BART to small businesses at construction expo: We need your help to rebuild

03.22.19

BART to small businesses at construction expo: We need your help to rebuild

Fei Liu of BART's Office of Civil Rights, right, talks with a conference attendee

Fei Liu of BART's Office of Civil Rights, right, talks with a conference attendee

By MELISSA JORDAN
BART Senior Web Producer

At the Small Business Construction Expo in Oakland on Friday, dozens of small business owners stopped by the BART table to learn more about how to get a foot in the door for BART construction projects. Whether it was an in-depth conversation about how to get certified, or a quick chat to pick up some swag like pens or earbuds, foot traffic was steady at the conference sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of California.

Naz Gurkan of True Blue Automation Services in Livermore, whose company makes variable frequency drives for uses such as pumps and HVAC systems, had questions about where her company could fit in.

“It was helpful to hear about all the different projects that are going on,” she said.

Fei Liu of BART’s Office of Civil Rights explained some of the different certifications, like those for local small businesses or woman- and minority-owned businesses, that can help qualified bidders to be more competitive. “We say, take care of getting your certifications before you need it, so you will be certified and ready when you do need it,” he said.

Christopher Wasilewski, a Manager of Engineering Programs, talks with a conference attendee

Christopher Wasilewski, a BART Manager of Engineering Programs, talks with a conference attendee

Raj Shah, business development officer for the Southeast Asian Community Center in San Francisco, said outreach efforts like the conference are important for small businesses. “They need guidance for how to navigate these processes,” he said. “Winning a contract can make or break a small business and they want to compete for all kinds of government contracts.”

Emiliano Sanchez, director of Trades and Apprenticeships in the Oakland Unified School District, stoppped by to ask about potential opportunities for exposing high school students to the kinds of jobs BART offers, in hopes of filling the pipeline for the future. 

"It is so important that you guys are out here interacting with the community," he said, noting that in a tight labor market with many of BART's employees at retirement age, it's more important than ever to lay the groundwork for the next generation. 

BART Chief Procurement Officer Kofo Domingo, 2nd from left, speaks on a panel

BART Chief Procurement Officer Kofo Domingo (above, second from left) spoke on a panel acalled "Landing Government Contracts: How to Get a Foot in the Door at Local, State and Federal Agencies." She urged small businesses to give BART a look.

“We are in the middle of a complete overhaul of our infrastructure,” she said, "and we want to increase the number of small businesses working with BART. We have free help for you whether it is pre-award, post-award, technical assistance, or training. We can help you with estimating, bid preparation, but we don't stop there. We will be with you every step of the way, 'cradle to grave.' There’s a lot of work out there, and we’re looking for you.”

The $3.5 billion Measure RR bond that Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco county voters passed in 2016 ensures that local small businesses will get a piece of the contracting pie. BART and other government entities have set up equity programs under their Office of Civil Rights to ensure that prime contractors don’t discriminate when subcontracting out work. There are many kinds of certifications, such as those for minority-owned, woman-owned, or local-owned small businesses.

For more information about the programs that BART offers to small businesses, visit our Equity Programs page.