Caltrans Co-sponsors Small Business Certification Clinic
Big agencies teach small businesses how to grow.
If there’s one thing small and disabled veteran businesses should do it’s network. If there’s another, it’s become certified to do business with the State of California.
These were the main points emphasized at the first Los Angeles area public/private Business Certification Clinic on December 16. Sponsored by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Department of General Services (DGS) and the Los Angeles Urban League, the event was held in the Crenshaw District at the Los Angeles Urban League Milken Youth Center.
The Clinic is an outgrowth of the Crenshaw Corridor Collaboration Agreement between the State Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and the Los Angeles Urban League’s Neighborhoods@work program to promote growth and development in the Crenshaw area, including education, public safety, health, housing, employment and job training.
The Crenshaw district is one of many communities around the state that are considered candidates for assistance through the California Urban Communities Collaborative, designed to help state agencies, local governments, community-based organizations and the private sector provide needed resources.
More than 70 small business owners received certification instructions from State and local government entities. At one point in the morning, additional chairs were needed to accommodate the overflow crowd. From the packed room, it was clear that many small businesses were eager to become state-certified and for any helpful information they could receive.
Entities providing certification information and activities were: Caltrans, DGS, the Los Angeles Mayor's Minority Business Opportunity Center, El Camino Community College Small Business Development Center, the Metropolitan Water District and Southern California Edison.
The general session agenda for the morning included individual presentations from participating agencies, including certification tips, and a group discussion with business owners.
One of the presenters, Linda Smith, of the Mayor’s office, said the Opportunity Center’s annual goal is $8 million in contracts and $50 million in financing. “We establish a network of financing partners in the public and private sectors,” Smith said. “We want to get minority businesses to the $3 million mark and above; that’s where job creation begins to happen.” Currently, only three percent of minority businesses nationwide have annual revenues of $1 million or higher, she said.
"Government dollars are going to be stimulating the economy," she added. "That’s where the cheese is. Government cheese. So you can’t just sit here and wait for your government cheese; you have to collaborate and come together. "
Ken Ashford with the Metropolitan Water District cautioned business owners to know the agency they apply to do business with. “For example, don’t call us the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; we’re a regional water wholesaler. “ He also encouraged them to seek out opportunities. “Go to pre-bid conferences. Partner with other companies to do business—your competitor could become your partner.”
This advice was reiterated during a Question and Answer session following the presentations. Become visible, build relationships and attend as many events as possible, the group was told. And get certified.
District 7 External Affairs Deputy Deborah Roberts recounted how difficult it was to find certified businesses to participate in the District’s Procurement Fairs, a situation that led to creation of the Clinic. “We found that there are a lot of small businesses in Los Angeles but they are not certified. We want to get them certified so they’ll be up and running when money starts moving, which could happen soon.”
In the afternoon break-out session, small business owners received tutorials and computer-based instructions on the certification procedures of the governmental entities that most interested them.
“Feedback from the sessions was extremely positive and a tremendous first step,” said District 7 Governmental Affairs Manager Otis Jackson. “The government entities pledged to work together on similar types of forums in the future.”
A procurement fair with the Crenshaw Business Corridor and other adjacent area businesses is tentatively planned for late January or early February 2009.