The Road (That Shouldn’t Be) Less Traveled

“President Obama and the Department of Transportation Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recognize that small businesses are really the central part of this economy and it’s about helping as many as possible get off the ground,” says Brandon Neal, director of the Department of Transportation Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization was granted $20 million to create the ARRA disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) bonding assistance program in an effort to strengthen the number of small businesses doing business with the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Responsible for the safety and functions of the nation’s transportation systems on land, sea, and air, the DOT buys more than $4 billion annually in products and services. They purchase a variety of services including construction, rail safety, automobile and truck safety, research, highway engineering, information technology, finance and program administration. And through the Recovery Act, there is even more opportunity–up to $48 billion has been allocated to invest in America’s transportation infrastructure, thereby creating 400,000 jobs that focus on rebuilding roads, bridges, schools, and updating buses and trains.

The agencies under the DOT are all implementing their own programs and contracting opportunities through use of the Recovery Act funds. They include:

The Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Highway Administration

Federal Railroad Administration

Federal Transit Administration

Maritime Administration

Three ways to heighten your chances at nailing a piece of the Recovery Act funds through the Department of Transportation:

Become a disadvantaged business (in name only). To set yourself up to do business, read The Contender (July 2009) for the basics such registering with the Central Contractor Registration database and working with Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers, which assist minority and women-owned business in marketing to the government. You can register for the disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program, which strives to increase participation by minority business enterprises in state and local procurements. There are three major DOT agencies involved with the DBE program: the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration. You can seek certification as a DBE through your state’s Uniform Certification Program (UCP).

Utilize DOT resources. You can consult the DOT’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for assistance throughout the procurement process. Take with you a one-page capability statement for submission. The OSDBU offers a national information clearinghouse (NIC) where you can receive counseling on how to market the DOT for contracting opportunities and the appropriate points of contact at the federal, state and local levels. Speak with a DOT small business specialists who can help identity procurement opportunities under each DOT agency. For contact information to NIC and the appropriate small business specialists, see Contracting with DOT: A Guide for Small Businesses.

Construct your own Recovery Act. Track down the various procurement opportunities the DOT is offering. Check out the DOT procurement forecast at for information on anticipated procurements of more than $100,000. It is issued the first day of each fiscal year, which is Oct.1. You can search by quarter, industry category, operating administration and key words. The DOT offers a purchase card program, which lists micropurchases up to $3,000. You can go directly to the supplier or service providers for the micropurchase. Of course, there is also subcontracting where you can partner with other companies that have a procurement grant or are going after one worth $550,000 or more.

For more information on doing business with the Department of Transportation, check out the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise.