HISD hosts info sessions on doing business with district

More than two dozen people turned out to Milby High School Wednesday to learn about doing business with the Houston Independent School District, with a special emphasis on how to avoid costly errors.

Those in attendance Wednesday afternoon included architects, engineers, other professional service providers and construction contractors.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to learn how to do business with HISD and to learn more about our 2012 bond program,” said Alexis Licata, general manager of Business Assistance. “We want to ensure that all vendors understand the procurement process and the bidding opportunities.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the first of 10 scheduled information sessions planned by the district over the next few weeks. The Milby meeting came just as the district announced the construction timeline for the 2012 HISD bond program Wednesday afternoon.

Milby is one of 17 schools where construction is expected to begin by the end of 2014, the district announced. The $1.89 billion bond was overwhelmingly approved by area voters last month.

Last week, the district opened its solicitation process for architectural and engineering services for the new bond program. Deadlines are fast approaching and the Board of Trustees could begin awarding contracts as early as January 2013.

Throughout the meeting, Licata and her staff cited the importance of diversity and encouraged the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses. She said the district had exceeded their M/WBE participation goals during the 2007 bond program and wants to build on that success.

“We’re hoping that the smaller firms, the M/WBE firms, are able to network with some of the larger firms that come to these meetings,” Licata said. “Perhaps form a partnership or joint venture.”

The Office of Business Assistance started organizing networking and information events around the 2012 bond program last month, including one last week attended by more than 230 people at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

“We just want to be able to get whatever information is being offered at this time,” said Cheryl Gajeske, principal of PGAL, an international architectural firm based in Houston. “The district is going through a lot of trouble to do so many of these events and really put it in all the different communities. That’s pretty impressive.”

One of the lighter moments of the meeting came when Bernard Willingham, one of the district’s supplier diversity specialists, implored those doing business with the district to always wait for a completed purchase order before starting work or providing a service.

Those who don’t could end up making “a sizeable contribution” to HISD, he said, reiterating the importance of following the process laid out by the district to ensure proper and timely payment.

“You’re in business to make money,” he said.

Nine more informational workshops are scheduled this month. The events will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the places below, except for the Sam Houston event, which will begin at 4:30 p.m. No registration is required, but anybody with questions is asked to call the Office of Business Assistance at 713-556-7273.

Thursday, Dec. 6
Scarborough HS, 4141 Costa Rica

Monday, Dec. 10
Sam Houston MSTC, 9400 Irvington Blvd.

Tuesday, Dec. 11
Sterling HS, 11625 Martindale Road

Wednesday, Dec. 12
High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 4701 Dickson St.

Thursday, Dec. 13
Lee HS, 6529 Beverly Hill St.

Monday, Dec. 17
Bellaire HS, 5100 Maple St.

Tuesday, Dec. 18
Sharpstown HS, 7504 Bissonnet St.

Wednesday, Dec. 19
Westbury HS, 11911 Chimney Rock Road

Thursday, Dec. 20
Washington HS, 119 East 39th St.