Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program is a federally-mandated program that provides a vehicle for increasing the participation of woman- and minority-owned businesses in state and local procurement. Each state has it's own DBE Program and Colorado is administered by the CDOT Civil Rights & Business Resource Center. DOT DBE regulations require state and local transportation agencies to establish annual DBE goals, and review the scopes of anticipated large prime contracts throughout the year to establish contract-specific DBE subcontracting goals.
The DBE Program was created to provide a level playing field for small minority- and women-owned companies wanting to do business with CDOT and other agencies receiving federal funds from the US DOT. Basic eligibility requirements include:
  • For-profit small business concern as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (based upon NAICS)
  • At least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged. Minorities and women are presumed to be socially disadvantaged.
  • Management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.
  • The disadvantaged owner(s) must have a personal net-worth of less than $1,320,000. 
  • Depending upon the nature of work performed, a firm (including its affiliates) must not have average annual gross receipts in excess of $22,410,000 ($52,470,000 for airport concessionaires in general with some exceptions). This size standard is for construction related work. Depending on the type of work the business performs, other lower size standards may apply.
  • If state or local law requires the persons to have a particular license or other credential in order to own and/or control the firm, then the socially and economically disadvantaged owner(s) must possess the required license or credential.
Woman- and minority-owned businesses interested in becoming certified as a Colorado DBE must complete and submit an application through the Colorado Unified Certification Program (CO UCP) to either CDOT or the City and County of Denver. Upon approval, your business can be used to meet the DBE goals established for federally-funded contracts by more than 50 agencies that participate in the CO UCP. The DBE Program is a federal program required by law (49 CFR Part 26).

You must first be certified in your "home state" which is the state in which your business is registered or has a principal office. You may then apply for DBE certification in other states. Click here if you are are an out-of-state firm that would like to become DBE certified in Colorado. 

You do not need to be located in Denver to obtain certification through the City and County of Denver. Both agencies use an online application process, however the City and County of Denver will consider you for additional Denver sponsored programs (SBE/MBE/WBE/SBEC/EBE) on the same application. It is free to apply for DBE certification through both agencies. However, if you apply to the City and County of Denver and wish to be considered for additional certifications, a $200 application fee is required.
Annual Renewal
DBE firms are required to renew their certification each year. A renewal application must be completed in CDOT’s online application portal by the anniversary date of the firm’s certification. Firms that do not complete a renewal application by their anniversary date will have their certification revoked and will be given 15 calendar days to appeal this decision with CDOT. If no appeal is submitted, the firm will be removed from the Colorado UCP DBE Directory and must wait 12 months before reapplying for certification with CDOT.


Most CDOT highway construction projects have a DBE goal. DBE goals are expressed as a percentage of the total contract. Prime contractors are required to subcontract the dollar amount equal to the DBE goal percentage to DBE-certified firms, or prove to CDOT why they cannot. This creates an incentive for primes to use DBE firms as subs on their projects. Small businesses that are DBE-certified have a considerable advantage over those that are not. Primes will actively seek out DBE firms for subcontracting opportunities and must conduct outreach for any project with a DBE goal. 

CDOT Regional Civil Rights Managers review each project and make a determination of the DBE goal. This is based upon the type of work, geographic location, and capability/availability of DBE firms to perform the work, among other factors. In some cases, the DBE goal may be 0 percent while others may be as high as 15 percent. CDOT's objective is to create a cumulative amount of DBE subcontracting that meets or exceeds the overall annual goals shown below. 

  • CDOT FHWA Overall Annual Goal = 10.25% 
  • CDOT FTA Overall Annual Goal = 4.75% 
  • CDOT FAA Overall Annual Goal = 1.9%
Contact Information
Click here for a list of CDOT contacts that can help answer questions or provide additional information about the DBE Program and certification.