What is the difference between SBE Certification and D/W/MBE Certification?

SBE Certification

  • Race Neutral Program
    • 51% or more owned and controlled by an economically disadvantage individual(s)
  • Personal Net Worth
    • PNW not to exceed $2,047,000
  • SBA size standard (varies according to business category)

DBE Certification

  • Federal Certification
    • DOT contracts for highway, transit, and airport
  • Ownership
    • 51% or more owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantage individual(s)
  • Personal Net Worth
    • PNW not to exceed $2,047,000
  • SBA size standard (varies according to business category)

MBE and WBE Certification

  • State and Local Government Contracting Authorities
  • Ownership and Control
    • 51% or more of the stock owned and controlled by minority or woman.
    • Controlling minority or woman must be capable of performing the daily management operations of business.

What are the criteria for SBE certification?

Eligibility requirements for certification as a SBE are stated in 49 CFR Part 26.39.

The following six requirements must be proved by a SBE applicant, but they do not cover all the requirements found in 49 CFR Part 26.39.

Economic Disadvantage

The small business owner must be U.S. Citizen (or lawfully admitted permanent residents) and meet the federal definition of economically disadvantaged as defined in 49 CFR Part 26.67.  Any other individual can be found to be economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis.

Personal Net Worth

Only disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth (PNW) of less than $2,047,000 can be considered for SBE certification. Items excluded from a person’s net worth calculations include an individual’s ownership interest in the applicant firm, the current value of any retirement accounts and the equity in their primary residence.

Business Size Standard

A firm (including affiliates) must be a small business as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA).  It must not have an annual gross receipts average over the previous three years exceeding $30,720,000. Depending on the type of work the business performs, other size standards apply.


Must be a for-profit small business and the economically disadvantaged individual(s) own at least 51% interest and controls AND manages daily business operations.


The business must not be affiliated with another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control. These include, but are not limited to, such areas as personnel, facilities, equipment, financial and/or bonding support, and other resources.

Management and Control

The economically disadvantaged owner(s) must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and polices of the firm and to make day-to-day decisions, as well as long-term decisions on matters of management, policy and operation.

Is there a cost for SBE Certification?

No, there is no cost for the processing the SBE Certification.

If I am a Certified DBE with Metra or an Illinois Unified Certification Program (ILUCP) participant, do I need to apply for SBE Certification?

No, if you are currently certified as a DBE with Metra or any ILUCP participant, you do not need to apply for SBE Certification. Your company is already considered an SBE.

Does Metra accept small business certification from other agencies in Illinois?

Metra only accepts SBE Certification from another IL UCP participating agency.

If I am eligible for DBE Certification but am not certified, can I still apply for SBE Certification?

Yes, if you choose not to be certified as a DBE you may still be eligible for SBE Certification. You must complete and submit the initial application and supporting documents for SBE Certification.

If I am not DBE Certified, should I apply for SBE first, and then the DBE Program?

No, if you intend to apply for DBE Certification, do that one first. DBE status automatically grants you SBE status.

Will being certified as an SBE guarantee my firm contracts?

No, certification is just the first step. There are contracts that are set-aside specifically for SBEs, but you must still aggressively network, market your product or service, and bid competitively.

What is the Process for SBE Certification?

The certification process begins with the submission of a complete SBE Certification application.

  • The following steps are taken to verify firms:
  • Your information is reviewed to attest that you meet all the necessary requirements.
  • A site visit and/or job site visit are scheduled to complete a standard questionnaire, tour the facility, and take pictures if necessary.
  • A decision is made, and your firm is notified of the decision via email.
  • If certified, your firm will receive a certificate and approval letter and be eligible to bid on Metra set-aside contracts.

How long is the SBE Certification process?

On average, the SBE certification process takes approximately 60-90 days from the time a complete application and all required supporting documents are received.

If my business is certified as an SBE, what’s next?

Getting certified is just the first step!

1. To remain in good standing, all SBE firms are required to submit an annual Declaration of Eligibility (DOE).

a. This affirms that there have been no changes in the firm’s circumstances affecting its ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, or control requirements or any other material changes in the information provided in the firm’s application for certification.

b. 60 days before the annual DOE is due, the firm will receive a reminder email from our office with a copy of the DOE and a checklist of the supporting documents that need to be submitted.

2. The firm must provide written notification of any changes within thirty (30) days of the occurrence of the change.

3. Become a Registered Vendor with Metra, the process is free and simple. Once you submit your contact information and the firm’s work specialty online on Metra’s Bonfire portal you will receive notification of upcoming contracting opportunities that best match the firm’s work specialty. Click here to register.

4.Attend training and networking events. Marketing and growing your business are essential to maximizing your certification. Visit ODBE’s Outreach Calendar for an up-to-date list of upcoming events.

What are my appeal rights if I am denied SBE Certification?

If you feel this agency has wrongly denied your firm, you must email the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) at within 45 days of the date of the decision, a narrative that explains fully and specifically why you believe the decision is in error, what outcome-determinative facts the certifier did not consider, and/or what part 26 provisions the certifier misapplied. Include the certifier's name, date of the certifier’s decision, and your contact information. If you do not have access to email, you may send a letter to:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Departmental Office of Civil Rights
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Division
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

Is there someone that I can speak to directly?

Yes, for questions regarding SBE Certification or to set-up a free consultation, please contact our certification team.

Michele Sutton
Sr. DBE Certification Specialist