City of Portland Bureau of Purchases Provides Contracting Opportunities for Minority-Owned Firms
Loretta Young, Contractor Development Supervisor
Greg Wolley, Marketing and Outreach Program Coordinator
Did you know that City of Portland has a number of programs in place to ensure that minority-owned, women-owned, and emerging small businesses have opportunities to secure contract projects with the city and other public agencies?
From construction projects to professional services, the City of Portland actively seeks opportunities to work with minority-owned, women-owned, and emerging small businesses, said Loretta Young, Contractor Development Supervisor.
“Our primary role is to work with different bureaus in the City of Portland to assure that opportunities are provided to women- and minority-owned firms and emerging small businesses and entrepreneurs,” she said.
Good Faith Effort Program. According to Loretta, an important component of the city’s contractor diversity efforts is its Good Faith Effort requirement, which calls on prime contractors working on city construction projects to make an effort to subcontract with women- or minority-owned businesses.
The Good Faith Effort Program requirements apply to all City construction contracts that are estimated at $200,000 and above. Some smaller contracts (between $100,000 and $200,000) may also include Good Faith Effort Program requirements if there are substantial opportunities for subcontracting.
Workforce Training & Hiring Program. The City of Portland also initiated the Workforce Training & Hiring Program, designed to increase diversity in public works crews. The program requires contractors to use 20% of hours in each trade to provide apprenticeship opportunities in an effort to train and hire women and minorities in the trades. The program targets contractors who are working on city projects worth $200,000 + and subcontractors with projects more than $100,000.
Sheltered Market Program. The City of Portland, Multnomah County and the Portland Development Commission collaborate to provide opportunities for Minority-owned, Women-owned and Emerging Small Businesses (M/W/ESB’s) to bid on and secure public works projects. Plans are already in the works to include projects by the Housing Authority of Portland.
The City of Portland’s Sheltered Market Program (SMP) seeks to improve opportunities for M/W/ESB construction firms. Program participants compete among themselves for contracting opportunities on various construction projects, ranging from $5,000 to $200,000.
Five city bureaus place projects into the program: the Water Bureau, Bureau of Transportation, Bureau of Environmental Services, Bureau of General Services and Parks Bureau. Projects include street improvements, sewer construction, electrical wiring, building construction, irrigation and sprinkling systems, landscaping, park improvements, and more. There is a wide range of trades represented in the program.
Currently, there are 80 SMP participants, all in varying trades of work and stages of program enrollment. From 1998 to 2004, the City of Portland has awarded more than $9 million to Sheltered Market contractors. More than 300 M/W/ESB firms have participated since the program was launched in 1998.
While in the program, SMP participants are offered services and resources at little to no cost. One of these resources includes a discounted membership to the Daily Journal of Commerce Plan Center.
Firms admitted to the program are eligible to participate for up to for five years. This program is much more than just bidding opportunities. Immediately upon entering the program a firm will have many opportunities to bid on new projects, participate in business development training sessions and build new relationships.
The SMP is not intended as a program for startup businesses – participating firms must have prior contracting experience. To participate in the Sheltered Market Program, a business must meet the following criteria:
- Contractors must be certified by the State Office of Minority, Women, and Emerging Small Businesses to receive at least one of the following designations:
- MBE - minority-owned business
- WBE - women-owned business
- ESB - emerging small business
- Be in business for at least two years and employ more than 50% of their work crew.
- Have annual gross receipts of less than $1 million per year or less than $3 million over the last years.
Technical Assistance Program. The City of Portland along with Multnomah County and Portland Development Commission all partner in the Technical Assistance Program in an effort to provide M/W/ESB construction firms with the opportunity to grow their businesses through business development training.
The program is designed to empower business owners with new knowledge. We want to see M/W/ESB firms become more competitive in the marketplace. Any M/W/ESB construction business owner or employee is eligible to participate in the Technical Assistance Program. All classes are currently offered at no charge.
Throughout the year M/W/ESB construction owners and their employees have many options to participate in technical and business development training. A wide range of training opportunities are offered including computer classes in Excel, Word and QuickBooks; Portland Community College courses on Bidding and Estimating and classes on “How to Create a Marketing and Business Plan” and more .
Each year The City adds new classes to the training curriculum. New classes are already underway for training in the fall of 2006. Currently M/W/ESB construction firms are eligible to participate in 10 different computer classes
The training curriculum is designed to help M/W/ESB construction firms acquire additional skills whether they have been in business for one year or 10 years.
Professional Services Marketing and Outreach Program. Greg Wolley, program coordinator, coordinates the City of Portland’s outreach efforts to increase contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned small businesses who offer consulting and other professional services.
“Our goal is to increase the number of women and minority contractors who have expertise in professional services, such as marketing and graphic design, legal services, as well as information technology consultants,” said Greg, who has been overseeing the program since 2004.
In his role, Greg works with a number of local business and professional organizations to provide information about consulting opportunities with the City of Portland. In recent months, Greg and other Purchasing staff, have actively participated in a variety of trade shows and events, including the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME) annual trade show, AsiaFest, and more.
Every month at OAME, Greg hosts “First Friday Professionals,” an hour-long workshop designed to provide information about contracting opportunities with the City of Portland. Meetings are held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on the first Friday of each month at the OAME Cascade Plaza, 4134 N. Vancouver Ave.
“It’s an opportunity for small business owners to learn about the requirements of doing business with the city,” said Greg. “Plus, it’s a good way for professional service providers to explore ways in which they can collaborate to create more competitive project proposals. In many cases, creating partnerships provides a competitive advantage, because it helps the partnering firms leverage their resources.
“One of our priorities is to develop strong relationships with local business and trade organizations,” said Greg. To this end, he hosts quarterly outreach events intended to connect professional services firms with project managers from the City of Portland.. Project managers discuss upcoming opportunities and offer information about their operations.
In addition, Greg also meets individually with small businesses to provide a personal orientation to doing business with the City.
“An important aspect of my role is meeting and getting to know small business owners and learning about the capabilities and services of their company. In turn, they learn about current and upcoming projects with the City,” he said.