The HISD supplier diversity team collaborated with the City of Houston, Port of Houston Authority, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County to talk contracts with small businesses during May’s Workshop Wednesday hosted by the district’s business assistance office.
“Procurement has changed so much,” said Bernard Willingham, HISD Team Lead for Supplier Diversity. “If you were a small business 10 years ago, the only thing you had to do was show up and say ‘I’m a small business,’ and you would get a contract. Today, it’s all about bidding in the RFP (Request Proposal) process, and you have to be engaged in that process.”
The monthly workshop offered insight to about 20 businesses on navigating the procurement process, reviewing project schedules and bid proposals, and ways each agency assists small and minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs).
“Our department works diligently to ensure that you all get the opportunity to bid and perform work on our projects,” Willingham said. “We’re looking to hire and award local contractors and suppliers.”
The HISD business assistance office holds networking events in which businesses are invited to meet the prime contractor for developments across the district, including construction projects to build and renovate 40 schools as part of HISD’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program.
The department leads a M/WBE program in which prime contractors are required to meet a specific M/WBE participation goal in the project scope of work. The department also sponsors an Interagency Mentor-Protégé Program with the city, Metro and the Port to help small businesses and M/WBEs improve business plans and leverage new opportunities.
“What I’m hoping to get out of this workshop is making contacts,” said Edwin Ursin of Ursin’s Energy Efficient Lighting, a M/WBE interested in doing business with HISD. “My goal is to do lighting and electrical work for HISD.”
During the workshop, each agency shared concerns it has regarding small businesses pursuing contract opportunities. Participants were encouraged to attend bid pre-proposal meetings even if they’re not mandatory because they provide important information on the project needs. They were also told to know how to articulate their company’s services, to submit organized proposals that are formatted in the same style as a RFP and to not submit proposals for work their business does not have the bond capacity to complete.
“They gave us good tips on how to differentiate our business, find bids and to come to pre-proposal meetings,” said Rebekah Hobart of DISYS, a digital information technology company. “Tips like that were helpful.”