Business Assistance updates M/WBE documentation requirements

The HISD Business Assistance Department presented new changes to its documentation and bidding process for minority- and women-owned businesses at a workshop Wednesday after working with public entities, private corporations and chambers of commerce to improve its supplier diversity program.

“This is part of an ongoing effort across the country to bring together best practices for minority- and women-owned businesses,” said HISD Supplier Diversity Team Lead Bernard Willingham. “We wanted to see what’s happening in supplier diversity – what are the trends and what are some things we should try to avoid.”

One of the new requirements under the department’s minority- and women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) program calls for subcontractors in procurement and goods and services to also be certified by one of three groups – the City of Houston, Women Business Enterprise Alliance or the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. The department will also begin to request a monthly spend report from prime contractors to ensure subcontractors are paid on time and that prime contractors are meeting their M/WBE participation goals.

“Make sure it’s a number you can meet and live with because we’re going to hold you to that,” Willingham said. “If you tell us you’re going to subcontract at 25 percent, we’re going to expect that. If you don’t do that, this could hamper your ability to bid on future HISD projects.”

During the workshop, the department unveiled a M/WBE subcontractor plan that outlines how subcontractors will meet and provide the services they’ve agreed to. Each prime contractor will be required to complete this document plan and provide a copy of each M/WBE subcontractor’s certification in order to submit a bid for a HISD project.

“I want to be able to speak confidently about what HISD expects on these forms, so we can eliminate any delays or possibilities of not being able to bid because we didn’t fill out the paperwork properly,” said Denice Charron, a bid coordinator with Synergy Enterprises, a food services brokerage company, and a first-time attendee to the monthly workshop. She recently helped one of the company’s clients complete a HISD food service bid for groceries.

The workshop featured examples of sample letters on how to reach out to M/WBE subcontractors and an overview of the department’s scoring system that provides firms with multiple good-faith-effort options to meet M/WBE goals. Vendors will need to accumulate 100 points to be considered in compliance with HISD’s program.

Willingham said construction and project work for phase one of the district’s 2012 bond projects will start by the end of this year and continue until 2017.

“Now is the time to start cultivating relationships that will lead to subcontracts,” Willingham said. “Our goal is to keep you compliant. We’re not trying to eliminate vendors. The good faith efforts now require more effort, but if you do any work nationally, you’re going to start seeing these requirements more often.”