how to apply.

ADOT receives funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation. ADOT must develop and submit an implementation plan and separate overall goals for DBE participation to each of these three agencies. The implementation plan describes how ADOT proposes to encourage DBE and small business participation on contracts funded by these agencies. Most USDOT funding for ADOT comes from FHWA.

Some of the federal dollars ADOT receives goes to the local transportation projects of cities, counties and other local governments in Arizona. Because these agencies are subrecipients of the federal funds, ADOT’s implementation of the Federal DBE Program extends to those agencies.

Below are some resources that explain more about the DBE program.

A video, made by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which discusses the DBE program in more detail can be found on Youtube.

The DBE program is mandated as part of 49 Code of Federal Regulation, Part 26, which can be found in the electronic code of federal regulations.

ADOT’s DBE Program Plan for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects can be found in the BECO section of the ADOT website.

The DBE program plan for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) projects can be found in the BECO section of the ADOT website.

Information about the airport DBE program plan for contracts funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can be found on the FAA website.

What is the Small Business Concern (SBC) component of the DBE Program?

Promotion of small businesses is an important component of the Federal DBE Program. Through ADOT’s SBC Program, small businesses can receive many of the same resources, services and opportunities as DBEs. Additionally, ADOT encourages prime contractors to provide subcontracting opportunities to SBCs. However, unlike DBEs, there are no contract goals for SBC participation at this time. You do not need be a member of a disadvantaged class to benefit from SBC registration.

Registration as an SBC is a much simpler process than becoming certified as a DBE and has fewer restrictions. Note that, by becoming a certified DBE, a firm will automatically be registered as an SBC. Visit the SBC Guide to learn more about the benefits and requirements of SBC registration.

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