WSDOT's Disparity Study Suggests DBE Goals up to 14.9%

AGC takes issue with a report that recommends DBE goals between 8.4% and 14.9% on federally-funded WSDOT projects.

“AGC is supportive of the policies and ideals behind assuring opportunities to minority and women owned contractors” AGC President Butch Brooks (Brooks Construction Management) told members of WSDOT’s Disparity Study Team. “AGC also believes it is absolutely imperative that setting a DBE goal complies with both legal requirements and with practical considerations.”

Brooks responded to WSDOT’s recently-released disparity study which analyzed information about local marketplace conditions for minority-owned and women-owned businesses and the degree to which WSDOT utilizes these businesses. The study included recommendations for the DBE goals that WSDOT sets for projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as required by federal law.

The study determined a base figure by measuring the availability of “potential DBEs” – those that are DBE-certified or appear that they could be DBE-certified. The analysis indicated that the availability of potential DBEs for WSDOT’s FHWA-funded transportation contracts is 8.4% and suggests that this could be the basis for WSDOT’s DBE goal. However the federal DBE program requires that an agency consider a “step-2” adjustment to its base figure as part of determining its overall DBE goal. The study provided a slate of adjustments that WSDOT could consider which could make the goal as high as 14.9%.

AGC’s primary concern about the study and the potential DBE goals that it suggests is that it reaches its conclusions based on the “availability” of DBE firms rather than the capacity and capability of DBE firms.

“There has been no analysis of minority and women contractors’ qualifications other than by subjective survey and self-identification means” said Brooks who is also a member of WSDOT’s DBE Advisory Group in his letter to the study team. “This does not constitute an objective analysis. If properly done AGC believes that the overall DBE goal would be reduced from even the current base level of 8.4%.” Brooks said that at the very least this lack of analysis should prevent any step-2 upward adjustment of the goal beyond the base level.

AGC awaits a response to its concerns from WSDOT.