Promoting Diversity in the Construction Industry

  • Editorial Team
  • Heavy Construction Equipment
  • 28 September 2023

In the construction industry, promoting diversity and inclusion has become a priority. Today we will look at a few initiatives available to contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers who are women- and minority-owned businesses (MBEs) looking to participate in construction projects. From federal programs to state and local initiatives, we will delve into the opportunities and requirements for MBE participation.

USDOT DBE Initiative

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program, established under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act, is administered by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). This program encompasses agencies like the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration. It is trying to provide opportunities for MBEs in projects funded by the USDOT.

DBE Accreditation

To qualify as a DBE, a for-profit small business must be at least 51% owned by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged. This certification includes Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). Ownership criteria and personal net worth limitations vary across agencies.

Unified Certification Program (UCP)

USDOT mandates that states receiving federal funding establish a Unified Certification Program (UCP) to certify businesses as DBEs. The UCP also maintains an accessible DBE directory for the public.

Different DBE Federal Programs

Beyond USDOT, a lot of federal organizations require prime contractors to submit subcontracting plans that outline MBE utilization on specific contracts, further promoting diversity in procurement.

State DBE Initiatives

States have also taken lots of steps to encourage MBE participation in construction projects. Let’s explore some state-specific programs:


Maryland’s Office of Minority Affairs ensures that state agencies strive for 29% MBE participation on the total dollar amount of all procurement contracts.

North Carolina

The Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses in North Carolina compels local authorities to set targets on state-funded projects, with verifiable goals of 10% for construction projects.


Massachusetts sets combined M/WBE participation goals of 10.4% for construction contracts and 17.9% for design contracts. Local organizations seeking state funding must establish project-specific goals.

New Jersey

While New Jersey lacks specific MBE participation targets, the Division of Minority and Women Company Development, combined with the Department of Treasury, operates a small company set-aside program with a 25% contracting fund allocation to small firms.


Virginia’s Small, Women-Owned, Minority-Owned Businesses Program (SWaM) has a 42% participation target, with separate MBE and WBE goals for some state agencies.


The Florida Office of Supplier Diversity facilitates MBE connections with state agencies through programs like MatchMaker Conferences. Communities like Orlando have MBE targets of 18%, and the City of Tallahassee establishes goals based on service types.

District of Columbia

Although not explicitly MBE-focused, the Department of Small and Local Business Development in the District of Columbia mandates an overall participation goal of 50% for local small businesses, which includes MBEs and WBEs.

Federal, state, and local initiatives offer valuable opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses to participate in projects. Contractors, subcontractors, and equipment suppliers should explore these programs to contribute to a more diverse industry landscape.