A new program to increase Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation on Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) road construction projects was announced at the 28th Annual MDOT DBE Small Business Development Conference in Pontiac recently.
The DBE goal-setting pilot project targets federally funded state road projects up to $1 million and calls for a 25-percent to 30-percent participation level by DBE firms. This program is designed to increase the number of DBEs performing major work with MDOT. Nine projects have been identified, and three companies are working with DBE firms as a result of the program.
"These pilot projects are only in the Metro Region (Southeast Michigan) right now, but we hope to usher this program into other areas of the state," Terrence Hicks, director of MDOT's Office of Business Development, said.
The Road Construction Apprentice Readiness Program was also announced. The five-week program helps women, minorities and low-income individuals prepare and compete for internships as carpenters, cement masons, iron workers, laborers, and operating engineers. This program is made possible through a partnership between the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (MDLEG), MDOT and Michigan Works!
"We are focused on breaking down barriers to getting more people involved in federally funded state construction projects, whether it is an employee or a business owner. The Granholm administration is focused on eliminating barriers and improving access, and accomplishing that requires multiple approaches. These new initiatives have already begun to bear fruit," Hicks said. Hicks also announced the development of a DBE resource center in Detroit.
"We are in the process of developing a DBE resource center. This DBE resource center is actually being built in the Mexicantown Welcome Center, which is near the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project in Detroit. You will be able to set up an appointment to come in," Hicks said. The resource center will provide counseling to DBE firms.
Hicks reported that that the total MDOT construction and consultant activities for fiscal year 2007 were $1.6 billion, and DBE firms received $150 million of that amount. "Currently, MDOT is ahead of last year and we attribute that to increased awareness. Of the $1.6 billion, DBEs have been awarded $150.4 million in contracts. Our overall goal for DBE participation in 2007 was 11 percent and it is the same for 2008. We expect to exceed that with your assistance," Hicks said.
MDOT Director Kirk Steudle told attendees that Michigan will not receive approximately $100 million that was expected under the current federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation, unless a projected deficit in the federal Highway Trust Fund is corrected. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money in 2009–2010.
"This will impact all 617 public agencies in Michigan that have roads, bridges or transit facilities. That is a very, very big deal," Steudle said.
MDOT's Office of Business Development presented its first Contractor of the Year award to a prime contractor and a DBE firm. The selections were based on overall support and participation in MDOT's DBE program.
"Positive feedback received by the Office of Business Development from the DBE and non-DBE community regarding these firms has not gone unnoticed. They have demonstrated through their deeds a willingness to work with DBEs on MDOT and non-MDOT projects," Steudle said. Walter Toebe Construction Company was the prime contractor that received the award, and BBF Engineering Services P.C., was the DBE firm that received the award.
It was announced that MDOT has enhanced trucking opportunities by implementing a new trucking initiative. The goal of the initiative is to provide greater opportunity for DBE truckers to expand into a larger and wider range of MDOT projects. As of October 1, 2007, trucking firms can lease specialized trucking equipment for projects on which they are using their own trucks.