Women-owned businesses in North Dakota, especially those that provide services or materials for federally-funded transportation projects, should be aware of North Dakota’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Women Owned Business (WOB) programs. The DBE and WOB programs can help women-owned businesses gain an advantage in competing for transportation, aviation, and transit contracts in North Dakota, as well as provide access to additional marketing, networking, and educational resources.
The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program is a federal program that requires a state receiving federal assistance for highway, transit, and aviation projects to ensure the participation of DBEs in these projects. The program seeks to reduce or eliminate discrimination in the award of contracts for federally-assisted projects and to create fair competition in the bidding for these contracts. To achieve this objective, a goal of DBE participation in federally-assisted projects is set every three years for the State of North Dakota. North Dakota must meet its goal for DBE participation or show good-faith efforts to do so if it falls short.
To obtain DBE status in North Dakota, you must obtain certification as a DBE from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Those that qualify for DBE certification are:
(1) for-profit small businesses
(2) in which socially or economically disadvantaged individuals own 51% or more of the company and are in control of the daily management and operations of the business.
To be considered a small business, your business must have average annual gross receipts over the previous three previous years of $23.98 million or less. 49 CFR Part 26.65(b). A “socially and economically disadvantaged individual” is defined as a United States citizen who has been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of his or her identity as a member of groups without regard to his or her individual qualities.” 13 CFR § 124.103. While any individual may be designated socially and economically disadvantaged if she can show she has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias, certain groups are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and women are one of these groups. Id.
After a business is certified as a DBE, it will have priority in contracts for federally-assisted transportation projects. Consequently, DBEs will gain an advantage in competing with larger companies which they otherwise may not be able to compete against solely on price.
Separate from DBE certification, North Dakota also provides for Women-Owned Business certification. To be certified as a WOB, the requirements are similar: your company must be at least 51% owned by women and the control and daily management of the company must be controlled by the women owners. While this program is separate from the DBE program, it still provides benefits such as access to educational opportunities and networking resources for women business owners.
Although these certifications require you to meet certain standards and take the time to complete the certification process, the advantages to your business are worth the time and expense of doing so. In addition to receiving priority in federally-assisted transportation projects, your company will also benefit from the experience and exposure these programs provide, allowing you to continue to grow and expand your business more quickly.
If you have questions about these or other possible programs in North Dakota, contact Steve Welle, an experienced business attorney at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss in Fargo, ND. He can help you navigate the processes. Contact him at 701-235-8000 or 800-235-8002.