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Washington State Department of Transportation Disparity Study

Image (C) WSDOT

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is conducting a Disparity Study for its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program to ensure that disadvantaged businesses have equal access to contracting opportunities and that current programs remain legally defensible and administratively successful.

A Disparity Study involves compilation of evidence to determine whether the agency may implement race- and gender-conscious contracting remedies and, if so, how to narrowly tailor its program. The Study will include statistical evidence of the Department’s and its sub-recipients’ utilization of DBEs, the availability of DBEs as a percentage of all firms in the market area and relevant industries, and whether there are disparities, if any, between the availability of DBEs and their utilization on agency contracts and related subcontracts, and throughout the area economy as a whole.

The Study will further examine factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers, etc. It will also gather anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination, and the impact of the current DBE program. Another important component is a review of WSDOT’s current DBE program and recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements.

Following a competitive proposal process, the contract for this Study has been awarded to Colette Holt & Associates, a nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and D/M/WBE programs, in conjunction with local partner Pacific Communications Consultants, Inc.

How can you be involved? The participation of stakeholders and business owners is critical to the Study’s outcomes in two important ways.

First, the Study team will contact businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to WSDOT. Since governments such as WSDOT often only maintain contracting records related to contract compliance reporting, the consultant must rely on prime firms to supplement WSDOT’s contract data. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of DBEs on WSDOT projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the Study will present a complete picture of WSDOT’s contracting activities. Some firms will be contacted to provide such data. CHA will work with the firms to make the process as easy as possible.

Second, interested persons can be part of the process for anecdotal data collection by participating in public meetings, stakeholder sessions or a focus group of business owners to share experiences and insights. It is very important that all firms and stakeholders, such as industry organizations, community groups and chambers of commerce with an interest in WSDOT’s DBE Program and contracting activities participate. The information generated from these sessions will be an important component of the analysis of whether the DBE programs remain narrowly tailored. In the coming months, public meetings, stakeholder sessions and business owner interviews will be held at convenient locations throughout the state. To learn about sessions pertinent to your type of business, please email Colette Holt at