If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will likely recognize that our firm has been actively involved and concerned with the results of Washington State Department of Transportation’s (“WSDOT”) Disparity Study, which impacts both Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (“DBE”) and general contractors who bid on federally-funded projects with DBE goals. On June 1, 2017, WSDOT implemented a “waiver”, which excluded Caucasian women-owned firms (“WBEs”) from qualifying for Condition of Award DBE Goals on federally-funded projects. This drastic action was the result of WSDOT’s highly criticized 2012 Disparity Study conducted by BBC Research & Consulting of Denver, Colorado, which concluded non-minority women-owned firms do not face “substantial disparities” in the federally-funded transportation contracting market.
BBC’s study was criticized for a number of reasons, but most concerning was BBC’s flawed and unreliable statistical methodology that did not accurately represent true marketplace conditions. See Ahlers & Cressman letter of January 9, 2014 and Associated General Contractors of Washington article. For example, BBC’s results showed both decreasing WBE availability and availability vastly out of range with other states (e.g., the availability of women-owned construction firms in Washington was just 1.5% compared to 11.96% in Oregon). Nevertheless, based on this flawed BBC study and BBC’s assertion that women-owned firms did not face disparities, WSDOT sought and on June 1, 2017 was granted a waiver precluding general contractors from counting WBE firms towards their DBE goals on federally funded public works projects.