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(L to R) Governmental Affairs Associate Onyx Taylor-Smith, Catherine Grooms, College of the Canyons Business counselor, Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, El Camino College Program Manager, and External Affairs Deputy Deborah Robertson confer before the meeting.

MANDATORY PRE-BID MEETINGS ENCOURAGE MORE SMALL BUSINESS PARTICIPATION
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 01/2008

District 7 offers another way to bring small businesses into the construction process.

A highway construction boom is underway in this state and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) wants to make sure that Small Businesses are along for the ride.

One of the ways that the Department is reaching out to small businesses is through a pilot program that requires prime contractors to attend a mandatory pre-bid meeting if interested in certain earmarked projects.

The meeting is mandatory only for the prime contractors but its purpose is to attract small businesses that might end up being hired as sub-contractors. Even if the smaller firms are not a good fit for the particular project, the meeting provides an opportunity to network, and to lay the groundwork for potential jobs down the road.

The first mandatory pre-bid meeting in District 7 was held in October, for the Golden State Freeway (I-5) truck lanes tunnel emergency repair project.  That was followed by a meeting on December 11 for a soundwall construction project on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) in and near the city of Arcadia.

In addition to construction-related businesses, the soundwall project meeting was attended by various Caltrans employees from Project Management, Construction and External Affairs.

"District 7 continues to be very proactive and take the lead to broaden the base of small businesses participating in Los Angeles and Ventura County projects," said External Affairs Deputy Deborah Robertson. "The Mandatory Pre-Bid Meetings, Procurement Fairs and the Caltrans Mentoring Program--for which the District has received statewide recognition--are all examples of these ongoing efforts."

Danetta Jackson and Eloisa Stratton from the Department of General Services (DGS) Procurement Division were on hand to provide information on Small Business Certification requirements, doing business with the State, using the California State Contracts Register (CSCR) and marketing strategies. 

Also attending were Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, Program Manager for the California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at El Camino College and Catherine Grooms, Business Counselor for the SBDC at College of the Canyons. California's SBDC programs are part of the U.S. Small Business Administration's national network of SBDCs. The programs leverage local, state and federal dollars to strengthen small businesses and offer business management counseling and training. Bendfits to the State include creation and retention of jobs, increases in sales and profits, new business starts and more.

Under the California Construction Contracting Program (CCCP), the colleges partner with the SBDC and Caltrans to offer technical assistance and training to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) that focus on highway construction management. The CCCP exists because over the last few years, the number of small businesses bidding on California Department of Transportation/Caltrans projects has decreased. 

“We will have a lot more work coming our way in the next two years and we will need EVERYBODY to help us deliver our projects,” Construction Deputy Peter Chan told the group.  

“Everybody” will have another chance to get onboard at the next Mandatory Pre-bid Meeting, on January 15. The meeting, for a sound berm project on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) in the cities of La Verne and Claremont, will take place at 10 a.m. at the District 7 Headquarters Building. 

“This pilot project is an important step forward in the Department’s goal of involving more small and disadvantaged businesses in our construction process,” said Construction Engineering Office Chief Fekade Mesfin, who coordinates the Mandatory Pre-Bid Meeting program for the district. How will we know if the program is working? “The measure of success would be to get new companies certified as DBEs,” Mesfin said. 

For more information about the Mandatory Pre-Bid Meeting program or upcoming meetings, please contact Joe Brazile of the Government Relations Office, (213) 897-0849.

 

                       
 

Fekade Mesfin, Mandatory Pre-bid Meeting Program Cordinator, explains the importance of the program. (L to R) Eloisa Stratton and Danetta Jackson from the Department of General Services (DGS) provide advice and information to small businesses. Construction Deputy Peter Chan welcomes all to the Caltrans table. Contractors discuss the bidding process.