Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Workshops show disadvantaged businesses how to seek Caltrans contracts

NORTH COAST – A series of workshops to educate women- and minority-owned businesses on how to become more competitive in the Caltrans contract bidding process will begin this month.

The North Coast Small Business Development Center announced that it was recently awarded a $50,000 contract to help train disadvantaged businesses in Humboldt, Del Norte, Lake and Mendocino counties on how to become Caltrans contractors.

The free workshops will be held once a month beginning in January, said Michael Kraft, executive director of the North Coast Small Business Development Center.

There will be five sets of three, three-hour workshops, he said. The courses were created so that businesses outside of Humboldt County would only have to spend one night away from home to attend each round of classes.

The first three courses will be offered on Jan. 16 and 17 at the College of the Redwoods downtown Eureka campus, Kraft reported. The course subject titles are Prime and Subcontract Relations, Submitting Winning Bids and Project Management and Construction Methods.

Kraft said the effort grew out of Caltrans' discovery that, since the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 – which eliminated the use of race and gender in higher education and state contracts and hiring decisions – the percentage of women and minority-owned businesses awarded Caltrans contracts have dwindled to the single digits.

There also are few Lake County businesses that receive the grants, Kraft added.

To improve those numbers, Kraft said Caltrans has invested in 10 small business development centers throughout California – which are aligned with Caltrans districts – to offer free educational workshops and counseling services to qualified disadvantaged businesses.

While most people think only of roads and asphalt when they think of Caltrans contracts, Kraft said the agency's needs go far beyond those basics.

He compared the variety of service and equipment needs to the needs of a film crew coming to town – saying there also is a need for architectural and engineering design, hazardous waste removal, escrow services, aircraft rental, tree trimming, vehicle repair and maintenance, caterers, hotels, office supplies, even information technology consulting.

Major commodities used by Caltrans are computers, janitorial supplies, metal fabrication, construction supplies, paint, fence and chain link, heavy equipment and all types of traffic signs and cones, he added.

Making the effort to go through the workshops and become more competitive as a prospective service provider is worth it, said Kraft. “What the businesses that do this find is that after the first contract or two they have really good margins.”

Kraft said now is a good time for interested businesses to prepare for the possibility of contracting with Caltrans. “Because of the transportation bonds passed by the state recently, there's about 60 percent more money that's going to be spent by Caltrans over the next seven or eight years, so it's a large piece of business that's coming down the pike.”

The California Construction Contracting Program reports that over the next year Caltrans anticipates receiving more than $3 billion in federal transportation funding and $3.5 billion in state funding.

The North Coast Small Business Development Center will offer the workshop portion of the program from Eureka, but Kraft said there are future plans to bring some of the counseling services to Ukiah to better accommodate Lake and Mendocino businesses.

Participants will learn how to become more competitive when applying for Caltrans contracts, will be trained in the necessary paperwork, find out how to become certified as disadvantaged businesses and Caltrans vendors, and learn to understand the requirements of accepting Caltrans dollars – such as the prevailing wage requirement, Kraft said. “A business needs to be pretty well organized.”

The North Coast Small Business Development Center's Eureka office is a newly designated “Plan Room” – where a running log of regional Caltrans Requests For Proposals that are currently waiting for bids is kept, according to Kraft.

The center also has contracted with a consultant who will hold appointments on a monthly basis in Mendocino County to offer extra help to North Coast businesses.

Kraft said the North Coast Small Business Development Center wants to help the region's companies have a better shot at getting a piece of that business.

Caltrans has had programs to increase its pool of women- and minority-owned businesses for some time, said Kraft, although his center is new to the effort.

He said he believed his center was chosen for its outreach record, location and proximity to numerous women-owned and Native American-owned businesses.

To find out more information about the January workshops or whether your business qualifies for these services, call 707-445-1163 or visit www.northcoastsbdc.org.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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