Construction networking event builds connections on 2012 bond

More than 200 subcontractors and minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) had the opportunity on Monday to build relationships with the 14 firms HISD has selected to provide construction manager at risk (CMAR) services on school building projects.

“Meet the Generals,” an HISD networking event held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, offered subcontractors in various trades the chance to meet the decision-makers of these firms and learn about their HISD construction projects funded by the district’s 2012 bond program.

“Building these relationships doesn’t mean you’ll get a contract overnight, but over time you will,” said Bernard Willingham, HISD’s team lead for Supplier Diversity.

Each construction firm had a booth at the event, showcasing photos of building projects and materials on its scope of work. Leticia Ellis, a certified roofer for 19 years and owner of Elias Commercial Roof Systems, introduced her M/WBE to general contractors she hasn’t performed work for yet.

“I want to showcase our capacity and how we can help them in the roofing industry,” Elias said. “The most we’ve ever done for HISD is roofing maintenance. We’re looking to expand into the new construction arena now.”

Under the 2012 bond program, the district is planning to build or renovate 40 schools across the district, as well as invest in technology, athletic upgrades, and safety and security improvements. By using the CMAR contracting method, HISD is hoping to ensure a quality program.

The CMARs also participated in a work session on the district’s labor compliance guidelines after meeting with potential subcontractors.

“We want our subcontractors to be engaged and present and not hidden from the process,” said Jay B. Carlton, president and co-owner of Sterling Structures. The school builder was awarded CMAR contracts for the bond projects at Condit Elementary School and Grady Middle School.

“The most important thing in delivering any project is procurement. If you can’t get all of your materials together, you can’t build your project,” Carlton said.

At the Tellepsen booth, subcontractors shared services they provide to see if their company may be a good fit to work with the construction firm.

“This event has been a great opportunity for us to meet qualified and certified minority-owned contractors and understand the services they provide,” said Stephanie Patterson of Tellepsen, which was awarded CMAR contracts for bond projects at Milby High School and DeBakey High School for Health Professions.

In addition to meeting prime contractors, subcontractors were also encouraged to network with other subcontractors to learn how their services may complement one another and if they may be able to partner up on a project in order to improve their chances of winning a contract.

“Small business enterprises need to establish these relationships, so when a bid for a certain trade is made, they’ll have a slight edge,” said Ruben Mercado Jr., executive director of the Houston branch of the National Association of Minority Contractors, a co-sponsor of the event along with Houston First Corporation.