Asian Advisory Committee Hears About Efforts to Enhance M/WBE Participation for 2012 Bond

Alexis Licata, general manager of HISD's Office of Business Assistance, provides information on doing business with the district during a meeting of the Asian Advisory Committee.

More than 50 people turned out Wednesday for an update on HISD’s 2012 bond program at an event hosted by the district’s Asian Advisory Committee at the International Trade Center on Bellaire.

“Many of us don’t know how to do business with HISD, and that’s why we’re having this meeting,” said Gordon Quan, committee chairman and a Houston immigration attorney.

The event drew area architects, engineers and consultants, who heard from Alexis Licata, general manager of HISD’s Office of Business Assistance. She gave participants an overview of the bond program to date and its efforts to include participation by minority and women-owned business enterprises.

The $1.89 billion 2012 bond program will build or renovate 40 schools, as well as fund district athletic facility and middle school restroom renovations, safety and security improvements, and technology upgrades.

“If you’re having problems getting your foot in the door, that’s what we’re here for,” Licata said. “We really want your feedback.”

Licata offered the following tips for doing business with the district:

  • Check out the website frequently for new bid opportunities
  • Sign up for her office’s daily email blast to stay informed of new bids and events
  • Contact her office with specific questions

In 2012, the business assistance team helped more than 1,300 firms. It provided assistance for M/WBE bid documentation, helped in resolving payment disputes for M/WBE suppliers, and alerted suppliers and organizations to opportunities offered by the district.

The district’s M/WBE program has already seen a record level of success with M/WBE participation in the 2007 bond program near 34 percent. As the 2012 bond program unfolds, HISD wants to build on that progress and find new ways to encourage M/WBE participation.

Read more: Minority business owner finds success working with HISD

On Feb. 14, the Board of Education authorized HISD to negotiate contracts with eight engineering and architecture firms for the first batch of 2012 bond projects. Of those companies, six are certified M/WBEs. The two other companies are committing to contracting no less than 25 percent of their work to M/WBE consultants.  All are firms with a local Houston presence.

Overall, the Board of Education’s decision ensures a 75 percent participation rate by M/WBE firms for the initial portion of the 2012 bond program.  HISD’s minimum M/WBE goal levels are 20 percent for all levels of purchasing and construction and 25 percent for professional services.

C.C. Lee, president and CEO of STOA Architects, said his own experience in doing business with the district has taught him that it’s important to take advantage of networking and outreach events.

“Visibility enhances opportunity,” Lee said. “You’ve got to show your face.”

The district’s Supplier Diversity Advisory Committee is currently looking at ways to strengthen HISD’s M/WBE program with an improved scoring system that would give points to companies based on their efforts to partner and outreach with minority and women-owned firms.

Some of those initiatives include placing advertisements to find M/WBE subcontractors or attending pre-bid conferences where they can meet potential partners.

“With the assistance of the Advisory Committee, we’ve revamped the paperwork,” Licata said. “It will ensure prospective bidders make every attempt to meet the district’s good-faith effort.”

One way that M/WBEs can learn about doing business with HISD is attending monthly workshops hosted by the Office of Business Assistance. The goal is to review topics like bonding or how to fill out a bid package, so that companies get more comfortable with the procurement process.

“If there’s anything that’s preventing you from bidding, let us know,” said Bernard Willingham, HISD’s Supplier Diversity team leader.

Quan commended the district for participating in Wednesday’s meeting and keeping the door open to feedback and questions from the business community.

“The school district is open to seeing how they can be responsive to the international community, and we’re thankful for their support,” he said.

Want to learn more about doing business with the district? The Office of Business Assistance hosts workshops the first Wednesday of the every month. To register for the workshop or sign up for our email blasts on vendor opportunities, contact the Office of Business Assistance at 713-556-7273.