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California Mega-Project Primes Meet with MBDA to Access Minority-Owned Firms


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Created on August 30, 2012

Mark McComas, Alejandra Castillo, & Paul PendergastYesterday, MBDA National Deputy Director Alejandra Castillo wrapped-up a two day visit to California to meet first hand with the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and prime contractors for the BART Warm Springs and the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco. Meetings included productive conversations with CA High Speed Rail Authority, Kiewit, Tutor Parsons Zachary Group, Skanska Shimmick and Herzog Joint Venture, and the Webcore Obayashi Joint Venture.

During these meetings, National Deputy Director Alejandra Castillo highlighted three overarching issues that must be factored in for the CHSRA and its prime contractors to achieve a 30 percent participation rate of Small Business/Disadvantaged Businesses for the California high speed rail project. First and foremost, is the need to develop and execute an aggressive communication and outreach plan to effectively and creatively notify potential minority-owned firms of the project, contracting opportunities and teaming arrangements. A second consideration is for the CHRA and prime contractors to create a dynamic and broad-based inventory of qualified and capable minority-owned firms. Lastly, Ms. Castillo offered to leverage the Federal government to assist with identifying minority-owned firms with experience in construction and infrastructure projects. 

“I want to highlight an existing and robust pipeline of qualified minority-owned businesses that primes can access for teaming arrangements and sub-contracting opportunities,” said Ms. Castillo. As a federal partner, the Minority Business Development Agency can be of real value to prime contractors on this project-- and any other mega-project in the United States or abroad. Since 1969, MBDA has fostered the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned firms. As a consequence, the Agency, its network of MBDA Business Centers and strategic partners have existing and long term relationships with a wide variety of minority-owned firms throughout California as well as the Nation. MBDA offers state agencies and prime contractors insight on the capability and capacity of pre-vetted minority-owned firms and business-to-business matchmaking events that can be used to identify potential partners.

The meetings yesterday were not just about strategy but also tactics such as compliance and bonding. In terms of bonding, Ms. Castillo talked about the need for innovative approaches to ensure every minority-owned firm interested in sub- contracting is not shut out because they were unable to securing bonding. Ms. Castillo recommended that the primes examine   other large public works projects such as the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority and how they helped small businesses become bonded and increase their bonding capacity.

In response to the meetings, one of the consultants stated “This is a timely conversation. Now is the time to be proactive about becoming a part of this exciting new venture.”

These prime contractors are looking for minority-owned construction companies that can provide construction services, professional services and material services. As the pieces begin to fall into place for this lucrative project, it is crucial that minority-owned firms begin to state their interest by being active and responsive to each general contractor’s and California High Speed Rail Authority’s outreach events, develop line cards that reflect the accomplishments and capabilities of their business, and enter contact information into the prime contractor’s database of potential sub-contractors in order to get on the radar.

Keep an eye on the MBDA website for more on the California High Speed Rail project along with active links to the prime contractors’ registration database for sub-contractors.

Did you know...

Between 2002 and 2007, minority-owned firms outpaced the growth of non-minority firms in gross receipts, employment, and number of firms. Minority firms are an engine of job creation.
Graph for MBE Growth

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