DBE designation can add up for businesses
First American Capital Corporation, Inc. (FACC) clients — especially those in the construction or transportation industries, as well as professional services, — have an opportunity to win government contract work by becoming a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).
Started in 1982, through an act of Congress, the government set a national goal of placing at least 10% of federal highway and transit funds with those who qualify as a disadvantaged business owner. In 2021, Native American DBEs earned more than $20 million from DOT contracts in Wisconsin, which was the second highest total behind woman-owned businesses.
“Some industries, such as construction and transportation, thrive as DBEs. Before going through the DBE certification, you need to confirm it’s something your business will benefit from,” said FACC Co-Executive Director Gary Mejchar. “There are also some niche areas for landscapers and concrete specialists. It all depends on the project.”
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) offers training to help small business owners earn their DBE. For more information on WisDOT DBE Support Services, please click here. Note that the WisDOT Mobilization Loan Guaranty Program information is also located at this link, which the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and FACC help to administer. The WisDOT Mobilization Loan Guaranty Program will be covered in depth in a future FACC newsletter.
Mejchar said FACC provides coaching to customers on how to fill out the various DBE application forms and guides them through the process. “If one answer isn’t quite what it should be, that can delay the certification, which is why we try to help the DBEs as much as we can,” he said.
Norman Kitchenakow, the owner of NJK Trucking, LLC, worked with FACC to become DBE certified. That — along with financing from FACC to purchase another truck — set him up for success in landing government contracts.
"The first application is a pretty long process," Kitchenakow said in an interview earlier this year with the Tribal Business News. "The reason why it is so difficult to get your DBE is a deterrent: People that aren't serious about it aren't going to apply for it. They're not going to go through the whole process."
When thinking about becoming DBE certified, Aina Vilumsons, chief executive officer for the Wisconsin Procurement Institute (WPI), said owners should research the market opportunity for their business, evaluate whether the business has the capabilities and capacity for the jobs, look at the value and qualification for a DBE and, once accepted, understand the requirements and obligations.
“You need to connect to the opportunities available whether it’s a direct bid or as a subcontractor to prime contractor, adding large contractors, such an Oshkosh Corp. and Boeing, must include small business subcontractors,” Vilumsons said.
In Wisconsin, DBE certifications are processed by the Wisconsin DOT, Milwaukee County, Dane County and the City of Madison, Vilumsons said. Once the certification is received, the business is listed in the DBE directory, which provides them with visibility to large contractors and larger projects.
“At the WPI, we assist businesses in evaluating the market, understanding the requirements and obligations, locating opportunities, bidding on the requirement and post award assisting in managing the contract,” she said.
On average, the Wisconsin DOT invests over $1 billion annually in federal and state dollars for highway, airport and transit projects. The administration and implementation of the DBE Program is done so consistent with the code of federal regulations (CFR), specifically 49 CFR Part 26. For more information, click here.
Mejchar said qualifying DBEs s can expect more work coming their way. “Planning work is still in process for the use of the funds set aside by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
That will have a big impact on certified DBE firms since there will be a significant increase of federally funded Wisconsin projects being let soon,” he said.