Gerald Ben-Ami’s company – Big G Tech Support LLC – sets up and services temporary, on-site IT systems used by construction contractors. His work as a subcontractor supported the construction of the Central Corridor light rail project, now operating as the METRO Green Line, as well as other projects.
Opportunities for small companies to work on big projects have grown because of the Metropolitan Council’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program. The Council is recognized as a local and regional leader in administering the DBE program and providing opportunities to small disadvantaged businesses that have historically not been able to participate in Council projects.
“The DBE Program has allowed Big G Tech Support to have access and obtain opportunities it otherwise simply would not have had,” Ben-Ami said. “The DBE program creates a framework, but special emphasis is placed on the work. This is not a handout or entitlement but an opportunity.”
Council expands inclusion opportunities
A counterpart to the DBE program is the Metropolitan Council Underutilized Business Program (MCUB), launched in 2011, The MCUB program provides opportunities for similar companies to serve as subcontractors on projects that use state or local money, and as vendors directly to the Council. In 2017, the Council changed its procurement process to assign more of its contracts an inclusion goal. The goal describes how much of the work should be available to Minnesota businesses that are owned by women, people of color, veterans or people with disabilities.
What is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)?
A DBE is a small, for-profit business that is majority-owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual – typically a woman or person of color. The Council is required by the federal government to have a DBE program because it receives funds from the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The change means the Council can assign inclusion goals to contracts for professional, technical, architecture, and engineering services—in addition to construction contracts.
As of December 2016, the Council had 116 contracts that had either DBE or MCUB subcontracting goals.
Of these contracts, nearly $100 million was paid or committed to DBE and MCUB firms. This means that approximately 14% of the value of these capital contracts were directed to targeted businesses.
Currently approximately 1,000 Minnesota companies are certified as DBEs and over 2,000 qualify as MCUBs.
The Council’s largest capital project to date, the Central Corridor Light Rail project, was a success story for the DBE program. Over 135 DBE firms participated in the design and construction of the rail line, earning a total of $121 million in subcontracts.
How can I get my small business certified?