Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) partnered with District 3 County Commissioner, Lumon May, and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), to co-host a Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Workshop on Wednesday April 9th at the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Resource Center, a new facility in the heart of Escambia County District 3. The more than sixty-five attendees were treated to an abundance of information on how to compete for contract opportunities with ECAT, and FDOT as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs).
Tonya Ellis, ECAT Director of Marketing served as moderator for the event and introduced County Commission Chairman, Lumon May, to open up the event by stating his commitment for generating business opportunities and creating jobs within District 3 and throughout Escambia County. He urged the businesses in attendance to take advantage of the programs at ECAT and FDOT created to level the playing field for small and minority businesses.
ECAT’s General Manager Herold Humphrey discussed the opportunities in Transit for DBEs and gave an overview of ECAT’s services and contracting process. Humphrey stated, “ECAT has opportunities to partner with minority businesses within Escambia County. Realizing the shortage of State Certified DBE vendors in our area, ECAT organized this workshop as our way of educating the community of the certification process and its benefits. This event was not only to help ECAT with its minority business goals, but also a way to spark other local economic development by teaching others of available business opportunities in the area.”
The guest Speaker was Terry V. Watson, FDOT DBE Program Specialist in the Equal Opportunity Office. Watson also promotes the department’s DBE Program by marketing and communicating the program to prime contractors and consultants throughout the state. Terry serves on the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers (FICE) DBE subcommittee of their Transportation Committee and also served on the Florida Transportation Builders Associations (FTBA) DBE subcommittee. Mr. Watson explained the benefits of becoming a DBE and what type of projects and opportunities are available for firms with that certification.
He defined a DBE as a for-profit small business concern that is:
- at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged or, in the case of a corporation, in which 51 percent of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals; and
- whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.
He also spoke about the Business Development Initiative (BDI) for small businesses offered throughout the Florida Department of Transportation. The purpose of the BDI Program is to increase competition among contractors and begin to transition them to prime contractor status. Some of the BDI Program strategies include:
- Reserve contracts for small businesses
- Contracts are up to $1,500,000
- Modified pre-qualification requirements
- Waive bonds on contracts of a non-critical nature
Certified DBEs received 11% of Federal and State contracts in 2013 amounting to approximately $420,000,000 in revenue from contract opportunities.
Also in attendance was Bobby Braun of Anderson Columbia, a national construction company. He spoke of the major projects they have in the Florida Panhandle and across the state. Another major construction company, Skanska USA, was represented by Rodney Renix, a DBE Compliance Officer. Skanska USA, Southeast is the construction contractor for the $118 million State Road 331 Choctawhatchee Bridge project in Walton County. He spoke about the recruiting efforts they are doing to encourage more small business to register as a DBE certified business to work on FDOT projects with prime contractors.
Other Workshop Participants included:
Jerry L. Maygarden, President/CEO of Greater Pensacola Chamber Commerce
Eugene Franklin, President of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce,
George Hawthorne, CEO of Diversity Program Advisors,
Thawanna Keaton and Laura Subel from the Small Business Development Center at UWF
Tony McCray, President of McCray & Associates
Afterwards, ECAT and First Transit hosted a reception at the Rosa Parks Transit Facility, and offered refreshments and a tour of their main facility. Tonya Ellis, ECAT Director of Marketing described the event as a tremendous success, and the first of many to come.