Local entrepreneurs take front seat at Transportation Industry Procurement Day
EDC holds forum to help businesses prepare for, tap into $5 billion in procurement
Providing local small business owners with vital information to help them prepare for and tap into procurement opportunities worth $5 billion, the Prince George’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) hosted its Transportation Industry Procurement Opportunity Day on June 27 at its headquarters in Largo.
Over 200 entrepreneurs attended the forum which featured presentations by top executives from several agencies including the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs (GOMA). The presentations provided information about specific contracting opportunities, including bid solicitations and procurement forecasts, as well as direction on how to submit bids on those lucrative contracts, according to an EDC press release.
“The goal is job creation so we want them to be successful,” said EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman. “Today, everything is online but you cannot beat bringing procurement officers together so they can meet face-to-face with our businesses and with that, that starts off the relationships. Each of these businesses will have a chance to build relationships with the decision makers on this $5 billion.”
The EDC’s procurement opportunity day is an integral part of its Activate Prosperity initiative, an aggressive three-year plan designed to rapidly grow the county’s businesses by connecting them with valuable resources and programs; thereby, creating more jobs for residents, the press release noted.
Coleman said he simply wants business owners to close deals and win contracts.
“From there, you can learn specifically about your company on how you can provide your services to these different agencies, you can
understand what their requirements are face-to-face and then from there you can compete,” he said. “They need contracts, customers and capital. The EDC is on the forefront in bringing our agencies together to make that happen because when we do that, that creates jobs.”
MDOT Special Investigations Manager Michael D. Smith began the forum with an overview of Minority Business Enterprise certification.
The certification process consists of four steps which include application, investigation, evaluation and determination. After applicants submit an application along with supporting documentation, an MBE officer reviews the entire application package, conducts an on-site interview and performs a job-site visit, if applicable. All findings are documented in a written report. Then, the MBE Advisory Committee reviews the investigative report to evaluate whether the applicant firm meets all program requirements. Lastly, the committee chairperson issues a written determination, according to an MDOT information packet.
Smith said there is no cost to apply for or maintain certification with MDOT’s Office of Minority Business Enterprise. There are, however, five eligibility standards each applicant must meet which include ownership, minority status, control, personal net worth and size, he said.
“Anybody can essentially seek certification as long as you can show that you are socially and economically disadvantaged,” said Smith. “It’s a one-stop shop. Fill out the application to be considered for all the programs — the Minority Business Enterprise [MBE], Disadvantaged Business Enterprise [DBE], Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise [ACDBE] as well as the Small Business Enterprise [SBE] programs. You don’t have to fill out separate applications.”
The benefits of certification include greater exposure to government- and private-sector contracting opportunities; only MBE/ DBE certified firms can fulfill the minority participation goals; and certified firms appear on the Directory of Certified Firms which is used by prime contractors, consultants, government agencies and private-sector companies seeking minority business participation, according to Smith.
Wendell Point, DBE/MBE program manager for the Purple Line Transit Partners, spoke about some of the bid opportunities for companies that perform work which include hauling, asphalt paving and milling, erosion control, maintenance of traffic, saw-cutting, demolition of buildings, fencing, handrails and safety railing, contaminated water removal, hazardous material disposal, pavement demolition, asbestos abatement services and even landscaping, grassing and seeding, according to an MTA presentation.
Point said firms should be DBE certified prior to signing a contract with Transit Partners designers or constructors. DBE firms must also ensure their North American Industry Classification System codes are accurately defined for the work they perform, he said.
“When you seek opportunities with us, be very specific as to what your company does,” said Point, owner of Point Management Group, LLC, who has over twenty-seven years experience in the public sector and private sector. “We have to mitigate risks so we want to know what you have and what you will be performing out there. … We need to make certain those codes are relevant to that contract for us to actually contract with you.”
Alison Tavik, director of communications from the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, offered guidance on levering certification to secure procurement opportunities and recommended that businesses attend pre-bid meetings to get ahead.
According to Tavik, only subcontractors who are MBE certified can fulfill the minority participation goal on a state contract. Although minority certified firms work for the prime/general contractor, MBE liaisons are their advocates while performing on a contract, she said.
“I hear small business say all the time, ‘I need a contract from the state of Maryland,’” Tavik said. “The state of Maryland doesn’t buy anything. The agencies at the state of Maryland are the buyers and there are more than 70. … What you have to figure out, as you’re choosing this sector, is what role do you want to play— are you trying to come in as the prime contractor or are you trying to come in as a subcontractor so that you know who you’re working for.”
MWAA Department of Contracts and Procurement Deputy Manager Kathy Ruhl presented the different types of solicitations offered, an eight-step procurement process and suggestions on how to create an effective bid proposal. She also cautioned businesses to understand the requirements, demonstrate their firm’s capability to perform, provide current and relevant references, know their competition, estimate costs realistically and follow the submission requirements.
“[The types of contracting opportunities that] we have [are] goods and services, design and construction and simplified acquisitions [up to $150,000],” said Ruhl.
Ruhl said goods and services consist of professional consulting services such as legal and auditing, custodial and police, fire and river rescue services. Design and construction opportunities include continuous improvement for airport facilities, the Dulles toll road and the metro rail project. Simplified acquisitions include small purchases for routine items including auto parts, office supplies and electrical supplies, she said.
For DBE certification, management and operations must be controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged owners; applicants must prove ownership and control; program is race- and gender-conscious; personal net worth of applicants must not exceed $1.32 million; firm’s annual gross receipts cannot exceed $23.98 million or SBA size standards; and firms must be certified in its home state. Airports Authority contracts that typically include DBE goals are architectural and engineering services, construction and construction-related services as well as airport concessions, according to a MWAA information packet.
“Procurement plays a critical role in ensuring integrity and fairness in our contracting opportunities,” said Julia Hodge, vice president of MWAA’s Office of Supply Chain Management.
“The airport is just a portion of what we do,” MWAA Dulles Corridor Committee Co-Chairman A. Bradley Mims said. “We’re going to continue to come back and do this kind of thing as we move forward.”
Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Jim Coleman, front center, and his staff hosted a Transportation Industry Procurement Day on June 27 to help local entrepreneurs tap into $5 billion worth of procurement...