DBE Certifications In Tennessee

Tennessee’s Department of Transportation offers Diverse Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification for small businesses with a ‘disadvantaged’ majority-owner. The intent of Tennessee DBE Certification is to increase partnerships between federal, state, and local governments along with ‘minority’-run businesses. The program integrates DBE certified businesses into a directory that allows these companies to bid for government projects, as well as for government developers to quickly identify small businesses for contractor partnerships.

In addition, Tennessee offers an Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) certification, which shares similar intentions. In order to qualify for either DBE or ACDBE certification, the majority owner of the applying small business must be a member of a ‘disadvantaged’ population in the United States, as well as able to prove legal residency in the country. Further, the majority owner’s net worth must be below $1.32 million, excluding the value of personal residence and company assets.  

Statewide Certification Programs

Tennessee Unified Certification Program (TN UCP)

The state of Tennessee has created a Unified Certification Program (UCP) in order to expedite the overall process. With the UCP, an applicant can apply for DBE certification throughout the state of Tennessee, rather than being required to apply for certification throughout individual jurisdictions.

To apply for the Tennessee Unified Certification Program, the majority business owner must fill out and submit this application. Furthermore, the same owner should submit a statement of their net worth with this form. To submit the forms, you should bring them to the appropriate Department of Transportation authority for your region of the state. The particular offices that you may apply through include:





You may find specific addresses for these agencies here.

Local and Regional Programs

City Of Memphis Equal Business Opportunity

The city of Memphis’ Office of Diversity & Compliance offers free in-house certification. Vendors interested in participating in the City of Memphis’ Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) programs as a minority-owned business enterprise (MBE), woman-owned business enterprise (WBE), or small business enterprise (SBE) must register with the Office of Business Diversity & Compliance. There is no fee to apply to participate in the City’s EBO and/or SBE programs.

The following chart breaks down the differences between EBOs and SBEs for Memphis:

Once certified, you may register your business to be included on the City registry as a SMWBE.

If your business has a current certification with another certifying agency, you may apply for reciprocal certification with Memphis and be included on their SMWBE vendor registry.

Nashville Metropolitan Development And Housing Agency (MDHA)

Nashville’s MDHA offers the Diversity Business Enterprise Program Initiatives to provide minorities, women and small business enterprise equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of contracting and purchasing programs, including but not limited to, procurement contracts for equipment, professional services contracts, and construction contracts.

Proof of ownership, control, and management responsibilities are required. Minority, women and small businesses will be placed on the vendor listing according to capacity, capability, procurement code and M/W/SBE status. Identification of minority, women and small businesses is necessary for evaluating the participation of these firms in MDHA contract activity, and for calculating the percentage of construction and purchases awarded annually to M/W/SBE’s.

MDHA does not perform certification on its own, but instead it accepts certification of Minority and Woman Owned Business and approval of Small Business status from any of the six state agencies.

Metro Nashville’s Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Assistance

Disabled veteran-owned businesses are open to preferential opportunities so that they can participate effectively in City procurements and become positive contributors to the Nashville economy. Visit the links here for status requirements and the list and forms:

There is a tangible benefit to being an approved Small or Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business with Metro Nashville. The Metro Procurement Code and Regulations authorize the Purchasing Agent to include a cost incentive to maximize the participation and performance of Metro approved SBE/SDV businesses. If the Offeror is an SBE/SDV business, Metro considers the work the SBE/SDV firm commits to self-perform. If the work is subcontracted or otherwise procured, only the work performed by a Metro approved SBE/SDV subcontractor or supplier may be considered for the purposes of award incentive.

Some solicitations are the result of an SBE/SDV set-aside. In those cases only approved SBE/SDV firms may submit an offer. If an SBE/SDV threshold has been established then only offers that meet the established threshold will be eligible for SBE/SDV cost incentives. Incentive consideration, if included, is calculated on a pro rata basis for those offers in excess of the established threshold.

Metro Nashville Public Schools

Nashville Public Schools DBE program works to form partnerships with local enterprises that are included in the following categories:

  1. Small Businesses
  2. Ethnic Minority-Owned Businesses
  3. Women-Owned Businesses
  4. Disabled Military Veteran-Owned Businesses

In partnering with Metro Nashville Public Schools, prime vendors and consultants are considered to be part of our 1st Tier. Our 2nd Tier includes subcontractors, sub-consultants, and sub-suppliers. Both tiers are subject to our DBE program.

Visit the district’s site for more information and to apply: https://www.mnps.org/doing-business-with-mnps/

Shelby County Locally-Owned Small Business Program (LOSB)

The Shelby County Purchasing Department offers a DBE what they refer to as the LOSB program. Locally-owned small business subcontractors that have been certified by the Shelby County Equal Opportunity Compliance (EOC) office are invited to submit bids on county projects. The first step to qualify is to meet the criteria of a LOSB, which is defined as:

  • A sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, or any other business or professional entity that has gross annual sales of $1 million or less during the last three fiscal years except: architecture and engineering firms, security companies, computer companies, roofing and contractors and vendors in the construction industry. Any architecture and engineering firm, roofing and contractors and vendors in the construction industry with average annual total sales or receipts within its last three fiscal years prior to its application to the Locally Owned Small Business Purchasing Program of less than $5,000,000 a year; Any security company or computer company with average annual total sales or receipts within its last three fiscal years prior to its application to the Locally Owned Small Business Purchasing Program of less than $15,000,000 a year; and
  • At least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by a Shelby County resident and located within the boundaries of Shelby County, Tennessee.

For LOSBs seeking to qualify under Shelby County’s Minority/ Woman Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Programs, eligibility requires that they are a for-profit enterprise that’s 51% owned and controlled by person(s) who reside within Shelby County. For people living outside the county, an exemption to the residency requirement may be granted by the Administrator of EOC to those eligible minority and/or women business owners who have operated the qualifying business within Shelby County for a minimum of ten (10) years and employ a minimum of eight (8) employees who are residents of Shelby County. Criteria for M/WBE Programs:

  •    Minorities – African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.
  •    Woman Business Enterprise – 51% Owned and Controlled by one or more Caucasian females.
  •    Business Location – Must be headquartered in Shelby County at least (6) six months prior to applying for certification and licensed to do business in Shelby County.

In order to receive reciprocal certification as an M/ WBE and/ or LOSB the following documentation will be required:

  1. Proof of residency
  2. Proof of business location
  3. Affidavit of income (LOSB’s Only)
  4. Current certification
  5. Shelby County business license

Shelby County’s certification program includes reciprocity with local agencies that have an M/WBE certification program that comports with its standards. To receive reciprocal certification, a business must supply general information to Shelby County Government by completing a brief reciprocity application. No on-site inspection is required.

The City of Knoxville DBE OUTREACH

Metro Knoxville actively solicits bids from DBEs on every project.  All parties submitting quotes, bids, proposals, or qualifications will be asked to identify the DBE category of their business as well as any subcontractors, if applicable.  The City uses the State of Tennessee’s DBE definition established by T. C. A. 12-3-801 and Executive Order 14, to increase opportunities for DBE businesses.  

Although Knoxville itself no longer certifies DBEs, a vendor must be certified under the authority of an entity recognized by the City or self-certify as part of their registration with the City, in order to be established as a DBE business.  

DBE Certifications recognized by the City include:

  • Tennessee Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Certification (GoDBE)
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
  • National Business Supplier Development Council (MBE Certifications)
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WNENC)
  • US Department of Veteran’s Affairs Veteran Owned Small Business/Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB/VOSB)
  • Small Business Administration (SBA)

Vendor Registration can be completed online. Vendors must be registered with the City in order to respond to solicitations.

The University of Tennessee DBE Program

The University of Tennessee recognizes the following types of DBEs:

  • Minority-Owned Business Enterprises (MBEs);
  • Woman-Owned Business Enterprises (WBE);
  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprises (SDVBE); and
  • Small Business Enterprises (SBEs).
  • Businesses Owned by Persons with Disabilities, Disabled Business Enterprise (DSBE);

The university maintains the DBE Program to encourage and promote the participation of DBEs in the university’s procurement process and to help DBEs understand how to conduct business with the university. However, the university does not have

preferences for DBEs on any certain contracts, nor does the university engage in set-asides (or mandate) that a certain percentage of its purchases be conducted with DBEs.