Are You a Small Business Contractor?

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(Photo above: Richard Cooper speaks with Carrie Baxandall and Jason Bricker, COBID, as Vickie Warner, ODOT Region 4, looks on |photo credit: Bill Mintiens)

The Oregon Department of Transportation wants you!

So let’s say you’re in the market for a new job. You’ve updated your resume and your LinkedIn profile, posted it on a bizillion job hunting boards and informed search agencies that you’re looking for a new opportunity.

But no one calls you with a fantastic opportunity….

I bet that, if all you had to do was register once online — and lots of companies called you — you’d think that was pretty cool, right?

That’s exactly the opportunity Oregon small businesses (with less than 30 employees) have right now if they register with the Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity (COBID), the state’s economic development arm of Business Oregon. (oregon4biz.com/How-We-Can-Help/COBID/Get-Certified)

COBID certifies minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned business owners and emerging small businesses interested in contracting with state, county, and city government agencies. COBID’s goal is to foster an environment where every small business in Oregon can compete fairly regardless of ethnicity, gender, disability, or size.
“Recently Governor Brown signed an executive order, #1803, that encourages all state agencies to use certified firms,” said Carrie Baxandall, program manager with COBID. “Being certified as an Emerging Small Business (ESB) gives businesses another way to be easily located by state contracting agencies.”

How many small businesses are we talking about? (This may be a shocker…)

There are about 180,000 small businesses in Oregon now. “But only about 3,500 small businesses have registered now, a small percentage (about two percent) of the total,” said Baxandall. “And interestingly, about 87 percent of small businesses are under 20 employees — so we have a very small portion right now.”

Another Acronym
The state uses a lot of acronyms. Here’s one that can be useful for small businesses — ORPIN, the Oregon Procurement Information Network provides small businesses an opportunity to register and look for contracting opportunities with the state. (orpin.oregon.gov/open.dll/welcome)

A business does not need to be classified as small, however, to register and search on ORPIN. But those small businesses that are certified by COBID receive an asterisk next to their listing — identifying them as minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned or an emerging small business.

Why is the asterisk important? “The Governor’s initiative says that we really need to reach out to these other folks,” said Vickie Warner, who works at Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Region 4 in Bend.

And reach out they do! Warner regularly calls registered small businesses to inform them about project opportunities with ODOT Region 4.

ODOT Region 4 Held a Registration Event on December 3

ODOT’s Region 4 is vast. Stretching from The Dalles all the way down to Klamath Falls, ODOT’s main function is keeping our roads open and safe. It’s a huge task that requires contractors who are expert in everything from culvert work to signs to road and bridge building — even building remodels.

And Region 4 is serious about helping the Governor get small businesses certified and on their radar to be considered for ODOT’s projects.

With the state’s next budget biennium approaching, July 1, 2019-June 30, 2021, ODOT Region 4 has project plans and is hoping to have lots of small businesses register.

Why? Because there is a pot of state money set aside that ODOT can tap into — but only if they use emerging small businesses to do the work. “It really limits us if we don’t have businesses bidding on these jobs,” said Warner.

So on December 3, Region 4 held a registration event at their Bend headquarters located on North Highway 97. Representatives from Region 4 and COBID informed, educated and encouraged a number of small businesses to register and get on their radar.

Jason Bricker, compliance specialist with COBID, summarized why it’s important to register. “You want to be diversified in not only the private sector — but also the public sector by working with state government. If you typically experience slowdowns at certain times of the year — government contracting opportunities are year-round.”

Pat Cimmiyotti is Region 4’s maintenance program manager. He wants to increase the number of contractors for their upcoming summer 2019 projects. “Right now we probably work with about 15 contractors,” said Cimmiyotti. “I’d like to see that be 20 – 25.”

And, according to Cimmiyotti, the budget money is sizable. “Typically Region 4 would get $600K for the upcoming budget biennium (July 2019-June 2021) and right now we’re up to $1.4 million.”

Seeing the Opportunity
Richard Cooper is the developer of SELF Load Binders based in Bend. The company manufactures binders designed to safely tie down loads on trucks and heavy equipment.

Cooper came to the December 3 event to register his business with the hope of securing contracts with the Department of Transportation (DOT).

“The DOT does a lot of load securement on their own equipment and they also enforce safety regulations – from which we would benefit,” said Cooper. “And I believe this will open up our market tremendously.”

Pleased with the information and assistance he received, Cooper raved about the event. “This event is a great thing. These people are so open to ideas, they’re cooperative and enthusiastic — it’s really nice to see.”

ODOT is planning more outreach events in the near future, likely in both The Dalles and Klamath Falls. In the meantime, small businesses are encouraged to review and register at oregon4biz.com/How-We-Can-Help/COBID/Get-Certified/

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