More than 270 people turned out Wednesday night at Delmar-Tusa Fieldhouse to network with construction industry professionals as the Houston Independent School District prepares to start the bidding process on some 2012 bond projects.
“We were really pleased to see so many faces,” said Alexis Licata, general manager of HISD’s Office of Business Assistance. “This $1.89 billion bond program will create new jobs and opportunities for our diverse business community, and we want everyone to know how they can be a part of it.
The gathering was the first in a series of networking events planned for those in the construction field. Additional events will be organized at each bond campus as work gets under way to ensure neighborhood tradespeople also have a chance to meet primes and subcontractors.
Among those who turned out Wednesday was U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who urged the crowd to use the 2012 bond program as a way to advance economic opportunities for workers across Houston, especially those from less prosperous parts of the city.
“The message should be (that) there is enough for everyone,” said Jackson Lee. She reminded those in the audience that many Houston taxpayers voted for the 2012 bond not only to improve education but to create jobs. She urged prime contractors to look at ways to train people and build capacity in the minority- and women-owned business enterprises.
“I know there will be some good partnerships,” she said.
Wednesday’s event offered a venue to start laying the foundation for those collaborations.
Lourdes Aguinaco, director of Community Relations for Akari Energy, came out to the event to help share her company’s vision and reach potential partners. Akari Energy has worked with HISD before, including providing solar panels to Wilson Elementary.
“We want businesses to know there is somebody here in Houston that can provide the services they need,” Aguinaco said.
As the district focuses on building sustainable schools, Aguinaco said she sees partnership opportunities with the district and other organizations because it’s a service in which everyone can benefit. “It’s a way to teach children to be more energy efficient and friendly toward the environment and it also saves electricity,” she said.
Raquel Olivier, a Houston native, came out Wednesday to look for opportunities to help grow her business — Olivier, Inc. — currently located in Dallas. Her firm provides administrative support to projects, including document control and contract administration.
Olivier said she would be thrilled to have an opportunity to work with HISD on upcoming bond projects and that she appreciated having the chance to network.
“When you have good working relationships, they can open the door for partnership and teaming,” she said.
Such partnerships should come in handy soon. HISD’s Procurement Department is planning to release a solicitation for Job Order Contracts (JOC) for small projects less than $25,000 and for those between $25,000 and $300,000 within the next 60 days. The district also will be releasing a Request for Proposal for its Construction Manager at Risk program during the same time frame.
Finally, some 2007 bond renovation projects also could hit the streets within the next 90 days.
HISD Office of Construction Robert Sands said the turnout at Wednesday’s event underscores the interest and excitement for a bond program that will create thousands of jobs and help fuel the city’s economic growth.
“What an opportunity for $1.89 billion worth of work to be done here in Houston,” he said after the event. “These projects are not only building better schools, they will build a stronger city.”