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Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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She Advocates For The Disadvantaged Businessperson

Lillie Claitt, Director of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Office, was first exposed to the workings of a small business with her father. "He was self-employed and operated a light-hauling business. I recall typing up his invoices and organizing his paper work," said Claitt. "I never thought much of my experiences working with my father, but when I look back it relates somewhat to my work today, helping small businesses. I was trained as a clerk-typist and stenographer out of a vocational/technical high school and always thought I would become the secretary to some top CEO somewhere," said Claitt.

Rarely without a smile and seemingly endless energy, the North Philadelphia native is now at the forefront of working with disadvantaged and minority businesses for SEPTA and is the newly elected chairperson of the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program (PAUCP) Appeals Committee. "The positions are very distinct in their responsibilities, but function together to give the DBE community important resources and a voice," said Claitt.

As the Director of the DBE Program Office, Claitt, along with her staff, is committed to expanding contracting opportunities for small, minority and women-owned businesses. The DBE Program Office provides technical assistance, training, and other resources for vendors looking to do business with SEPTA. "We help DBE's realize their potential by helping them to manage their business resources better, while introducing them to others," said Claitt. "Often small businesses are so eager to 'swim with the big fish' that they bite off more than they can chew. They can undervalue their product or services and need assistance for their business administratively and financially. It is not uncommon for a business owner to misjudge their assets and liabilities to the point where their credibility is severely jeopardized. My office seeks to help grow their business by showing them how to make better educated decisions."

Although recently flooded with inquiries from vendors interested in the stimulus construction projects now underway, the DBE office also works with the non-construction related businesses seeking to secure contracts such as material, maintenance and other services. Interest in certification remains high as companies explore new avenues to secure business due to the downturn in the economy.

Recently elected a chairperson of the PAUCP, Claitt continues to insure that small and minority owned businesses receive proper treatment. "I am responsible for overseeing all of the appeals brought before the committee from businesses who believe they have been unfairly denied consideration for DBE certification under the directives established by the Department of Transportation. Typically we convene every three months, but in some cases if we have several appeals to resolve I have the authority to do so sooner." The program was established in response to a federal requirement to provide "one-stop-shopping" for businesses seeking DBE certification from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). Businesses now complete one application to begin the DBE qualification process, and are recognized by all Pennsylvania agencies which receive U.S. DOT funding in excess of $250,000. Certifying participants are Allegheny County, PennDot, SEPTA, Port Authority of Allegheny County, and the City of Philadelphia.

Claitt regards this level of customer service very personally. "DBE's are the core employment vehicle for individuals in our communities. I really want them to succeed. I think my father would be proud."


Claitt's passion is helping the DBE community realize their potential by insuring they are aware of available resources



Claitt regularly consults with her staff



The DBE Program Office informs businesses of opportunities they can pursue such as work associated with current stimulus projects



Annual informational and networking seminars are an integral element when assisting the DBE community