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DBE program brings opportunities to Kankakee area

A Disadvantaged Business Enterprise networking event in Kankakee County brought together IDOT representatives, prime contractors, certified DBE firms, firms seeking DBE certification and community leaders in one place to learn from each other.

The December event, a first in Kankakee County, was aimed at bringing awareness to IDOT’s DBE program and to encourage minority-owned firms to apply for certification that would allow them to participate in highway, transit and airport contracts. This event also provided a key opportunity to network with prime contractors from the area.

Beth and Chris Scanlon, owners of Scanlon Excavating & Concrete Inc., and their team organized the event with IDOT. The Kankakee-based firm is an IDOT-certified DBE prime contractor and subcontractor.

“The idea behind the event was to engage community leaders as well as DBE firms to become fully educated about the IDOT DBE program and encourage them to spread the word regarding the program,” said Beth Scanlon. “We cannot expect DBE quotas to be met by prime contractors if we do not actively seek out and help minorities enter the program and learn about the tools available to them to be successful. The supportive services offered by IDOT for certified DBEs is an outstanding resource and needs to be showcased to the public.”

The diverse attendance of the event showed the stake the community has in reaching out to minorities interested in the construction field and helping to guide these firms/people to the IDOT DBE program. Additional attendees included labor union representatives, county board members, city aldermen and directors of high school programs aimed at construction careers, as well as several other community leaders. 

During the event IDOT personnel explained the DBE program, the certification process and available supportive services to certified DBEs at no cost. A prime contractor panel was also featured to ask specific questions regarding the DBE program and how their firms can utilize the program to fulfill IDOT contracts.

Panel members from Iroquois Paving Corp., Gallagher, Kankakee Valley, D Construction and Scanlon Excavating emphasized the importance of DBEs establishing relationships prior to a letting, increasing their chances of being awarded a subcontract. The panel also stressed the importance of attending the IDOT networking events to help build those relationships.

Beth Scanlon added that the event was well-received and opened a lot of conversations regarding other partnerships that can be formed to bring more awareness to the IDOT DBE program.

“Educating people who are not familiar with the IDOT DBE program is, in my eyes, an obligation all IDOT contractors/subcontractors should do to help the program succeed in reaching more minority firms. We are all in this together,” she said.

For more information on becoming a certified DBE and learning more about IDOT resources that are available, visit www.idot.illinois.gov/dbe.