Small contractors looking for work with Seattle Public Schools are in luck. The Historically Underutilized Businesses Program is available to assist small contractors in securing publicly funded projects and contracts.
The program's mission is to remove barriers that prevent small, historically underused business from bidding for and participating in Seattle Public Schools projects. Through workshops and other training, the program advises small-business owners how they can participate in those projects.
Within the past nine months, the Historically Underutilized Businesses Program has delivered about $12 million of work to participating contractors. Of that total, $4.6 million went to minority business contractors, $3.8 million went to women contractors and $3.8 million went to small businesses.
Fred Stephens, executive director of facilities for Seattle Public Schools, and the program's coordinator, Silas Potter, worked with the school district to improve its policies so small contractors can be included.
An agreement has been reached between the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle's Contractor Development & Competitiveness Center and the city of Seattle, King County Libraries Systems, Vulcan, Seattle Public Schools and King County, said Tony Benjamin, executive director of the Cotractor Devlopment & Competitiveness Center.
"Our role with those organizations is to help them find and implement strategies that will maximize the utilization of minority-owned and small businesses," Benjamin added.
"We have a lot of energy and positive people, from the Development & Competitiveness Center and from the school district who I think all have a passion to see this program materialize into something positive," Potter said. "I think we should envision our programs not so much as providing dollars but in providing opportunities to make dollars. And that's through technical assistance and the training we do."
The Contractor Development & Competitiveness Center and the Historically Underutilized Businesses Program offer workshops to help contractors learn how to respond to bids. They also can be trained in BizProfile, a business management software program. The software is designed to match small businesses with the bid, work and contracting opportunities that fit them best.
BizProfile is a product of Business Innovations Plus Inc., a minority-owned business based in Las Vegas. The company has over 20 product installations nationwide with high-profile clients such as the Washington Department of Transportation, Port of Portland, City of Sacramento, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority and the New Jersey Transit Corp.