As progress on Dallas ISD’s $1.6 billion bond program moves forward, the participation of minority and women owned businesses is a major priority in awarding contracts for the dozens of campus additions, renovations and new school construction projects. In fact, the district’s board of trustees has set two goals to target the effort – 35 percent M/WBE participation in bond funded professional services, such as program management, architectural design, and land surveys, and 30 percent participation in actual construction projects.
To achieve the goals, the staff charged with accomplishing M/WBE participation wants to spread the message that the door is wide open for service providers to bid on available jobs as prime and subcontractors. Wilton Munnings, manager for the bond program’s M/WBE effort is in constant motion, briefing businesses and meeting with contractors associations and chambers to explain how to successfully bid for bond program projects.
“We want construction industry leaders and service firms large and small to know their participation in this program is a major goal,” Munnings said. “Given our charge from trustees and the community, it’s critical these firms are at the table as jobs are parceled out.”
To ensure a diversity of firms have a fair chance at being approved to participate in bond projects, Munnings and Dallas ISD M/WBE Department Director Annie Holmes-Partee are holding information sessions, networkers and one-on-one meetings with potential bidders.
“We are fortunate that we have the backing of a board that believes in M/WBE involvement,” she said. “That’s why we are continually reaching out to educate the community about the requirements to participate in contracts.”
Both these diversity experts cite barriers that can cause firms to shy away from bidding on construction jobs. These include a lack of understanding and inexperience meeting bid requirements, frustration and discouragement when approval doesn’t happen quickly, and the mistaken belief that bonding and insurance requirements are insurmountable hurdles for small or minority-owned firms.
“It’s true that as a government entity, we have legal requirements that we must adhere to,” Munnings said. “However, our goal is to level the playing field for M/WBEs by educating them about the bidding process, connecting them with experienced, successful contractors, and eliminating barriers wherever possible. Annie and I are advocates for M/WBE firms, and our door is always open to help firms work through potential barriers.”
Throughout phase 1 of the bond program, the department has hosted information and networking sessions with the Regional Black Contractors Association, Regional Hispanic Contractors Association, the National Association of Minority Contractors, and sponsored a Construction Bid Preview to connect M/WBEs with bond program managers. Future events are planned to continue recruiting African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and women-owned businesses to participate in bond program projects.
“Business is largely about building relationships,” Munnings said. “To do that, we invite firms to contact us, meet with us and let us answer their questions about doing business with the Dallas Independent School District.”
To learn more, contact Wilton Munnings, Dallas ISD M/WBE manager, at 972-925-7222, or Annie Holmes-Partee, M/WBE Department director, at 972-925-4143.