According to the U.S. Department of Transportation a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) is defined as a for-profit small business where socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own a majority (at least 51%) interest in the company and control the management and day-to-day business operations. 

What constitutes a “socially and economically disadvantaged” individual? Good question.

In the context of DBEs, socially and disadvantaged individuals include:

  • African Americans,
  • Hispanics,
  • Native Americans,
  • Asian-Pacific and Subcontinent Asian Americans,
  • Women,
  • and Veterans.

However, as a business owner, falling into one or more of those categories does not automatically classify your company as a DBE. You must apply to your local state government to become listed as a certified DBE based on a uniform set of criteria provided by the Secretary of Transportation.

Going through the process and filling out the paperwork to get your business DBE certified is worth it. Here's why. 

In 1983, Congress enacted the first Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) statutory provision. From this provision the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a program - The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program - in an effort to combat ongoing discrimination and the continuing effects of past discrimination in federally-assisted highway, transit, airport, and highway safety financial assistance transportation contracting markets nationwide.

The primary remedial goal and objective of the DBE program is to level the playing field by providing small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals a fair opportunity to compete for federally funded transportation contracts. -DOT website

While a DBE certification is not necessary to bid on government work, it opens up the arena to certified small business owners to pursue contracts on federal roads, buses, rails, bridges, at airports, and more. It may also bump you to the top of the consideration list because, per the 1983 provision, at least 10% of the amounts made available for any Federal-aid highway, mass transit, and transportation research and technology program must be expended with certified DBE businesses.

The provision is also driving large non-DBE companies to seek out DBE-certified businesses. These larger, usually public, companies are looking to partner with DBE-certified businesses on government bids in order to meet their own internal mandates to ensure they are dedicating a portion of their budget to working with small, diverse, business owners.

Finding DBE-certified businesses isn’t easy.

Currently, local governments must provide a publicly accessible list of all certified DBE businesses. The format of the list varies from state to state and is often found as a not-easy-to-search pdf buried on a website.

Unfortunately, this often leads to a very small percentage of DBE-certified businesses in each state securing government contracts and makes it harder for new DBE companies to get their foot in the door.

Meet DBESearch.

In 2021, was launched with a mission to combat and overcome the challenge of finding DBE-certified businesses – starting in New England and expanding across the U.S.

The two primary objectives we are hoping to achieve with DBESearch is to:

  1. Make it easier for non-DBE businesses and government agencies to search for and find DBE-certified companies to partner with in their target, geo-location.
  2. Provide DBE-certified companies with a new channel to promote their business and generate revenue.

So, what are you waiting for? Search the online DBE directory and partner with some new companies in your area.

Are you a DBE-certified business and don’t see your company in our directory? Well, what the heck?! Submit your company to the directory here.

Our goal is to make this the easiest way for companies to find and partner with DBE-certified businesses. Your feedback on how to improve the experience is very important to us. Have ideas on how we can make DBESearch better? Email us at


Author: Matt Reed, Founder

Posted: 2/23/2021 2:51:36 PM

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