Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says the turnout at her administration’s Equity in Business Workshops underscores the need to make it easier for small, minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses to land city-parish contracts.
“As you can see, there is obviously a need because of the turnout here tonight,” Broome says, referring to the more than 60 public works, construction and maintenance professionals who attended the latest workshop on Tuesday evening.
Along with learning about ways to contract with the city-parish, attendees explored contracting opportunities with LSU, Southern University and the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
The workshops are just a part of the mayor’s push to expand contracting opportunities for local businesses. In March, the mayor issued an RFP for a city-parish procurement disparity study. In April, her administration released a city-parish bid forecast list.
At the latest workshop, attendees were told that getting certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise is a good start for small contractors looking for government work—but it’s just a start.
Among the attendees on Tuesday evening was Lakeisha Pruitt, founder of The Pruitt Group, which handles accounting, financial management and tax credits. The company is new to public sector contracting and Pruitt says she showed up to network with decision makers.
Also on hand was Platinum Cleaning Services owner Travis Jenkins, who is still establishing his janitorial services business and says he’s hoping to secure quality insurance and bonds. Meanwhile, Frank and Bridgett Williams, who own Williams AC and Heating Light Construction, are simply looking for more bid opportunities.
“I became a vendor for the City of Baton Rouge, so I want to get more insight about what I need to do to keep it rolling,” Bridgett Williams says.
They have good reason to inquire. For the city-parish alone, the upcoming dollar value of public works projects is $38 million, notes Veneeth Iyengar, Broome’s assistant chief administrative officer. Commodities will total $4.3 million and professional services will be worth $1.3 million.
“Within the next six to 12 months, those are contracts that are going to be up for bids,” Iyengar says.
At Tuesday’s workshop, Broome also plugged her MoveBR tax proposal, a $900 million infrastructure plan that she hopes voters will approve on Dec. 8. While Broome doesn’t have data on the number of jobs that would be created if the tax is approved, she says contractors, subcontractors and program managers would need to be hired, and she wants to seriously consider DBE-certified companies for those contracts.
Workshop attendees also learned about best practices in bonding, insurance and finance, as well as some resources available to them, such as the Louisiana Small Business Development Center and Louisiana Economic Development’s bonding assistance program.
There have been two workshops conducted so far, and two more are planned. The next will be on Sept. 27 at the Charles Kelly Center, and the following will take place Dec. 13 at the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.