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 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


 What is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise?


Disadvantaged business enterprise or DBE means a for-profit small business concern—
(1) That is at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged or, in the case of a corporation, in which 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals; and
(2) Whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.
(49 CFR 26.5)

 What are the objectives of the U.S. Department of Transportation's DBE regulations?


(a) To ensure nondiscrimination in the award and administration of U.S. Department of Transportation-assisted contracts in the U.S. Department of Transportation's highway, transit, and airport financial assistance programs;
(b) To create a level playing field on which DBEs can compete fairly for U.S. Department of Transportation-assisted contracts;
(c) To ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation's DBE program is narrowly tailored in accordance with applicable law;
(d) To ensure that only firms that fully meet the DBE regulations' eligibility standards are permitted to participate as DBEs;
(e) To help remove barriers to participation of DBEs in U.S. Department of Transportation-assisted contracts;
(f)  To promote the use of DBEs in all types of federally-assisted contracts and procurement activities conducted by recipients;
(g) To assist the development of firms that can compete successfully in the marketplace outside the DBE program; and
(h) To provide appropriate flexibility to recipients of Federal financial assistance in establishing and providing opportunities for DBEs.
 (49 CFR 26.1)

 Who is considered a socially and economically disadvantaged individual?


Socially and economically disadvantaged individual means any individual who is a citizen (or lawfully admitted permanent resident) of the United States and who has been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of his or her identity as a member of groups and without regard to his or her individual qualities. The social disadvantage must stem from circumstances beyond the individual's control.
(1) Any individual who a recipient finds to be a socially and economically disadvantaged individual on a case-by-case basis.
(2) Any individual in the following groups, members of which are rebuttably presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged:
(i)     "Black Americans," which includes persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa;
(ii)    "Hispanic Americans," which includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race;
(iii)   "Native Americans," which includes persons who are enrolled members of a federally or State recognized Indian tribe, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians;
(iv)   "Asian-Pacific Americans," which includes persons whose origins are from Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (Republic of Palau), Republic of the Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Macao, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, or Hong Kong;
(v)   "Subcontinent Asian Americans," which includes persons whose origins are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives Islands, Nepal or Sri Lanka;
(vi)   Women;
(vii)  Any additional groups whose members are designated as socially and economically disadvantaged by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), at such time as the SBA designation becomes effective.
(3) Being born in a particular country does not, standing alone, mean that a person is necessarily a member of one of the groups listed in this definition.
(49 CFR 26.5)

 What are the benefits of being a certified DBE?

  • Prime contractors rely on DBEs to fulfill the DBE subcontracting goals on U.S. Department of Transportation-assisted contracts.
  • DBEs may participate in a variety of supportive services such as training and technical assistance.
  • DBEs are listed in the Ohio Unified DBE Directory.



 How can I apply for DBE certification?


 What is the DBE Certification Process?

  • Step 1 - Application is received.
  • Step 2 - Application is checked for completeness. If incomplete, the applicant is sent a letter requesting the missing information.
  • Step 3 - Once the application is complete an on-site visit is scheduled and conducted at the applicant's principal place of business. During the on-site visit, interviews are conducted with the owners of the firm.
  • Step 4 - All materials submitted by the applicant and the on-site report are reviewed by the certification analyst, who determines if the applicant meets the eligibility standards. The certification analyst also reviews the NAICS codes and descriptors requested and makes a recommendation regarding them: do they describe, as specifically as possible, the principal goods or services which the firm would provide to U.S. Department of Transportation recipients? Do the socially and economically disadvantaged owners have the ability to control the firm with respect to those types of work?
  • Step 5 - The certification analyst reviews the application and makes a decision on the firm's eligibility for certification in the DBE program.
  • Step 6 - If the application is approved, the applicant is notified, in writing, of the certification approval.

The certification approval clearly indicates approval of the firm as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to perform specific types of work. If an applicant is denied certification, a denial letter lists the reasons for the denial and provides information related to the appeal process.




 May I withdraw a DBE certification application?


Yes, you may withdraw a DBE certification application at any time until the issuance of a certification decision. (49 CFR 26.83(m))



 Who can I contact with questions about DBE?


To obtain additional information regarding the Ohio DBE program, contact the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by phone at 614-466-3957 (614-466-2878 for certification-related matters) or by e-mail at Or, if you're in Ohio, contact one of ODOT's Regional Outreach Managers.