In 1994, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, initiated the creation of a DBE transportation certification unit at the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) (Formerly State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance (SOMWBA)). Under this program, the state's major transportation agencies and authorities dedicated funding to institute efficient certification services needed by DBE firms operating in the transportation industry and in other related industries. Under contract with the state's major transportation agencies and authorities, SDO provided certification services required by federal regulation and state executive orders. SDO is a state regulatory agency within the Department of Economic Development that certifies and promotes businesses for state funded M/WBE programs. A committee of agency representatives was established to monitor operations, refine procedures, address various issues, make adjustments to practices, and provide oversight and other assistance. The steps taken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts toward development of a unified certification program, specifically the integration of a transportation certification unit within a state agency, was recognized by the Federal Highway Administration in 1999 as a best practice worthy of sharing with other states.

Task Force Development and Planning Process

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirements contained in 49 CFR Part 26 require that all DOT recipients in Massachusetts participate in a Unified Certification Program (UCP). Subject to approval by the Secretary the UCP can take any form acceptable to the recipients in that state. All recipients must sign an agreement establishing the UCP and submit the agreement to the Secretary for approval.

In the summer of 2001, the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction invited the Massachusetts Highway Department, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the Supplier Diversity Office and local Federal USDOT agencies to an initial meeting to discuss UCP requirements.

The meeting was designed to review what additional activities and changes needed to be instituted at SOMWBA's existing transportation certification unit, so that it fully complied with 49 CFR Part 26, and to refine the program where necessary. The meeting provided an opportunity for agencies to identify major concerns and issues that Massachusetts' recipients must address and to develop a strategy and timeline of activity to meet the goal of establishing a Massachusetts UCP and a statewide agreement on the UCP by March, 2002.

Participants of the meeting included federal representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. The direct USDOT recipients included the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC), the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD), the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Massachusetts Port Authority (MPA), and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC). Other agencies included the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, as the agency managing construction of the federally funded Central Artery Tunnel (CAT) Project, and the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO).

Following the initial meeting a UCP committee and task force was established. The role of the task force was to draft the UCP proposal and agreement and work plan for distribution and approval by the Committee.

Following a number of meetings with the direct USDOT recipients, it was agreed that assistance in coordinating activity was needed in the planning and development process. It was also decided that a coordinator was needed for data collection, information coordination and to keep the project on schedule. The Massachusetts Alliance for Small Contractors was contracted for the role.

The task force participants held a number of meetings to discuss the requirements of the unified certification program. They discussed how the present DBE transportation certification program at SDO could be changed to meet the new federal requirements for a UCP. The current program at SDO is the Massachusetts preliminary UCP. A decision was made to continue with SDO as the certifying agent. The certification for concessionaires would remain with MPA and the DBE firms will be listed in the DBE Directory. The strategy is to convert the present transportation DBE certification process into a UCP. A draft work plan and schedule was developed for distribution to the Committee. Throughout the planning process Committee participants shared information obtained from workshops held at transportation conferences and from USDOT recipients from other states.

Additional meetings were held with USDOT representatives, the direct recipients, large sub recipients, SOMWBA, and MTA to discuss the strategy, the draft work plan and schedule and request input and solicit more members to participate on the task force. The USDOT representatives provided updates on issues and concerns raised on a national level. They also suggested specific areas that required close attention as the program was developed, including separation of functions, resource commitments, and the "one stop service goal." All USDOT recipients regardless of funding have been invited to participate in the development process. The work plan and schedule was distributed to all recipients, and efforts were initiated to develop this program submission to the United States Department of Transportation. A listing of Task Force members, all USDOT recipients in Massachusetts, and the timeline and schedule are attached to this section of the UCP submission.

Public Input

Upon submission of this program to the USDOT, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will hold a series of public meetings to provide an overview of the UCP at SDO being proposed for USDOT approval. Massachusetts will utilize the outreach services of the Massachusetts Alliance for Small Contractors to ensure a broad and diverse section of DBEs and other firms in various industries are invited. Other associations throughout the state, including the National Association of Minority Contractors, the National Association of Women in Construction, the Construction Industries of Massachusetts, will also be invited to participate. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will solicit information from the public relative to its efforts to establish a single certification program in the state, as part of its broader DBE program goals to establish a level playing field for the participation of DBE firms in federally assisted contracts.

Membership and Organization

The Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) has contracted the public agencies and authorities, known as the UCP Development Committee, representing all recipients of US DOT funding in the Commonwealth, to provide DBE certification services required by federal regulation for appropriate costs, within agency- specific restrictions.

Two of those agencies are direct recipients: the Massachusetts Highway Department, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. A third recipient, the Massachusetts Port Authority, is a member of the UCP, but conducts its own concession certifications, consistent with the certification standards and procedures of the federal regulation. Certification of potential concessions at the regional airports and the MBTA will be evaluated during the implementation period. The Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works is also a direct recipient, and also has limited responsibility for the state's regional transit authorities. EOTC continues to coordinate and facilitate meetings among member agencies, SDO, and federal administrations. The Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC) is also a direct recipient, and has limited responsibility for the state's regional airports. In addition, the UCP Development Committee will include one representative from the Regional Transit Authorities.

SDO will continue to implement and manage the Unified Certification for these entities, and will follow all of the certification procedures and standards outlined in 49 CFR Part 26.

SDO will cooperate fully with oversight, review, auditing, reporting, and monitoring activities and other requirements of the US Department of Transportation and its operating administrations. SDO will also implement DOT directives and guidance concerning certification matters.

The UCP Development Committee shall meet quarterly with SDO's Executive Director over the course of the implementation period to review monthly reports, discuss matters of concern and to identify solutions to any problems which arise in the operation of the UCP. USDOT representatives are invited to participate in these meetings of the UCP to provide information and guidance, to ensure compliance with all applicable federal requirements, and/or to initiate program reviews of the UCP.