HISD Team Working to Build Supplier Diversity in Bond Program

The HISD supplier diversity team is evaluating strategies to increase the participation of Asian-owned companies doing business with the district.

“We’re doing everything in our power to attract diverse minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs),” said HISD Team Lead for Supplier Diversity Bernard Willingham, while speaking at the district’s Asian Advisory Committee meeting on Oct. 14.

At the gathering, he gave an update on the bond program to the committee, which is made up of parents and business leaders from Houston’s Asian community.

Overall, commitments by design and program management firms so far in the 2012 bond program will ensure 51 percent participation by M/WBE firms. The recommended Construction Manager at Risk firms have agreed to contracting between 20 percent and 40 percent of their work to M/WBE consultants.

“We’ve exceeded our goal of 20 percent for M/WBE participation because of committees like this,” Willingham said. “But we can do better.”

One hurdle for many small businesses is meeting the district’s capacity needs for projects that require a vast scope of work, he said.

“What the district can do to help the Asian community fare better in the contract process is offer more training on what to expect,” said committee member and attorney David J. Quan. It’s important for Asian businesses to know that applying for a HISD contract requires verbal and visual presentation skills, he added, since many prospective suppliers are asked to make formal presentations on the company’s experience and project ideas to the school’s community.

The district’s business assistance office provides workshops, as well as mentoring and joint venture opportunities to help M/WBE companies develop the skills needed to compete for HISD contracts in purchasing, professional services and construction as well as other areas.

“These programs will help enhance the capacity of their firms, give them the experience they need to manage these projects and bring them in partnering relationships with larger firms,” Willingham said.

Click here to learn more about HISD’s supplier diversity efforts.