Kris Rietmann, assistant communications director, 360-705-7423
OLYMPIA – People will have an opportunity to comment on a proposed amendment to the disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) participation goal for Washington State Department of Transportation projects that receive federal funding.
Construction projects built with federal funds must comply with federal laws and regulations concerning the use of certified minority- and women-owned DBE firms to complete a percentage of the work. Changes to the DBE participation goal are based on a recently completed disparity study.
WSDOT will gather input regarding the proposed goal at public meetings in Spokane, Seattle and Tacoma in January, as well as through a webinar and an online comment form.
“Compliance with the federal DBE program is a top priority for WSDOT,” said Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. “The proposed goal more accurately reflects current marketplace conditions and helps ensure that we are treating contractors and subcontractors fairly.”
BBC Research and Consulting, a firm with extensive experience in the area of government DBE contracting, began the disparity study in 2012. BBC evaluated the current availability of DBEs for WSDOT contracts to determine whether the agency’s contracting activities are fair and equitable for all.
After careful analysis, WSDOT is proposing to amend its overall DBE participation goal to 11.6 percent for the rest of federal fiscal year (FFY) 2014. The goal would remain in place for FFYs 2015 through 2017. The new goal is lower than the current participation goal of 15.17 percent and, if approved, would take effect within six months.
Based on the same analysis, WSDOT is also seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation that would remove Caucasian women-owned firms from WSDOT’s DBE goals for projects receiving funding from the Federal Highway Administration. These firms would still be eligible to participate in other contracting programs, such as the Small Business Enterprise Program’s 10 percent goal and in the state’s voluntary Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program, as well as contracts with funding from the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Aviation Administration.
WSDOT’s waiver request is based upon statistical evidence generated by the disparity study. The study revealed that Caucasian women-owned firms actually received more contract dollars than expected, given their availability for work. Lacking evidence of discrimination against Caucasian women-owned businesses in the local marketplace, WSDOT cannot include them in contract-specific DBE goals.
WSDOT will regularly monitor any changes in the participation of women-owned businesses that result from the agency’s revised implementation of the federal DBE program, especially in the participation of Caucasian women-owned businesses. If substantial disparities begin to emerge between the participation of women-owned businesses in WSDOT contracting and their availability for that work, the agency will request that the waiver be revoked and Caucasian women-owned businesses will once again be considered eligible for DBE contract goals.
As a next step, WSDOT will host a series of public meetings to gather comments on the proposed goal and waiver request. The meetings will occur from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the following locations:
Tuesday, Jan. 7: WSDOT Eastern Region Headquarters
Spokane County conference room
2714 North Mayfair Street, Spokane
Thursday, Jan. 9: WSDOT Northwest Region Headquarters
Cafeteria conference room
15700 Dayton Avenue North, Seattle
Monday, Jan. 13: William Factory Small Business Incubator
1423 East 29th Street, Tacoma
A webinar is also scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Jan. 16, for individuals who are unable to attend a meeting. Those interested in participating can register for this webinar by emailing DBEss@wsdot.wa.gov, with the subject line “DBE webinar”.
Comments on the overall DBE goal and waiver may also be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
Office of Equal Opportunity
Washington State Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 47314
Olympia, WA 98504-7314
All comments must be received by 5 p.m. Feb. 3, 2014, to be included in the overall DBE goal submission to USDOT.
For more information, email email@example.com or call 888-259-9143.