If your company is applying for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification, a representative of the certifying agency will perform an on site visit to your company’s principal place of business.
The site visit is a required part of the application process under 49 C.F.R. § 26.83(c)(1)(i). During COVID times, site visits have taken place via Facetime, Skype, Zoom or other video chat methods. Pursuant to guidance issued on June 29, 2021 (https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2021-06/DOCR%20Guidance%20March%2024%20Extension%2006292021%20%28002%29.pdf ), the USDOT has instructed that site visits continue via these methods through December 31, 2021. However, during normal times these visits are in person. The representative will visit your business at its main office- be that in a physical office space or your home (for business run from a private residence – as is becoming more common these days).
During the site visit, your principal officers will be interviewed. There will be questions regarding work history, resumes and experience with the company. The interviewer may also speak to other key personnel of the company. If your company is working at a local job site, expect the interviewer will want to visit that site. After the site visit, the interviewer will draft a report.
Please take these visits seriously. This visit is much more than a formality. Many companies have been denied certification due to their answers to questions during site visits. Often, the interviewer determines that the applicant owner does not have the technical experience necessary to fully control the company based on discussions during the site visit. As “control” is one of the main requirements for DBE certification, this sinks the applicant’s application.
The disadvantaged owner(s) should take the time to prepare for the site visit. They should make sure that they are able to fully explain the technical side of their business and how things work. They should be able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge necessary to control the business. Enlisting the help of an attorney familiar with the certification process can help you feel confident and prepared for the questions you may face.
The site visit remains important even beyond your initial application. If successful in the certification process, the site visit report will also be used by other states if you apply for interstate certification (a.k.a. DBE certification in a state other than your home state) under 49 C.F.R. §26.85.