Looking to get a contract with the airport?
Bidding process simplified to help small businesses
By Tanya Mannes
Monday, October 18, 2010 at 4:51 p.m.
/ San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
Calderon Builders owner Martin Calderon supervises his team as it handles an office renovation on the second floor of the airport this summer.
Local small businesses have a better chance of getting contracts with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority these days through programs that streamline bidding for routine contracts and provide extra help with bonding, insurance and security-clearance requirements.
With a budget of $146.4 million, the Airport Authority spends millions each year on repairs, construction, plumbing and electrical work. A $1 billion terminal expansion that began in March is providing even more opportunities for local businesses.
But for years, many smaller contractors didn’t apply for jobs, said Bob Silvas, small-business development director for the agency. Often, they were intimidated by the telephone book-sized procurement manual. It’s an agency with its own terminology — “perimeter, “airside operation” and “landside operation,” for example — along with daunting bonding, insurance, labor and security requirements.
The Airport Authority hires small contractors for a number of specialties including:
The agency is trying outreach and education to make it easier for locally owned businesses to get some of the publicly funded work. Silvas said it’s important for the authority to be a good community partner.
“Small businesses make up a large percentage of the businesses in San Diego,” Silvas said. “Any public agency that believes they’re a good community partner should be looking at programs like this that help the small business community.”
Silvas said that chief executive officer Thella Bowens directed staff to improve procurement processes. Wayne Harvey, director of facilities management, created a “Ready Service Contract” program, in which companies are short-listed and “on-call” to handle routine repairs, maintenance and small construction projects. Harvey and Silvas worked together to streamline the application and bidding process for all contracts.
In the past three years, about 30 local contractors have been awarded 97 percent of on-call contracts worth $3.6 million, Silvas said. Small businesses received 71 percent of that money.
The companies work on an as-needed basis, up to a set maximum. They are contacted when jobs are available and invited to bid against the other short-listed companies. The successful bidder is notified quickly, often within a week.
Martin Calderon of Calderon Builders, a full-service general contractor, just completed a $300,000 Ready Service Contract and is on the short list along with five other contractors for the next one worth up to $3 million.
“The airport has always seemed like this, for lack of a better word, ‘forbidden land,’” Calderon said. “You felt very overwhelmed to think about it.”
Looking to get a contract with the Airport Authority?
Your first step is to register with the agency. Visit san.org/business for details. You can check out current contract opportunities by clicking on: “Current Bids/Proposals.”
In the left column menu, click on “Small Business Development” to learn how to:
• Sign up for the agency’s bonding and financing assistance program. For more information, contact Darlene McKinnon at (619) 400-2571 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (619) 400-2571 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or email@example.com.
• Sign up for workshops on funds administration, airport safety and security requirements, job costing, prevailing wages.
• Learn how to register as a small business or a “disadvantaged” business. Like most public agencies, the agency aims to support businesses that are small or owned by women, minorities and veterans. The current goal is to award 17 percent of federal contract dollars to disadvantaged businesses.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Small Business Development Department at (619) 400-2568 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (619) 400-2568 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Two years ago, Calderon enrolled in the airport’s bond-assistance programs and was surprised at how much help he received with his application.
“We went through the process and the airport really did offer a lot of support,” he said.
Calderon was able to increase his staff from seven to nine employees. His team handled a number of jobs, including an office renovation on the second floor of the airport.
“It helped us to weather the whole economic situation, because the airport still needs work no matter what,” Calderon said.
The Airport Authority also launched several education and outreach initiatives:
• Small contractors can attend a free, seven-week training program at the Turner School of Construction Management, in partnership with the Airport Authority.
• Small contractors can receive help in obtaining bonding and financing for airport contract work. To date, 154 contractors have participated.
The ongoing expansion is benefiting several local contractors. It includes a new dual-level roadway near the front steps of the terminal, 10 boarding gates, concession space and more security check-in lanes as part of the three-year overhaul.
This summer, J.J. Hawes handled a small contract readying a portion of Terminal 2 for the expansion project. The company hired about a dozen temporary employees and installed temporary partitions and removed fragile glass and artwork for storage.
CEO Jess Hawes hopes to get more contracts with the agency and recently completed its training program through the Turner School. “It just goes to prove to public agencies that although you are a small contractor, you can do the work,” he said.
Silvas said that many small businesses end up getting larger contracts after proving their ability to fulfill the small jobs. “It has created a program where it’s a first step for a lot of these contractors,” he said.
Calderon, who started with a $300,000 contract in 2008, is among them. He’s proud at being short-listed for up to $3 million in work over the next few years.
“It gives me a feeling of security, but I’m very cautiously optimistic in everything I do,” Calderon said. “I’m definitely not taking it for granted.”
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