Office of Equal Opportunity - Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise FAQs

Q. What are the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantage Business Enterprise Programs?

A. Maryland enacted the State MBE Program in 1978, which was the same year the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program was enacted. Federal and state regulations were developed to provide additional detail. Your business must apply for certification with Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) and provide evidence of ownership and control by minority person(s) as part of the DBE and MBE certification process.

Q. What are the differences between the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE)?

A. MBE and DBE firms are businesses that are at least 5l% owned and controlled by one or more minority persons. A minority is defined as someone who is African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Native American, a woman or a disabled person.   

The federal DBE program also includes Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders, Aleuts and persons who are not minorities but who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Socially and economically disadvantaged owners must demonstrate longstanding, chronic and substantial disadvantage to qualify.

For information about MBE/DBE certification, contact OMBE at 410-865-1269 or visit the Minority Disadvantaged Business Enterprise webpage under the MBE tab found at

Q. What is the VSBE Program?   

A. Maryland’s Veteran-Owned Small Business Enterprise (VSBE) Program provides contracting opportunities on state-funded procurements for qualified veteran-owned small businesses.

Designated agencies and departments are directed to spend at least 1% of the dollar value of their procurement contracts with certified VSBE firms.   

Only the work of a certified VSBE firm, performing as either a prime contractor or a subcontractor, can be counted toward an established VSBE contract goal. There is no cost to obtain certification. Once certified, firms must renew annually.

The number of certified vendors in the VSBE Program, and the diversity of products and services they provide, makes a big impact on how VSBE goals are set on a contract. Increasing the VSBE vendor pool will ultimately lead to increased VSBE goals on state-funded contracts.   

For a list of veteran-owned businesses, go to

Q. Are VSBE Goals sub-goals of the MBE Goal?

A. No. VSBE Goals are separate from MBE Goals. The VSBE Program is different from the MBE Program.

Q. What are the differences between SBR and SBE?

The Small Business Reserve (SBR) Program provides small businesses the opportunity to participate as prime contractors on state contracts by establishing a unique marketplace where small businesses compete against other small businesses instead of larger, more established companies. Only state-funded contracts may be designated as SBR.

Simar to the SBR Program, the Small Business Enterprise Program provides small businesses the opportunity to participate as prime contracts on federally funded contracts, reviewing some contracts to determine the feasibility of designating the contract SBE.  If you are currently an MDOT certified DBE, you are automatically certified as an SBE. 

Q. How does MDOT determine which businesses can participate in the MBE Program?

A. MDOT has a comprehensive certification process to determine the ownership and control of firms that apply for DBE and MBE certification. There are many eligibility criteria for certification. In assessing ownership, investments by the minority owner are important. Control includes both managerial and operational control, with technical knowledge of the firms' major work areas being an important component for assessing operational control.

Applications are carefully reviewed, and personal interviews are conducted by trained MBE agents. Skilled construction personnel assist, providing technical information when needed. Before becoming certified, you must appear before the MBE Advisory Committee (MBEAC) to discuss your business and respond to committee questions. The MBEAC conducts public meetings, and you can observe them before you appear before the committee. The committee makes recommendations to the MBEAC chairperson, who makes the certification decision. The certification process assures that only bona fide MBEs participate in the program.

For information about MBE/DBE certification, contact OMBE at 410-865-1269 or visit the Minority Disadvantaged Business Enterprise webpage.

Q. Why does MDOT require a personal net worth statement?

A. The Maryland State legislature enacted a Personal Net Worth (PNW) eligibility requirement to qualify as a certified MBE under the state's program. A PNW requirement is also in effect for United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) assisted contracts included under the DBE Program. Effective January 1, 2021, the Personal Net Worth cap applied to the state's MBE program increased from $1,771,564 to $1,788,677.   

The requirements for the state and federal programs are different. For USDOT-assisted contracts, the PNW of each socially and economically disadvantaged individual who owns and controls the firm, as a part of the 51% ownership, must not exceed $1,320,000. When an individual PNW exceeds the $1,320,000 threshold, that person is no longer eligible to participate in the DBE program. PNW excludes the value of the MBE and DBE business and the primary residence of the MBE and DBE owner(s).   

For information about MBE/DBE certification, contact OMBE at 410-865-1269 or visit the Minority Disadvantaged Business Enterprise webpage.

Q. Do firms graduate from the MBE Program?

A. Yes. If a certified MBE has a three-year annual average of gross receipts (or for retail and manufacturing businesses number of employees) that meets or exceeds the revenue (or employee) totals specified by USDOT, the firm is no longer eligible to participate in the MBE program.   

For information about MBE/DBE certification, contact OMBE at 410-865-1269 or visit the Minority Disadvantaged Business Enterprise webpage.

Q. What are the advantages of becoming certified as a DBE and/or MBE?

A. Certification as a DBE and/or an MBE provides greater exposure to work opportunities on state projects. All certified DBEs and MBEs appear in the MDOT Directory of Certified Firms, an online reference manual widely disseminated to each MDOT administration, other state departments, local governments, contractors and the public.   

Contractors use this MDOT Directory as a basic resource for soliciting disadvantaged or minority participation on projects. If a firm is not certified at the time of bid or proposal submission, a contractor cannot receive credit toward achievement of the DBE or MBE participation goal by using that firm.

Q. Will this certification allow me to bid as a DBE or MBE on other State contracts?

A. Yes. MDOT administers the State of Maryland’s DBE and MBE certification program. Once you are certified through MDOT, you may participate as a DBE or MBE prime or subcontractor on ANY state contract, regardless of the agency (any business may bid directly on any bid or proposal without regard to certification).

Q. How does MDOT establish the goals for disadvantaged and minority business enterprise participation?

A. MDOT staff make every attempt to establish feasible DBE and MBE goals. Contract goals are based upon the dollar value of the project, the availability of DBEs or MBEs to perform the work that is subcontracted and the availability of MDOT certified DBEs and MBEs in the location where the work will be done. While goals are set on a contract-by-contract basis, the total of MBE participation in each administration is combined to one report for the MDOT MBE participation year. MDOT SHA’s total DBE participation is individually submitted to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) biannually and annually.    

Q. What types of work are available?

A. Opportunities to participate in construction work, construction-related, architectural and engineering (A/E), Information Technology (IT), concessions (at MDOT Maryland Aviation Administration only) and the procurement of goods and services are varied. DBE and MBE participation is required on all projects with DBE or MBE goals.

Although many contracts with DBEs and MBEs are for sub-contract work in construction and A/E fields, certified DBEs and MBEs have leased concessions, provided consultant services in technical fields and been awarded projects as prime contractors.

Q. Once certified, am I assured of getting contracts and subcontracts?

A. No. Certification does not guarantee work to a DBE or an MBE. However, it does enhance a DBEs’ and MBEs’ exposure to prime contractors and the business community. To be successful, your DBE and MBE firm must market itself, its personnel and its services, as all businesses should.

Q. What is expected of the DBE and MBE once a contract is awarded?

A. All firms must meet performance standards in contract specifications. This relates to the quality of work done, the submission of reports, and written information in a timely manner and the firm's compliance with regulations and laws. Once your DBE or MBE firm is awarded a sub-contract, you are responsible for submitting verification of all payments received to the contracting agency. This includes submitting the amount and dates payments were received.

Q. Does the general contractor have any responsibility in the DBE and MBE Program?

A. Yes. The general contractor must first meet the DBE or MBE goals established on the contract by seeking and utilizing certified DBEs or MBEs. Once work begins, the general contractor is responsible for all project activities including those of subcontractors.

Regular monitoring assures that contractual items are performed in accordance with specifications. If you are the general contractor, you must submit monthly reports, such as payroll, cost and time estimation, progress, and compliance monthly payment verification reports. When revisions are needed, you must get approval from the agency project manager. Any changes in the DBE and MBE participation must be approved prior to counting the dollars paid to the DBE or MBE toward the respective goal achievement.

Q. How does MDOT assure that "fronts" or "sham" organizations do not benefit from the DBE and MBE Programs?

A. MDOT applies the DBE and MBE certification process to determine if a firm is minority owned and controlled. To qualify as an DBE and MBE, you must demonstrate that you are a minority person and provide documentation establishing at least 51 percent ownership of the company.

Once the ownership of a firm is established, you must demonstrate the technical knowledge and experience to make independent business operating and management decisions.

Annual reviews of all certified firms are made to determine if the ownership and control of the DBE and or MBE have changed. Consideration is given to reports filed by the administrations, which describe how the DBEs and MBEs have managed and performed on projects. Effective contract compliance monitoring procedures also facilitate the identification of "front" or "sham" MBE firms.

Q. How can I report suspected abuse of the DBE or MBE Programs?

A. Suspected abuse is taken seriously. Report abuse on the MBE Hotline: 1-800-544-6056 (you can also report to MDOT MBE personnel). This phone number is available 24 hours a day. With your help, the integrity and fairness of the program will be maintained for all qualified participants.

Q. What happens to DBEs and MBEs and general contractors who have abused the MBE Program?

A. Progressive administrative sanctions can be applied when contractors (D/MBEs and non-D/MBEs) abuse the DBE and MBE Programs. These sanctions include:

  • Suspension of work.
  • Withholding a percentage of progress payment.
  • Default of the contract.
  • Referral to the Office of the Attorney General for criminal investigation.
  • Suspension of the right of the contractor to participate in future state contracts (debarment).
  • Other appropriate administrative actions within the discretion of the Administrator.

Q. Where can I find information on upcoming contract opportunities?

A. All construction, maintenance and services projects exceeding $25,000 are advertised as follows:

Plans and Specifications can be accessed for any of our Invitations for Bids (IFBs), addenda, plans for non-maintenance jobs, etc. for free on the BidX website -