Hawaii DBE Workshop

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2/23/2011

Remarks as prepared for delivery

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff

Hawaii DBE Workshop

Good afternoon, everyone.

I’m pleased to join you by video today; I’m sure you understand it’s not possible for me to be with you in person.

The Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program is one of the most important tools we have for ensuring that America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs get the access, training, and technical assistance they need to participate successfully on Federal transportation contracts.

Every small and minority-owned business deserves a level playing field so they can compete for and win good contracts that create jobs in their communities and inspire others to follow in their footsteps—all while helping to rebuild and repair our infrastructure and strengthen our transportation networks.

Now it’s Hawaii’s turn to show the way.

The Honolulu rail transit project holds the promise to be a great employment engine in the state at a time when new jobs are very much needed. This project will create thousands of good construction jobs and spur new economic development between West O’ahu and downtown Honolulu for years to come.

As the largest Federally funded public works project in Hawaii’s history, you have a tremendous opportunity to throw the door wide open to small firms with the talent and drive to help get this project up and running.

This is your chance to become a model for honest, transparent, and effective contracting practices with a strong DBE component.

I urge you, and encourage you, to seize this opportunity and ensure that all DBE-qualified companies—the carpenters, electricians, truckers, haulers, and others—have a chance to participate on this major project.

We’re doing our part to ensure this program works better than ever.

Five days from today, on February 28th, a new Federal rule goes into effect that’s designed to help more socially and economically disadvantaged businesses than ever to take advantage of opportunities to participate on Federally funded transportation projects.

This rule reflects extensive input from state agencies, contractors, and the DBE community nationwide.

Let me highlight five key provisions:

ONE: We’re strengthening accountability by requiring state and local transportation agencies to include DBEs in their spending plans. DOT recipients who fail to meet their DBE goal in any given federal fiscal year will need to evaluate why the goal was not met, develop a plan to address the causes of the shortfall, and submit the plan to the relevant modal administration. This is a step up from the limited good-faith efforts required in the past.

TWO: We’ve enhanced our oversight requirements. To ensure that prime contractors fulfill commitments to use DBE subcontractors, state and local agencies are required to monitor each contract and ensure that DBE subcontractors are not dismissed without good cause.

THREE: On certain large, long-term Federally funded capital transit projects, we now have the authority to require our grantees to set a DBE goal over the life of the project. This will increase transparency and flexibility over the life of these projects and expand opportunities for DBEs over several years, in some cases. In the past, we have encouraged this goal-setting, but now we have the ability to require it for all to see.

FOUR: We’re offering new tools to foster small business participation on DBE contracts, including a menu of options for recipients to use, such as unbundling large contracts and establishing race-neutral small business set-asides.

And FIVE: To reduce the burdens on firms seeking DBE certification in more than one state, the new rules require states to accept certifications from other states, unless there is good cause not to.

To America's small and disadvantaged business owners, these changes, and others, will make a world of difference.

Making sure the contracting process is open to everyone—big and small—helps ensure that America gets the best possible bang for our buck as we complete important infrastructure projects.

We fully expect our state DOT partners and prime contractors to take these responsibilities very seriously, and do everything in their power to bring these smaller companies into the fold, as appropriate.

At the same time, please know that the Department will take very aggressive action against any individual or company that commits waste, fraud, or abuse under our DBE program.

It only takes one fraudulent actor to taint a very worthy project.

Secretary LaHood and I fully expect that anyone who is aware of any waste, fraud, or abuse taking place on ANY contract to document it and report it to the appropriate authorities.

I promise you, we WILL move aggressively to remove fraudulent parties and we WILL debar any companies found to have engaged in illegal activity.

I want to congratulate all those who have supported the Honolulu transit corridor project.

I especially want to thank Senators INOUYE and AKAKA, Congresswoman HIRONO, MAYOR CARLISLE, the Honolulu City Council,

and all the state and local leaders who understand that this $5.5 billion, 20-mile elevated rail system is not only an engine of local economic growth. . . but a long-awaited opportunity to bring relief to thousands of local workers who suffer long, congested commutes every day from their homes out to Waikiki.

I appreciate that you’ve all taken the time to gather here today to look to the future of this project, and to all the opportunities that go with it.

This is the kind of project President Obama had in mind when he said in his State of the Union address last month that to win the future, we must repair our existing infrastructure. . . and build new ways to move people and goods that create good middle-class jobs to get our economy growing again.

Thank you for working hard to make this project a success for your local workforce, for the business community, and for the traveling public.

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