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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25538.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25538.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Research Approach." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25538.
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7 The research team analyzed successful DBEs and the contribution of state DOTs to that suc- cess through integrated quantitative and qualitative analyses. Background Research and Definitions The federal DBE program does not define a successful DBE, so the first step in this research was to develop a working definition of success in the context of the DBE program. To begin developing a definition of DBE success, the research team compiled and analyzed relevant research reports. For example, the research included a review of past interviews with hundreds of successful DBEs that Keen Independent Research and other consultants conducted in 19 disparity studies for state DOTs. Appendix C summarizes this information. Through reviewing relevant literature and receiving input from the NCHRP Project 20-95A panel, the research team developed criteria for defining DBE success and “graduation.” In the presentation of data for successful DBEs in Chapter 3, results are disaggregated by different defi- nitions of success. Appendix B discusses the rationale for these definitions, which were reviewed by the NCHRP Project 20-95A panel members before being used in the research. Primary Research Written Survey of State DOTs The research team reached out to each of the 50 state DOTs plus the District of Columbia DOT to complete a written survey about successful DBEs in their state, assistance that they offer DBEs, and other aspects of their operation of the federal DBE program that might help DBEs be successful. State DOTs responded to the survey via a fillable portable document file (PDF). The final survey instrument was developed after testing a pilot version with a few state DOTs. Managers of DBE programs, heads of Offices of Civil Rights, and other senior staff completed the survey on behalf of state DOTs. Figure 1 shows the 41 state DOTs (including the District of Columbia DOT) that completed a written survey. The overall response rate was 80%. The research team was unable to obtain responses from the other 10 state DOTs after repeated con- tacts with them, but did collect some information for those states as described below. (Puerto Rico DOT was immersed in recovery from Hurricane Maria and was not contacted to complete a survey.) C H A P T E R 2 Research Approach

8 Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Telephone Interviews with Trade Associations The written survey sent to state DOTs asked respondents to provide names of successful DBEs according to several different criteria. For states that did not immediately respond to the survey request, the research team contacted trade associations in those states to obtain names of successful DBEs from their experience. A typical example of the kinds of trade associations contacted would be a statewide association of highway contractors. The research team reached trade associations in 4 of the 10 non-respondent states to compile lists of successful DBEs in those states. For four states, the research team obtained information about successful DBEs from the state DOT and a trade association within that state. Lists of successful DBEs from both sources were combined for those states. Analysis of Successful DBEs and of DBEs in Certification Directories State DOTs and trade associations identified more than 700 successful DBEs. The research team attempted to obtain and analyze basic information on ownership, industry, and location for each of these successful DBEs. Information sources included data in the DBE directories, from Dun & Bradstreet, and through online research for those businesses. There are approximately 41,000 DBEs listed in the National DBE Directory maintained by FAA. To provide comparative data for a cross section of all DBEs, whether or not they were identified as successful, the research team downloaded DBE directories and developed basic information for a random sample of those firms. The research team was able to download direc- tories for 17 states that provided race/ethnicity/gender ownership and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, producing a database of 17,296 DBEs. The research team was also able to examine a subset of DBEs with a primary line of business in the highway con- struction NAICS code. The research team developed regression models to identify firm characteristics associated with DBE success. Appendix G provides the results of these statistical models. Figure 1. Responses to requests to identify successful DBEs.

Research Approach 9 Online Surveys of DBEs The research incorporated an online survey of successful DBEs. The research team contacted each successful DBE via email and/or telephone to introduce the research and request an email address that could be used to forward a link to the online survey (firms could also fill out surveys via fillable PDF or by hand if desired). Out of 600 identi- fied successful DBEs with contact information, 147 firms provided complete or partial survey responses. The relatively high response rate, 25%, was accomplished through the personal invi- tations to each firm to complete the survey. Typically, survey responses were provided by the owners or managers of the DBE firms. Telephone Interviews Telephone interviews were completed with state DOTs, trade associations, and DBEs. These are described below: • In-depth telephone interviews with state DOTs. Research team members reached out to each of the 41 state DOTs responding to the written survey to offer the opportunity to par- ticipate in a follow-up, in-depth, telephone interview. Interviews were successfully scheduled and completed with 18 state DOTs, exceeding the initial goal of 9 for the research. Appendix D summarizes the results of the in-depth interviews with state DOTs in considerable detail. • In-depth telephone interviews with trade associations. The research team completed in-depth interviews with, or received detailed written comments from, 14 trade associations (11 at the state or local level and 3 at the national level). Results are described in Appendix E. • In-depth telephone interviews with DBEs. The research team conducted in-depth tele- phone interviews with a sample of successful DBEs. The team was able to successfully inter- view 27 DBEs, which exceeded the initial goal of 20 for the research. Appendix F presents the results. Appendix A presents the discussion guides used in the state DOT, trade association, and DBE in-depth interviews.

Next: Chapter 3 - Profile of Successful DBEs »
Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Get This Book
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Firms that have graduated from the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program or have successfully competed for state transportation agency contracts are the focus in NCHRP Research Report 913: Compendium of Successful Practices, Strategies, and Resources in the U.S. DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.

The DBE program provides small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons with opportunities to participate on federally assisted highway contracts. As a requirement of receiving federal highway funds, state departments of transportation (DOTs) must administer the DBE program. FHWA provides oversight of the state DOTs’ operation of the program to ensure that they are in compliance with federal regulations.

The report includes appendices that define success, profile successful DBEs, and describe state DOT initiatives for DBE success. It also explores the types of business assistance that contribute to the success of DBE firms.

The report serves as a resource for staff in state transportation agencies, U.S. DOT, and other groups implementing the DBE program or providing business assistance.

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