SAN DIEGO–San Diego Unified School District is committed to ensuring the small, disadvantaged and underutilized business have viable opportunities to participate in its construction program.
To that end, the district recently hosted its 2016 Construction Expo at Kearny High School’s Stanley Foster School of Engineering, Innovation and Design (formerly Construction Tech Academy). The annual event is part of the school district’s comprehensive Business Outreach Program that reaches a broad spectrum of small and emerging businesses including: minority- and women-owned business enterprises, as well as disabled-veteran-owned business enterprises (DVBE).
Before the July 20 expo began, Superintendent Cindy Marten and Board of Education President Mike McQuary held a press conference to announce the latest numbers for the district’s Business Outreach Program.
“During the first half of 2016, over 43 percent of all San Diego Unified construction contracts were awarded to local, small emerging business enterprises,” Marten announced.
“That’s $44.6 million to small and emerging business enterprises,” McQuary noted. “Of that, minority-owned businesses were awarded 13 percent, totaling $13.4 million.”
“In 2011, the board passed a resolution requiring 3 percent disabled veteran participation in all of our construction contracts,” McQuary added. “This year over 6 percent of all work, totaling $6.4 million, was awarded to certified disabled veteran business enterprises.”
Mike Bilodeau, chief executive officer and owner of IO Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. (IOEI), a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) headquartered in San Diego, participated in the expo, and contracts with the district as a subcontractor and general contractor. Bilodeau credits the district’s Business Outreach Program for helping save, and grow, his business when federal spending was curtailed in recent years. The district helped IOEI transition from federal contracting to local and regional contracting.
Of the expo, Bilodeau said, “It was one-stop shopping for a small business. All the ‘big guys’ (top general contractors) were there, both disabled veteran business groups, and most of the small business coordinators were there as well. And, breakfast and lunch is always welcome!”
“We definitely received special attention being a DVBE with the large contractors,” Bilodeau added. “It’s too early to tell yet if we will receive additional opportunities (from the expo).”
Bilodeau also met disabled veterans who attended the district’s Construction Expo for the first time, i.e., an electrician and a concrete business owner.
“I’ve have already had my estimators reach out to them,” Bilodeau said. “I also reconnected with the new president of Elite DVBE, and we talked about pursuing an existing opportunity together.”
Bilodeau is committed to “passing it on” by giving other disabled veterans business opportunities. Since its beginning in 2006, IOEI has employed 18 veterans for a total of 40 years of employment. This is a result of the focus on utilizing the SDVOSB set-aside program to hire veterans, and team with other veteran-owned companies. IOEI also has a goal of maintaining at least a 40 percent veteran work force.
In addition to IOEI’s veteran ownership, veterans take on such roles as project managers, quality control managers, scientists, geologists, contract managers, field samplers, storm water managers, construction workers, document specialists, technical writers and administrative support.
IOEI has also awarded over $3.2 million in work to 10 other veteran-owned businesses, and it continues to mentor these firms by sharing its contracting knowledge, resources, and contacts.
San Diego Unified’s Business Outreach team coordinated and hosted the Construction Expo, which gave local small business owners an opportunity to meet and talk with district staff who oversee the design and construction of school facilities, and those who contract/procure products and services. Approximately 220 construction industry contractors attended the sixth annual expo that featured more than 50 exhibitors representing the school district, county agencies, professional organizations, local general contractors and consulting firms.
“Creating these opportunities not only benefit the business owners, they benefit our students and their families as well.” Marten said. “Many of our contractors and subcontractors have children or grandchildren who attend our schools. Therefore, their work not only improves the quality of their neighborhood schools, but it also positively impacts their students’ learning environment as well. In addition, their families benefit financially from our district’s contracting opportunities.”
Two workshops were added to last year’s expo, and were so well received that the district held them again this year. The sessions were specifically tailored to enhance the experience of attendees. “I’m at the Expo, Now What,” was designed to give a brief, but detailed, outline of the event, including hints on how to make the most out of your time at the expo. The “Prime Panel” was a panel of prime contractors that have worked on district projects. They shared their perspectives on what they are looking for in subcontractors for their team.
“Every year we try to improve the event by inviting only those exhibitors/partners relevant to district contracting, and bringing in staff pertinent to construction projects for the upcoming year,” said Karen Linehan, manager of district’s business outreach program. “We received feedback all day (at the expo) that it was the best year yet.”
The district’s Facilities Planning and Construction Division (FPC) and its Business Outreach team hosted the event.
For more information on the district’s business outreach efforts or how to do business with the district, contact Karen Linehan, business outreach manager, at (858) 627-7232 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Alma Banuelos, small business coordinator, at (858) 573-5852 or email@example.com.