Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program


The Office of Business Development (OBD) is responsible for administering the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's (RTA) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program. The program is governed by the Code of Federal Regulation 49 CFR Part 26, and is designed to help ensure DBE firms have a level playing field and equal opportunity to receive and participate in federally assisted contract opportunities. RTA's DBE Program Plan outlines how RTA will implement its DBE program in compliance with the federal regulations.

In accordance with 49 CFR Part 26, OBD promotes and encourages the inclusion of small, women and minority owned businesses in RTA contracts. OBD's primary mission is to engage, support, and assist the local small and disadvantaged business community, and help ensure fair and representative participation of DBEs in procurement opportunities at RTA and within the community at-large.

A DBE Program policy statement has been signed by the General Manager and CEO expressing RTA’s commitment to the DBE program, stating the program objectives, outlining responsibility for implementation, and noting how the policy statement has been and/or will be routinely circulated internally and externally to the DBE and non-DBE business communities.

RTA does not use quotas, which are prohibited by federal regulations, in the administration of its DBE program, and will use set-asides only as permitted by 49 CFR Part 26 as related to small business participation. RTA is required by federal regulations to establish a three-year Overall DBE participations goal, and set contract-specific goals to achive the Overall DBE goal.

RTA sets its Overall DBE participation goal in accordance with the steps provided in 49 CFR Part 26 Sections 26.45(2)(b-e), and is required to meet the maximum feasible portion of its Overall DBE goal using race neutral means of facilitating DBE participation. Such means may include those set-forth by example in 49 CFR Part 26 Section 26.51(b 1-9), as well as other means as may be determined by RTA.

RTA uses contract specific DBE goals to meet the portion of its Overall DBE goal not projected to be met through the use of race-neutral means, and can only establish goals on contracts that have subcontracting opportunities. RTA need not establish a DBE goal on every contract, and goals are adapted to reflect the circumstances of each contract (e.g., type and location of work, availability of DBEs to perform the work, and projected subcontract dollar amount or percentage of work available to DBEs).

The current Overall DBE participation goal is 21.5% on federally assisted contracts, pending the concurrence of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Program eligiblity

The DBE Program was established for companies owned and controlled by persons that are considered socially and economically disadvantaged. Under federal regulation 49 CFR Part 26, the following groups are presumed socially and economically disadvantaged. A company that among other things is 51 percent or more owned (individually or in any combination) by persons from such groups may be eligible for certification as a Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE).

  • Women
  • Black Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Asian-Pacific Americans
  • Subcontinent Asian-Pacific Americans

Persons who are not members of one of the above groups and own and control their business may also be eligible, provided they can establish their "social" and "economic" disadvantage. A determination of whether an individual meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis Appendix E to 49 CFR Part 26.

Burden of Proof - Applicants carry the responsibility to prove their eligibility, and must demonstrate that they meet all requirements concerning group membership or individual disadvantage, business size, ownership and control.

Business Size – An applicant company (including its affiliates) must demonstrate it is a “small business,” as defined by Small Business Administration standards. In general, companies cannot have annual gross receipts of more than $30.40 million in the previous three fiscal years (or $56.42 million for airport concessionaires, with some exceptions).

Personal Net Worth - The personal net worth of an applicant company’s owner(s) cannot exceed $1.32 million. A person’s ownership interest in the applicant company and equity interest in their primary residence are excluded from the net worth calculation.

Control - A disadvantaged owner seeking certification must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the firm. The owner must also demonstrate an overall understanding, and managerial and technical competence and experience, directly related to the type of business in which the firm is engaged.

Independence - The business must not be tied to another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control.

Specific RTA responsibilities:

RTA's Office of Business Development is responsible for these specific areas. Each area affects your work as a DBE.

  • Certification
  • Contract Compliance and Monitoring
  • Goal Setting
  • Outreach


The Office of Business Development (OBD) is responsible to certify the eligibility of businesses to participate in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program. Companies are required to complete an application and provide certain supporting documentation, including, but not limited to, the following information:

  • business and personal tax returns for the three most recent years,
  • company financial statements and business structure/ownership information, and
  • biographical information on the business owners.

Below is a link to Uniform Certification Application that firms interested in becoming DBE certified must complete. The applications are submitted to ODOT, and most applications for companies located in Northeast Ohio are forwarded to RTA for processing. To be certified as a DBE, a company must meet all certification eligibility standards in 49 CFR Part 26.

How to Apply for DBE Certification

Businesses interested in DBE becoming certified should apply via the OUCP’s online system at the Ohio UCP Website. There you will find the required documentation that must be submitted and you will be directed you through the process. For businesses located in the State of Ohio, the system will also direct you to the certifying agency that will be responsible for reviewing your application, based primarily on the location of your principal place of business.

Use of the OUCP online system facilitates the application process and is strongly encouraged. Paper submissions must include the DBE Certification Application, a Personal Net Worth (PNW) Statement and all the support documentation described in the application. The first page of the application includes guidance to help firms determine if they should apply.

After all required information is submitted, the certifying agency to which the company is assigned will conduct a review of the information, perform an on-site interview and issue a certification determination. The review process generally takes approximately 90 days once an application is deemed complete. If supporting documentation, signatures, or notarizations are missing, or if additional information is needed, the application is considered to be incomplete.

In-State (Ohio) Application Process

Annual No Changes Declaration

Interstate Application Process

The purpose of the Interstate certification policy is to facilitate certification for firms currently certified in other states. Please note that before seeking certification in Ohio, firms must be certified in their home state.

Interstate applicants must provide a complete copy of their original application form (submitted to their home state) including all supporting documentation and any correspondence submitted to the home state and other states regarding their DBE certification.

DBE Directory

Businesses granted DBE certification will be listed in the Ohio Unified Certification Program Directory.

Manage Your Certification

It is the DBE’s responsibility to notify its certification agency within 30 days of any change that can impact a firm’s certification. DBEs must also annually affirm that there have been no changes other than any changes previously reported.

DBEs should process the following certification management actions through the OUCP online system.

Report changes required under 49 CFR §26.83(i) within 30 days of the occurrence of the change,

  • changes in firm circumstances affecting its eligibility, or material changes in the information provided in the firm's application form;
  • Submission of Annual No Changes Declaration and supporting documents every year on the anniversary of the date of your certification;
  • Work code change/expansion requests;
  • Notification of address, phone, or other contact information changes; and
  • Withdrawal of certification

Failure to notify your certifying agency of changes or submit an Annual No Changes Declaration within required time frames is deemed a failure to cooperate and is a ground for removal of a firm’s certification.


The Office of Business Development (OBD) is committed to ensuring DBE participation on contracts meets the amount contractually agreed. OBD ensures that DBE contract requirements are communicated to all necessary parties, and properly included in the contract documents, and that DBE contract terms and conditions are met. 

OBD compliance and monitoring activities may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Participate in pre-bid and pre-award meetings to ensure DBE contract requirements are communicated, and prime contractors have an understanding of their responsibilities and obligations.
  • Approve DBE utilization plans proposed by prime contractors.
  • Ensure prompt payment is made to DBE subcontractors.
  • Review and confirm DBE participation and goal attainment on contracts.
  • Works with prime contractors and subcontractors to promptly resolve concerns where DBE participation and compliance concerns exist.
  • Review certified payroll and manpower utilization reports to ensure women and minority workers are utilized on construction projects and compliance with applicable regulations and laws, regarding Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).


RTA is required by federal regulations to establish an Overall DBE goal and contract specific goals. A detailed description of the Goal Setting Process is contained in Section 26.45 of the DBE Program Plan. Below is a brief explanation of the process.

Overall DBE participation calculation

  • In establishing the overall DBE participation goal, RTA considers the availability of ready, willing and able DBE firms to perform the work required on upcoming contracts, as compared to the overall availability of firms to perform such work.
  • Staff seeks input from  DBE advisory committee, community organizations and other interested parties that have information and data concerning the avalibility of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged businesses.
  • The Overall DBE participation goal is calculated using a methodology approved by the FTA.
  • The proposed goal is submitted to RTA Board of Trustees for consideration and approval. Once approved by the Board, the general public is informed of the proposed goal through a notice published in a newspaper of general circulation
  • The proposed goal and its rationale are available for public inspection and comment at RTA during normal business hours for a period of 30 days after the notice appears.

Contract-specific DBE participation determination

OBD reviews contract specifications to determine whether subcontracting opportunities exist, and whether there are certified DBE firms that potentially could perform some portion of the contract work.

  1. Where there are subcontracting opportunities on a project and certified DBE firms are found to exist, OBD generally will establish a DBE participation goal on the contract.
  2. Bidders are required to make a good faith effort to achieve the DBE participation goal established for a contract through the utilization of one or more certified DBE firms. The DBE firms used must be certified at the time the contract is awarded.
  3. Bidders are required to provide specific documentation reagrding the nature and dollar amount of participation for each proposed DBE firm.
  4. Where a bidder finds it is unable to achieve the DBE participation goal established for a contract, it is required to provide documentation showing the “good faith efforts” it made to achieve the goal. See DBE Program Plan Section 26.53.
  5. In general, bidders are required to provide the following documentation to support its good faith efforts:
  • DBE firms contacted, including name, telephone number and email address for the person(s) contacted and date contacted.
  • Nature and dollar amount of the work each DBE firm was solicited to perform.
  • DBE firm's response to solicitation.
  • Reasons any ready, willing and able DBE firms contacted were not used.
  1. Types of factors considered in determining “good faith efforts” include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Did the bidder solicit DBE firms through sufficient responsible and available means with sufficient lead time to ensure a reasonable number of DBE firms might respond before the deadline to submit the bid?
  • Did the bidder solicit DBE firms for all portions of the work to be performed, where both subcontracting opportunities existed and DBE firms were available.
  • Did the bidder provide DBE firms adequate information about plans, specifications, and requirements of the contract to allow the DBE firms to adequately respond in a timely manner?
  • Did the bidder negotiate in good faith with interested DBE firms and have sound reasons for rejecting the participation of any potential DBE firms?
  1. In situations where a bidder is unable to adequately demonstrate its good faith efforts to achieve the DBE participation goal established for a contract, the contract generally is awarded to next lowest, responsible and responsive bidder.


OBD works to identify and certify DBE firms, encourage strong relationships between RTA and DBE firms, and assist DBE firms concerning RTA’s procurement policies, procedures and contracting opportunities. OBD further engages, supports, and assists the community of small, women and minority-owned business and the contractor/bidders community, through outreach activities, technical assistance, and serving as a liaison between RTA, DBE firms, prime contractors, and others including public officials.


Fostering Small Business Participation

The Authority is committed to developing relationships and increasing business participation with small business concerns in a fiscally responsible manner. In compliance with 49 CFR Part 26.39, the Authority established its Small Business Participation Plan to facilitate competition by small business concerns effective October 2012.

The Authority will take all reasonable steps to eliminate obstacles that may preclude small business participation in procurements as Prime Contractors or subcontractors. For purposes of the Plan, a small business concern is as defined in Section 3 of the Small Business Act and Small Business Administration regulations implementing it (13 CFR Part 121) that also does not exceed the cap on average annual gross receipts specific in 49 CFR Part 26.65.

  1. Program Standards
    The Authority will have as a non-binding administrative target to award in the range of 5%-10% of total annual addressable spend to contractors and subcontractors that are small business concerns, as defined by the size standards contained in 13 CFR Part 121.  Addressable spend excludes such items as transit motor vehicles, real estate, proprietary contracts, and/or procurements where it has been demonstrated small business concerns are not represented in local markets. The Authority will verify the size standards of companies through a self-reporting a mechanism for companies reported to have been award contracts as small business concerns.
  2.  Program Administration
    The Director of Office of Business Development shall have responsibility for administering the Plan, with the support of the Director of Procurement. These duties include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
  • Develop and maintain bidder's lists of small businesses;
  • Educate small business participants regarding procurement policies and procedures.
  • Ensure Procurements and solicitations are designed to permit and encourage participation of small business concerns;
  • Maintain a database of small business concerns to ensure such firms are included on the source lists for solicitations and are able to compete for contracts for products, commodities, and services for which they are capable of providing. Maintain record of award of contract and subcontracts to small business concerns, monitor performance and conduct an annual review to assess small business participation in purchases and contracts, and make any adjustments needed to achieve the Plan goals;
  • Develop and promote policy and program initiatives that demonstrate support for awarding contract and subcontracts to small business concerns to include providing copies of Invitations For Bids, Requests for Proposals and Request for Quotations to organizations and associations such as the SBA, Council on Smaller Enterprises (COSE), Urban League, Women and Veteran Business Associations, etc. for dissemination to their members and constituents.
  1. Strategies to Support Small Business Participation
  • The Authority will encourage the use of small business concerns by designing solicitations and procurements to allow and encourage the participation of Small Business Concerns both as prime contractors and subcontractors;
  • On prime contracts not having DBE contract goals, the Authority will require the Prime Contractor to provide subcontracting opportunities of a size that small businesses, including DBEs, can reasonably perform, rather than self-performing all the work involved.
  • All contractors (except small business concerns including DBEs) that receive contracts will be responsible to demonstrate reasonable efforts to include small business concerns as subcontractors.
  • The Authority will consider race-neutral small business set asides for prime contracts on a case-by case basis, where staff has affirmatively determined there is a reasonable expectation of receiving at least two offers from small business concerns, and the award will be a fair and competitive price.
  • The Authority will make every effort to ensure that purchases for products and service continue to be acquired using small business concerns once a product or service has been acquired successfully from a small business.
  • The Authority sponsors and supports outreach activities to identify and engage small business concerns through sources, outlets, and venues to include Business Opportunity Workshops, Business Seminars, Trade Fairs, and Procurement Conference.
  • The Authority provides information, networking opportunities, and technical assistance to small business concerns to ensure they are aware of procurement  opportunities and know how to prepare responsive bids as prime/subcontractors;
  • The Authority established a Small Business Participation Advisory Council to help implement the Small Business Participation Plan. The purpose of the Council is to improve the Authority’s spending outcomes with small business concerns that is not a function of social or economic disadvantage. The Council reviews program performance and make recommendations on ways to reach, engage, and inform to small businesses of contract and business opportunities.
  • The Council is comprised of 5-7 external members to include owner/senior management executives from at least two (2) local small business firms, and representatives from organizations such as the Council on Smaller Enterprises, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Small Business Administration, etc. The General Manager and/or Deputy General Manager for Finance and Administration, Director of Procurement, and Director of the Office of Business Development also will serve on the Council, which will meet annually.


Q. What is a DBE?

The Federal government defines a DBE as a small business that must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more “socially and economically disadvantaged” individuals. The management and daily operations of the business must also be conducted by such individuals. Federal regulations presume that the following groups are “socially and economically disadvantaged”: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Portuguese Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Asian-Indian Americans, women, and any other individuals found to be socially and economically disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Q. What is a DBE goal?

It is the estimate of an overall opportunity that exists for DBE participation on contracts. The goal is calculated according to a method approved by FTA and submitted every 3 years for review and approval.

Q. Does my firm have to be certified as a DBE to do business with the RTA?

No. Any business, no matter who owns it, may compete for any RTA contract, either as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor, whether or not they are certified as a DBE. However, if your firm is seeking to perform work on a contract as a DBE, you must first obtain DBE certification.

Q. How does DBE certification help my firm get RTA business?

The Office of Business Development (OBD) reviews contracts to determine whether they present opportunities for DBEs. Based on federal guidelines, the OBD may set goals for the participation of DBEs on a contract, help the prime contractor find qualified DBE subcontractors, and monitor the performance of the prime contractor to ensure that it is using good faith efforts to meet participation goals.

When a contract is ready to bid, OBD identifies available qualified DBE firms and makes available a list of eligible DBE firms seeking bids.

Q. In what other ways does DBE certification help my firm?

When OBD establishes a goal for DBE participation, prime contractors will seek to identify qualified DBE firms to meet contract goals. In general, those contractors will look for firms that have already been certified as DBEs.

Being a certified DBE may also open the door to opportunities for growing your business, by making it easier for you to market to RTA agencies and other governmental entities. You will also gain the advantage of having your business listed in the UCP Directory of Certified DBE Firms. Prime contractors use the directory to identify DBEs for participation in their contracts.

Q. What are the first steps for a firm interested in becoming certified as a DBE?

First, you will need to complete a UCP Certification Application. Then OBD will conduct a certification review pursuant to federal regulations.

Q. How long will it take for my firm to be certified?

The certification process may take up to 90 days.

Q. When is a bidder required to make "good faith efforts"? How are "good faith efforts" evaluated in the bidding process?

A bidder is required to make "good faith efforts" when the firm determines that it can't meet the stated DBE goal. Types of actions considered as part of a bidder's "good faith efforts" include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adequate solicitation of DBE subcontractors through all reasonable and available means, with sufficient time for subcontractors to respond.
  • Selecting portions of the work to be performed in order to increase the likelihood that the goals will be achieved.
  • Providing interested potential subcontractors with adequate information about the plans, specifications and requirements of the contract in a timely manner.
  • Not rejecting potential subcontractors as unqualified without sound reasons based on a thorough investigation of their capabilities.

Q. What is the Unified Certification Program (UCP)?

The UCP provides one-stop shopping for DBE firms. One unified directory, including all certified DBE firms, is available for the entire State. The advantages for the DBE firms are: one certification will enable them to be eligible to fulfill DBE goals set on any project with any governmental agency receiving Federal Transportation funding in Ohio; and the DBE firms will also have more visibility due to the unified statewide directory.

Q. How do I bid on contracts less than $25,000?

In order to bid on small purchase contracts, prospective bidders should be on the procurement bidders list. The solicitation process for small purchases is the following:

  • Small purchases not exceeding $2,000 may be accomplished without quotations from vendors. DBE vendors shall be afforded maximum opportunity practical to participate.
  • For purchases that have a total value between $2,000 and $5,000, a minimum of three (3) verbal quotations are required to be requested. Of these quotations, one is to be the previous supplier and efforts are to be made to include DBE vendors.
  • Purchases with an estimated value between $5,000.01 and $25,000 shall require written quotation from a minimum of three (3) vendors and efforts shall be made to include DBE vendors.

Q. How does RTA monitor and enforce Prevailing Wages on construction contracts?

The Davis-Bacon Act and the State of Ohio Revised Code, Title XLI Labor and Industry, Chapter 4115 Wage and Hours on Public Works govern RTA. RTA is required to comply with all prevailing wage and hours regulation. Prevailing wages are monitored through the submission of certified payrolls by the contractor to RTA.

Q. How does RTA apply Affirmative Action to contracts?

All bidders are required to complete and submit Equal Employment and Affirmative Action paperwork at the time of bid. OBD reviews all EEO/AA information submitted by bidders. After a contract is awarded, all contractors are required to submit EEO reports every six months for the duration of the contract.

Q. How is DBE participation monitored?

At the time of bid, bidders are required to submit all DBE participation forms provided in the solicitation package. After contract award, OBD conducts desk audits of all contracts and requires all contractors to submit vendor payment forms to ensure payment is made to all DBE’s for work completed.



City of Clevelandhttps://www.clevelandohio.gov/
Cleveland Metropolitan School Districthttps://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/
Cuyahoga Countyhttp://www.cuyahogacounty.us/
Cleveland - Cuyahoga County Port Authorityhttp://wwww.portofcleveland.com/
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)http://www.fta.dot.gov/
North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)https://www.census.gov/naics/
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) - the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Counties of Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medinahttp://www.noaca.org/
Office of Small and Disadvangage Business Utilization (OSDBU) Technical Assistance Brochurehttps://www.transportation.gov/civil-rights/osdbu-technical-assistance-brochure
Ohio Department of Transportationhttp://www.dot.state.oh.us/
State of Ohiohttp://www.ohio.gov/
U.S. Small Business Administrationhttp://www.sba.gov/
U.S. Department of Laborhttp://www.dol.gov/
U.S. Department of Transportationhttp://www.dot.gov/


Program Informationhttp://www.dot.state.oh.us/DBE/pages/Program-Information.aspx
DBE Certificationhttps://www.transportation.ohio.gov/programs/business-economic-opportunity/dbe/dbe-certification
Davis-Bacon Wage Determinationshttps://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/government-contracts/construction/faq/conformance
List of Certified DBE Companieshttps://odotextrpt.dot.state.oh.us/ViewReport.aspx?reportPath=%2fprd%2fpreconstruction%2fpublic%2fextawp_dbe_directoryreport
SCORE - Service Corps of Retired Executiveshttp://www.score.org/
Surety Information Office - The Information Source on Surety Bonds in Constructionhttp://www.sio.org/


Black Pages Ohiohttp://blackpagesohio.com
City of Clevelandhttps://www.clevelandohio.gov
Cleveland Hopkins Airporthttp://www.clevelandairport.com
Cuyahoga County Office of Procurementhttp://opd.cuyahogacounty.us
Greater Cleveland Partnershiphttp:/greatercle.com
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NEOHCC)http://www.ushcc.com
NAACP Clevelandhttp://clevelandnaacp.org
North East Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD)http://www.neorsd.org
Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensationhttp://info.bwc.ohio.gov
Ohio Minority Supplier Development Councilhttps://ohiomsdc.org/
Urban League of Greater Cleveland - Ohio Minority Business Assistant Centerhttp://www.ulcleveland.org
Urban League of Greater Cleveland - Ohio Small Business Development Centerhttp://www.ulcleveland.org
U.S. Small Business Administrationhttp://www.sba.gov
Women's Business Center of Northern Ohiohttp://www.wbcohio.org


DBE Goal for FFYs 2022-2024

In accordance with Section 49 Part 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations, RTA's proposed DBE participation goal for Federal Fiscal Years 2022-2024 is set at 21.5%, pending FTA concurrence. The breakout between the portions of the goal that will be met by race neutral and race conscious means are 3.2% and 18.3%, respectively.

The 2022-2024 Federal Fiscal Year period run from October 1, 2021 - September 30, 2024.

Office of Business Development

  • Carl Kirkland
  • Danielle Bennett
    Business Development Specialist I
    Administration and Support
  • Diana Jones
    Business Development Specialist II
    Certification, Outreach, and Small Business Program
  • Brandon Agnew
    Business Development Specialist II
    Contract Compliance