By Eurydice Stanley…
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Florida Department of Management Services Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD), City of Pensacola and Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Supplier Diversity Exchange to help underrepresented contractors learn the process of doing business with the government at the city, county, or state level.
Hue Reynolds, OSD executive director, noted that the second annual event was much bigger than last year.
Keith Wilkins, Assistant City Administrator, greeted the attendees on behalf of Mayor Ashton Hayward. He encouraged small businesses to “…bring your innovation and skills to the table,” and be “…open to government bureaucracy.”
Hosea Goodwyn, assistant city purchasing manager, noted what some would call bureaucracy represents the time necessary to ensure fairness across the board for applicants. He provided an overview of policies implemented to help eliminate invisible barriers to small, minority- and women-owned businesses.
Representatives of more than 25 organizations traveled to Sanders Beach-Corrine Jones Resource Center from throughout the state to provide contracting insights.
Cheryl Gonzalez, chair of the Florida Advisory Council on Small Business Development in Jacksonville, told the more than 100 small businesses in attendance the event was specifically designed to provide the opportunity for collaboration. She encouraged to take speak with the representatives present, stressing the importance of access.
Gonzalez said, “Here’s your chance to work with people you might not otherwise see.”
“The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program is governed by 49 CFR part 26,” noted Terry Watson, Department of Transportation (DOT) Equal Opportunity Office and State DBE Program Coordinator. He sought to demystify doing business with the government and identify businesses that are socially and economically disadvantaged, which includes women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Pacific Islanders, but noted that the burden of proof is on the applicant.
The DOT has a “Race Neutral Program,” believing that it can achieve its goals for the DBE program on federally assisted contracts through the normal competitive process.
In fiscal year 2015-2016, the State of Florida DOT DBE goal was 9.91 percent of the $5.3 billion awarded for federal and state projects. The DOT achieved 13.44 percent DBE commitments, or $718 million.
Over a working lunch, Laurel Subel, a government contract specialist with the Florida Small Business Development Center State Office, presented “The 10 ‘Knows’ of Business Marketing.”
Pointing out every entity is different, she said, “You have to speak three languages to do business with the government, ‘Federaleze, stateze and localeze.’”
Subel advised the small business owners to be able to concisely convey their services within 30 seconds or less.
Hue Reynolds, OSD executive director, urged participants to continue their efforts to do business with the State of Florida.
“The key is to follow up,” she said. “Call the representatives that you speak with today and ask them to keep you in mind for potential procurements.”
During the afternoon session, participants met one-on-one with the procurement representatives in attendance. The interviews provided the unique opportunity to access organizations they previously had difficulty reaching.
Skanska USA Civil Southeast, the company awarded the $398.5 million contract for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, participated in the interview sessions.
When asked why, Horrace Tobin, Skanska’s EEO compliance manager, said, “This is an opportunity for our business to help the community. Our company does things not because it is contractually required, but because it is the right thing to do.”
Kosal Sarou, Skanska DBE Compliance Officer added, “We are here to help find DBE’s and SBE’s to partner with on our project.”
The slides from the event are available on the OSD website, dms.myflorida.com/osd.