San Diego Unified School District's Facilities Planning & Construction Division is implementing a highly successful Business Outreach Program that strives to ensure that emerging, small and underutilized businesses have viable opportunities to
participate in all Propositions S and Z construction projects. To ensure small, minority-, women- and disabled veteran-owned companies
are aware of these contracting opportunities, the district has set specific goals.
One of the goals was to increase the level of participation Disabled-Veteran-Owned Business Enterprises (DVBEs) in bond-funded construction projects to to 4.5 percent in 2014. The district not only surpassed the state requirement of 3 percent, but it increased its participation to 12.52 percent in 2014, based on the amount of construction dollars awarded to DVBEs.
Below are a few of the disabled-veteran business owners who have benefited from the Business Outreach Program and working on San Diego Unified construction projects.
Brian M. Alston, owner in My Electrician, Inc
. in Temecula, is a former Marine who suffered service-related back injury. Before he started his own electrical company five years ago, he worked with Berg Electric of San Diego for approximately five years.
His company began contracting with San Diego Unified through the micro-projects that are specifically designed by the district's Business Outreach Program to help small construction-related contractors do business with the school district.
"San Diego Unified helped me get started with public works projects," Alston said. "They (the business outreach team) linked me up with general contractors and helped me with the process."
"Being a DVBE with San Diego Unified helped me get my foot 'in the door' with other public works contractors as well," Alston continued. "It made me valuable as a subcontractor."
He started out with a San Diego Unified micro-project or approximately $1,000. Now, he has gets single jobs for as much $400,000, and he has had a couple of those at the same time. Alston says that 100 percent of his company's contracts are DVBE. He now does work with Caltrans, the City of Murrieta, the City of San Diego, California Fish & Wildlife and the California Highway Patrol. Currently, My Electrician, Inc., is installing several marquees at San Diego Unified schools including Ocean Beach and Dewey elementary schools.
Alston now has four employees, one of which is also a former Marine. One of his former employees was a veteran as well. He said he believes in helping and mentoring other veterans.
Asked what he has learned from trying to grow his own business, Alston said, "The most significant thing I learned is to ask questions because there are people out there that want to help. Ask a lot of questions, and use the support that is there."
As to what has was the most challenging aspect to being a contractor public works projects, Alston said that it was the bonding. It's having enough cash on hand, having previous experience, and managing the cash flow.
"It's all paid off though," he said.
Pete Spencer, owner of Audio Associates in San Diego, has been working with San Diego Unified for approximately 20 years. He's been a public works contractor for 35 years.
Spencer was in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam War and sustained a head injury during his service. He started Audio Associates within a year after he was discharged from the Coast Guard.
"I started gradually with someone who was mentoring me along the way," Spencer said. "I was DVBE certified in 1990, and that certification has opened a lot of doors for me."
"San Diego Unified has been wonderful," Spencer added. " Others don't require that 3 percent of their contracts (construction-related) be DVBE.
Audio Associates integrates technological systems and
provides low-voltage electrical upgrades. Currently, the company has a revenue of $3-5 million and 20-25 employees (two of which are veterans). Spencer pointed out that there are a lot of opportunities in technology.
"Technology doubles every 18 months," he said. "We need to get more people involved and train them in video technology."
Audio Associates has worked on i21
Initiative, which provides interactive classrooms at each school;
various stadium projects, television studios, and the new libraries that
were constructed/funded by Prop. MM during 1998-20008. Currently,
Audio Associates is working on the new Academy of Business Technology at
Clairemont High School.
Besides being a business owner, Spencer is also involved in industry-related organizations. He is a member of the board of directors of the National Electrical Contractors Association. He is also a member of the Joint Apprenticeship Council, which includes labor and management. Through these memberships and his involvement with the labor unions, Spencer actively supports training and apprenticeships.
"A lot of military service members participate in the apprenticeships, and a lot of our key people are former military," he said. "We actively seek military personnel."
Spencer acknowledged that veterans often need help in other areas as they transition into private life. He said that there is counseling available through the unions and military organizations.
"What better way to say 'thank you' to someone who was willing to put their life on the line than to give them a job or help them grown their business," Spencer said.
Henry Sprague, owner of Paving Net, an e-commerce construction materials purchasing system based in Long Beach,
is providing solar panels to Soltek-Pacific for the new Salk Elementary School's solar carport project. Before starting Paving Net, Sprague was a paving contractor for nearly 30 years.
In 2000, Sprague and Paving Net were certified as a DVBE in California. Sprague suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
He has a passionate about the DVBE opportunities.
"When I got out of the military, people had a negative feeling toward service men and women," he said. "That's changed now."
Sprague focused his passion for helping disabled veterans get jobs into a concerted effort to get the State of California to set a requirement of 3 percent for DVBE participation in public works projects. According to Sprague, he recruited an old college friend to help him lobby the state legislature for the requirement.
"Some state agencies had mandatory requirements as far back as the late '90s; but as of July 2009, Assembly Bill X4 21 ushered in
the mandatory policy," Sprague said. "We helped write and pass the bill."
San Diego Unified School District takes the DVBE participation requirement very seriously.
"Out of 330 California school districts, San Diego Unified has been the most supportive of the DVBE participation," Sprague noted. "I salute SDUSD, Soltek-Pacific and the state's DVBE participation requirement."
According to Sprague, government agencies support the growth of small businesses in California; but the most important aspect is often overlooked.
"Small businesses need funding to pay their material vendors throughout the construction process," Sprague said. "This is what we are trying to do provide with www.pavingnet.com"
San Diego Unified's Business Outreach Program
The team of Karen Linehan, outreach manager, and Alma Banuelos, business outreach coordinator, implement the district's Business Outreach Program for Facilities Planning & Construction. The program includes:
- Maintaining a database of the small,
minority-, women- and disabled veteran owned businesses expressing
interest in contracting with the San Diego Unified.
small, minority-, women- and disabled veteran-owned businesses and
organizations of construction bidding opportunities via fax, email,
social networks and other media.
- Promoting contracting
opportunities at many public outreach events, including those hosted by
the Public Agency Consortium (PAC).
- Issuing the Business
Outreach Newsletter each quarter to provide construction bond program
updates, contracting information and upcoming bid opportunities.
- Providing subcontractors with tools to network with general
contractors, such as plan holder lists and pre-bid site walk attendance
- Developing additional strategies based on stakeholder
feedback on how to better serve emerging, small and underutilized
For more information on the district's Business Outreach Program, visit Doing Business With Facilities Planning & Construction.