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Source : ContractorNews.com
December 7, 2022
Author : Alex Bustillos
Disadvantages Business Enterprises (DBEs) in Cleveland are experiencing an array of new opportunities. Numerous procurement and project opportunities are being administrated through the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA)
GCRTA's DBE program is administered by its Office of Business Development (OBD). The program, administered by the Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR Part 26, is intended to help ensure that DBE enterprises have a level playing field and equal opportunity to receive and participate in federally funded contract opportunities.
The current DBE participation goal on federally subsidized contracts is 21.5%, pending approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
The OBD at the GCRTA is taking a five-fold approach to increase the number of DBE participants, provide adequate training, and assist them in becoming successful sub-contractors.
The five-step approach includes:
After a DBE firm submits the ODOT Uniform Certification Application and its eligibility is assessed, the Office of Business Development organizes an on-site inspection. This on-site inspection is undertaken with the firm's proprietors and includes a desk audit of products, equipment, and machinery. OBD will also visit current DBEs to create relationships and verify if they've extended their skills.
OBD works closely with the project manager to monitor the prime contractor's compliance once a DBE is selected. Unannounced, OBD workers will visit a job site twice a week. They'll count the workers on the construction site, compare it to the project schedule record, ask for paystubs and ask the foreman about labor usage. OBD personnel will compare prevailing wages to the Department of Labor's wage schedule. GCRTA will report any inconsistencies.
Above $25,000, a DBE participation objective will be examined. This target includes ready, willing, and certified DBEs. Prime contractors receive the DBE goal with project information, which is emailed to all available DBEs. All prime contractors and DBEs attend a virtual pre-bid conference. OBD asks DBEs to address the audience after procurement, and the project manager examines the project. This helps prime contractors identify available DBEs. OBD records which DBEs attend virtual pre-bid meetings.
The prime contractor must identify DBEs in the project proposal during procurement. An affidavit from the DBE must be filed with the project proposal to ensure a good faith attempt to meet the DBE percentage goal. If a prime contractor can't find a DBE, the OBD can help discover subcontractors.
OBD will send a certified letter to the prime contractor if DBEs aren't identified in the proposal. The prime contractor has three business days to meet the DBE goal and hire qualified DBEs. If the prime contractor misses the deadline, the project will go to the next in line.
The authority's procurement department and OBD staff run a monthly virtual "Learn to do Business" program for small enterprises, potential DBEs, and certified DBEs. All accredited DBEs receive mass emails encouraging them to bring other small enterprises. Training programs cover certification, procurement, contract compliance, payment rules, and project monitoring. GCRTA partners with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, area universities and colleges, Jumpstart, and the Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI) to promote small businesses and DBEs and provide networking opportunities. This allows seasoned DBEs to help newer businesses learn.
The OBD reaches out to businesses that can bid on any procurement, outreach, and goal-setting opportunities for DBE firms. This scheme allows small firms to gain revenue over three years. A small business cannot participate in this program if its three-year gross revenues surpass $28.48 million at the conclusion of the Federal Fiscal Year.
All these measures help GCRTA meet its DBE goals and create a sustainable environment for economic growth among small businesses.