The City of Asheville recently hosted a Minority Business Program outreach meeting with project pre-planners Beverly Grant and Barnhill to include regional minority-owned businesses specifically relating to bidding opportunities for the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP).
Inclusion and providing opportunities for economic participation in the City’s programs are the heart of the City of Asheville’s Minority Business Program. The City is always working to increase awareness of these efforts, which take many forms.
City staff works to promote minority business participation in the City’s Capital Improvement Program projects by outreach with construction companies when they bid for work with the City. Economic Development Specialist Brenda Mills, who coordinates the Minority Business Program, attends pre-submittal meetings, so contractors understand City requirements for minority and women-owned outreach to be incorporated into their work with the City. This comes into play particularly when subcontractors are used for a project; that can be a minority business inclusion opportunity.
Brenda Mills then reviews the results of the bids for outreach, from the lowest responsive bidder. There are forms and documentation the contractors must provide the City. The Economic Development Specialist may help contractors identify local minority and women-owned subcontractors they may wish to incorporate into a bid.
“I work with City departments to be more inclusive when it comes to the bidding process and to help them figure out how to target minority and women-owned businesses,” Brenda said.
The advertising of bids is accomplished through City’s website, Interactive Purchasing System for the State and even Twitter alerts (follow @AshevilleBids). The City encourages all vendors specifically minorities and women to get registered as vendors to receive alerts on all state and local agencies who post bidding opportunities.
Case in point
Take, for example, the Tiger VI suite of projects, which include the Livingston Street Complete Streets project, River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP) and the Clingman and Town Branch greenways. Two firms are working together as preconstruction managers on that project: Beverly Grant of Asheville and Barnhill, which is based in Raleigh.
“We’ve asked them to develop a partnership with Green Opportunities to train potential workers for Tiger VI and other projects,” said Riverfront Office Developer Stephanie Monson Dahl.
The City recently held a meeting with local minority businesses go review contract opportunities with those projects.
Held at the U.S. Cellular Center, the Government-Business-Connect Fair aims to connect minority and women-owned business with City departments that contract out various jobs, from landscape maintenance to consulting. This past year, the fair incorporated booths from Buncombe County government, the Town of Waynesville and other major employers. The idea is to get face-to-face information, or training, on how to effectively bid for work with these agencies and to find out what their needs are.
This year’s Government-Business-Connect Fair is set for 1-4 p.m. April 19 at the U.S. Cellular Center, 87 Haywood Street. Registration is open; click here. [Registration is closed.] Admission is free. This year the City has had significant interest by universities, school systems and prime contractors.
Training and workshops
Economic Development Specialist Brenda Mills initiated a working group of small, minority and women-owned businesses to address their needs and bring resources to them on bidding opportunities through the City, specifically related to their business. Some examples:
- Doing Business with the Airport: NCDOT conducted training on certification but also the Airport staff met with attendees on how to find opportunities.
- Public contracting training to help these businesses learn the process.
- Small Business Program presentation on services and assistance they can receive as businesses.
- Lending session hosted by Mountain BizWorks, with information about community development financial institutions, such as Self Help Credit Union, Carolina Small Business Development Fund, as well as traditional lenders.
Brenda Mills also conducts training and outreach at places like the A-B Tech Small Business Center.
The City’s Minority Business Program also works to help businesses that quality get certified as minority or women-owned. Prior to 2009, certification was awarded on the local level, but in 2009, the state of North Carolina became a central clearinghouse for these certifications. Now City staff may walk help a minority business through the state certification process, which would then qualify them for designated inclusion in various local government bidding contracts.
- Link to City of Asheville purchasing and contracts webpage, which provides information on how the process works
- Link to the City of Asheville’s Minority Business Program.
- City of Asheville Minority Business Plan
For more information, contact Economic Development Specialist Brenda Mills at BMills@ashevillenc.gov or 828-259-8050.