Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to frequently asked questions about conducting a disparity study.

Q. What is a DBE?

A DBE is a company certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise under the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. To be certified as a DBE, a company must be socially and economically disadvantaged under the federal regulations for this program.

Q. What is a disparity study?

A disparity study examines whether there are disparities between:

  • The percentage of dollars that minority- and women-owned businesses received on an agency’s prime contracts and subcontracts during a particular time period (referred to as a “utilization analysis”); and
  • The percentage of dollars that those firms might be expected to receive based on their availability to perform on the agency’s prime contracts and subcontracts (referred to as an “availability analysis”).

The comparison between the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses on an agency’s contracts and the availability of those businesses to perform that work is referred to as a "disparity analysis".

In addition to utilization, availability, and disparity analyses, disparity studies examine quantitative and qualitative information about:

  • Marketplace conditions for minority- and women-owned businesses;
  • Contracting practices and business assistance programs that the agency currently has in place; and
  • Potential program measures to consider as part of the agency’s implementation of the Federal DBE Program.

Q. Why is a disparity study needed?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Western States Paving Co., Inc. v. Wash. State Dep’t. of Transp., 407 F.3d 983 (2005) and guidance from USDOT affect how ODOT operates the Federal DBE Program for its USDOT-funded contracts. When considering whether it will set DBE contract goals or have other race- and gender-conscious programs for USDOT-funded contracts, an agency such as ODOT must periodically conduct disparity studies to determine if there is evidence of discrimination affecting its local transportation contracting marketplace. ODOT completed disparity studies in 2007 and 2011.

The 2016 Disparity Study will help ODOT refine and adapt its implementation of the Federal DBE Program to meet legal requirements. The new study will also help ODOT develop new overall DBE triennial goals that must be submitted to FHWA.

Q. Who is conducting the disparity study?

The disparity study was conducted by a team of consultants, led by Keen Independent Research, which has conducted numerous disparity studies nationwide.

Q. How long will the study take?

Approximately 17 months. The study began in November 2014 and was completed by summer 2016. In spring 2016, the study team prepared a draft report for public review and input.

Q. What projects/contracts will be included in the study?

The study included ODOT and local agency transportation engineering, construction and maintenance contracts that were awarded from October 2010 through September 2014.

Q. What will ODOT do with information from the disparity study?

Information collected as a part of the disparity study will help ODOT with its implementation of the Federal DBE Program. Among other information, the disparity study will provide:

  • An independent, objective review of minority- and women-owned business participation in transportation-related prime contracts and subcontracts. That information will be valuable to ODOT leadership and to external groups that may be monitoring ODOT’s contracting practices.
  • Information for setting ODOT’s next overall triennial DBE goal for FHWA-funded contracts.
  • Information to help ODOT improve its implementation of the Federal DBE Program.
  • Insights about how ODOT might reduce barriers to entry and improve opportunities for minority- and women-owned companies and other small businesses to secure ODOT contracts.

Q. How can I participate in the disparity study process?

The public has many opportunities to provide input as part of the study. [Note: Public comment closed for the 2016 DBE Study in April 2016.]

  • ODOT is hosting a series of public meetings to present the draft 2016 Disparity Study report and collect feedback. You can also provide comments online or send feedback via email or mail (Keen Independent Research, 100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor, Denver CO 80206).
  • Over summer 2015 the study team contacted (by phone or via email) businesses in the Oregon transportation construction and architecture/engineering-related industries to collect information about the company and marketplace conditions.
  • ODOT held four public meetings in February 2015 to obtain public input valuable in the early stages of the study. Next, ODOT will hold five public meetings in April 2016 to receive public comments on the draft report. The public meetings will be held throughout the state and include online participation options via this website.
  • An External Stakeholder Group is providing input to the study team.
  • The study team is also conducting in-depth personal interviews with business owners, trade associations and other groups.

Q. Will the study results be made public?

Yes. The draft report was distributed to key groups and posted on this website for public comment. The final report is now available on this webiste.

Q. What is an availability survey?

Through the use of telephone and online surveys, Keen Independent collected information from thousands of companies about the types of work they perform and which regions they can work in to determine whether the companies are “available” to work in Oregon’s transportation contracting industry. Keen Independent also analyzes information about whether companies are minority- or women-owned.

To collect this information, Customer Research International (CRI) conducted telephone surveys with transportation construction, engineering and related businesses in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Businesses also provided information about their firms through an online survey. The telephone and online surveys began in late May 2015 and ended late July 2015.

After the availability surveys were completed, Keen Independent analyzed the number of minority- and women-owned firms and non-minority-owned businesses available for different types of ODOT prime contracts and subcontracts. Keen Independent aggregated these results to develop overall availability figures for minority-owned firms (by group) and for non-minority women-owned firms. The study team used these availability results as benchmarks when evaluating the utilization of minority- and women-owned firms in ODOT contracts. ODOT will also used this information to set overall goals for DBE participation on its federally-funded contracts.

Q. How were firms be selected to participate in an availability survey?

The study team developed a list of businesses to be contacted for availability interviews through a combination of sources:
  • Lists of firms that have identified themselves as being interested in ODOT projects, whether or not they have worked with ODOT in the past; and
  • Lists of firms in relevant subindustries identified in Dun & Bradstreet’s Hoover’s database.

We invited companies not on these lists to also complete an online availability survey. Keen Independent and ODOT prepared an email blast and other communications to reach a large number of trade groups and individuals potentially interested in ODOT work.

Q. Now that the survey is closed, how can I provide information about my company, experiences with ODOT, or the Oregon marketplace?

Contact the study team through the hotline (503-660-8865), the online comment form, directly via email, or letter (Keen Independent Research, 100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor, Denver CO 80206).

Q. What is an in-depth interview?

The study team conducted one- to two-hour in-depth interviews with business owners and managers as well as trade association representatives and other interviews. In these interviews, we discussed experiences in the Oregon marketplace and asked for feedback concerning the effectiveness of ODOT’s and others’ programs to assist minority- and women-owned businesses and other small businesses. A Keen Independent study team member met with businesses to conduct these in-person interviews. Keen Independent summarized the information from the in-depth interviews in the final disparity study report. We did not identify names of interviewees or attribute specific comments to a specific person or company.

Q. How will firms be selected to participate in an in-depth interview?

Some of the firms who participated in these in-depth interviews were randomly selected from those completing availability surveys. Keen Independent also identified other types of firms from lists of firms receiving or competing for ODOT contracts or that have been certified as DBEs or M/W/ESBs.
The Keen Independent study team also interviewed trade associations and membership groups related to transportation construction and engineering and minority- and women-owned businesses.