Monthly Archives: September 2011

The  Northern California Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC –NC) was revitalized in the spring of this year — with ­  MWIS President and CEO Ingrid Merriwether at the helm.

As President, Ingrid encourages all contractors and agencies interested in expanding the pool of capable, informed contractors to join in NAMC’s mission. “This revitalized chapter gives us a vehicle through which we can help identify and develop the minority contracting community in Northern California,” she says.

Since the April 23rd Kick-Off Dinner at the Claremont Hotel, the Chapter has been going ahead full force. They’ve sponsored two outreach events, a training event and engaged in public policy discussions related to small business development at the Oakland Army Base and within the City of Oakland.

This has sparked a flood of interest by contractors and potential sponsors, with many new members breathing new life and enthusiasm into the organization.

The group is focused on education and empowerment. A perfect example is the NAMC co-sponsored free workshop with the Doyle Drive Replacement Project, “Increasing Your Competitive Edge: Creating an Effective “Line Card” that took place in June. Designed to help DBE/UDBE/SBE/DVBE companies, the workshop offered advice for communicating key information in the first few minutes of meeting prime contractors; helped participants develop “line cards” to convey  the most important aspects of their businesses; and taught key marketing concepts.

Each participant met one-on-one with a business development specialist from the Doyle Drive Project prime contracts as well as prime contractors from the Caltrans Calmentor and Mentor/Protégé Programs.  After meeting with the primes, the participants were able to work with graphic designers (on-site) who helped them produce their actual “Line Cards”.

NAMC plans to focus on similar events in the future. For more information about NAMC, visit the Chapter’s website at

Our wonderful team here at Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. Please meet our newest employees:

Jennifer Elmore, Surety Coordinator, Oakland 

Jennifer Elmore was rehired April 28, 2011 as a Surety Coordinator in the Oakland office reporting to Sharron Drake, Program Manager. Prior to working with Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services for 14 years, she also worked for ARISCO  and other industry employers. Contact Jennifer at

Ismael Osorio,  Administrative Assistant, Los Angeles

Ismael Osorio joined MWIS  in May as an full time Administrative Assistant in the Los Angeles office reporting to Navid Barkhordar, Operations ManagerBefore joining MWIS, Ismael worked for the University of Southern California, Saban Capital Group, and Los Angeles County Bar Association. Ismael has completed business/marketing course work at the College of the Canyons in California. Contact Ismael at

Tiana Shaw, Surety Bond Specialist, San Francisco

Tiana Shaw joined MWIS in May as a Surety Bond Specialist in the S.F. office reporting to Nancy Owens, Bond Manager. Tiana has over 11 years of insurance and risk management experience, including working at the Builders & Tradesmen’s Insurance Services, Inc., AON Risk Insurance Services West, Inc., ABM Industries Inc. and Willis Insurance Services of California, Inc. She has a B.A. in Communication from California State University, East Bay. Contact Tiana at

Joanne Conwright, Human Resources & Employee Relations Manager, San Francisco

Joanne Conwright joined MWIS June 30, 2011. Joanne is the Human Resources & Employee Relations Manager located in the S.F. office reporting to Rick Williams, COO.  Joanne is available Monday to Friday (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.).  Joanne has over 25 years experience in managing and administering personnel programs; employee relations; and management and organizational development. Joanne has worked for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Tandem Computers; Irwin Memorial Blood Centers; and City of Oakland.  She has a B.A. in English from California State University, East Bay and graduate studies in Public Administration from Golden Gate University.  You can contact Joanne at

Delania Williams, Executive Assistant to Ingrid Merriwether, San Francisco

Delania Williams came on board in July as the Executive Assistant to President Ingrid Merriwether. Delania has worked for the Berkeley Housing Authority, Contra Costa Transportation Authority,  Oakland Housing Authority, and World Savings Bank. She has a B.A. degree from California State University East Bay in Liberal Studies. You can contact Delania at

Monica D. Bell, Surety Coordinator, San Francisco

Monica D. Bell started as a Surety Coordinator in the San Francisco office reporting to Nancy Owens, Bond Manager.  Monica is a full-time employee who started in August, formerly worked for Argosy University and DeVry University where she was responsible for online student admissions, academic counseling,  and client database management.  Monica was in the U.S. Air Force for six years and held the rank of Staff Sergeant Non-Commissioned Officer, and she supervised both military and civilian employees. You can contact Monica at

“What’s in a number?” asks President and CEO Ingrid Merriwether.

“The $500 million number we’re celebrating is opportunity and contracts awarded to small community-based contractors with public agencies who support inclusion and business growth. Public agencies who’ve recognized that removing barriers to create access to public contracts is good business and saves taxpayer funded contracting dollars, good for small local firms who hire local workers, and good for the community who benefit from local economic activity.

On behalf of the community, we’d like to say thank you to our bonding assistance sponsors who’ve made $500 million of opportunity a reality for their community based businesses.”

Sometimes things get a little bumpy on a job. That’s the experience for John Wilson, the General Manager at TT Commercial, a company that recently worked as a subcontractor on LAUSD South Region High School #12, doing tile surfaces.

Wilson found out about BAP through the GC on a different project that his company worked on. When brought to their attention, the company jumped on the chance to get involved. “I don’t know that it would’ve been feasible without the program,” says Wilson. “It gave us the ability to perform the job.”

On the job, Wilson found that things just went a little more smoothly than previous jobs when working with BAP and general contractor Suffolk Construction. He explains why: “It seems that because there is a third party [funds administrator] involved that is a mediator, it forces the GC to be more on their toes with things, and possibly more available than they would be without.” He says that having a third party helped move everything, including billing, change orders, and releasing funds, just a little more quickly.

That made a big difference to how efficiently TT Commercial could get the job done.  “The amount of paperwork in today’s world in construction is ridiculous,” he says. “It’s five to six-fold of what it was three years ago, and the ability to get paid is double to triple the time,” says Wilson. “I sit on the board of a contractor’s association, and we talk about these types of things. It’s not just going on in one region like LA, it’s going on throughout the country.”

Wilson says that working with BAP mitigated some of the problems in today’s construction landscape. As of late August, the company is 75% done with the project – the first with BAP, and hopefully the start of many more.


As owner of Birdi & Associates, Moninder Birdi has worked with LAWA over the past ten years. So it was through LAWA’s small business outreach that he learned about the Bond Assistance Program. The program gave him the confidence to bid on a $1,200,000 contract for the Turn Key Implementation of VMS/VSS IP Cameras. With BAP posting $180,000 collateral, he was awarded the contract.

Doing project management and systems design work for this security project is complex. But Birdi found invaluable help along the way. “LAWA really helps facilitate everything,” he says.

Canaan Hillery, from Canaan Insurance Agency, has similar kudos for the Bond Assistance Program at LAWA. “LAWA is an easy program partner,” he says. “They get their paperwork done, they are detailed and fast to respond, they call you back right away, and they are easy to work with.”

Hillery says that BAP has done more than offer contractors like Birdi financial support — it’s offered peace of mind. “When the whole real estate bubble burst, a lot of contractors used their properties for collateral, and some ended up losing their homes” he recalls. “BAP has helped quite a few people stay afloat.” He adds: “In the long run, it helps contractors who can’t bond on their own stay working.”

The Turn Key Implementation, which started in late August, is only the first step in a long relationship, according to Birdi. “BAP has really helped me,” he says. “In the future, I’ll be depending on that program.”

The purpose of a boot camp is to whip you into shape. That’s exactly what happened for Marco Rojas, owner of Rojas construction.

When he found out about a LAUSD boot camp, he jumped on the chance to attend. Until then, he had no bonding capacity and not-so-stellar credit. “I decided that we should take advantage of the free education,” he says. “I had no education as far as what was offered,” he said. He wasn’t disappointed. “Boot camps teach you exactly what to do and what to expect,” he says.

Now that he had a clear road map, he set upon making his business a success. To build capital, he started winning small LAUSD projects that didn’t need bonding. But he still didn’t have high hopes of getting bigger projects. “I just thought we couldn’t do it,” he says.

That changed when he connected with the folks at the Bonding Assistance Program. With BAP’s support, he embarked on his first bonding project ever. To date, he’s done five projects with BAP, the latest being the Port of Los Angeles’ Phase Two of Disney Cruise Terminal Improvements, with BAP posting $30,011.60 collateral for the $75,027 contract. Without bonding, he says he wouldn’t be able to bid on projects over $10,000.

“I’ve benefited tremendously,” he says. “I thank God for that program. Without it we wouldn’t be able to put food on the table.”

But the Program isn’t just about one job, or even five jobs. It’s about a sustained effort to help companies get — and stay — successful. “With just a few more projects, I can repair my credit,” he says.  “My whole life I’ve had doors closed. But you have to persevere. Without the BAP, we wouldn’t be able to be where we at right now. Don’t give up.”

Think of it as the Academy Awards for our industry: The 2011 California Construction Expo, known as CalConExpo, is the premier event for contractors, designers, construction professionals, suppliers, and construction workers. On August 11, approximately 1,500 people gathered together to learn, connect, and grow.

CalConExpo 2011 provided a full day for participants to generate new business relationships, take workshops to explore innovation and best practices, and experience new tools and equipment. One of the highlights? Our very own Paulette Williams spoke on a workshop panel, “Quick Start to Public Works,” alongside Mark Hovatter (Procurement, LAUSD) and James Reed (Center for Contract Compliance).

There was something for everyone: General Contractors and specialty trade contractors had unique access to upcoming contract information and contracting officials. Expo Exhibitors exposed their product and/or services to a universe of interested clients. Sponsors demonstrated their corporate stature alongside its hosts — The Associated General Contractors-California, Los Angeles World Airports, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Metropolitan Water District, the Department of General Services, and the Port of Long Beach, in addition to a statewide consortium of public agencies.

This year, the conference hosted a unique event: a Pre- Expo Workshop called Meet the Design-Build Primes. Unlike past CalCon matchmaking events, the Meet the Design-Build Primes took place the day prior to CalCon Expo. The cost for the event was only $35, and attendees also received a free Limited Access Pass into CalCon Expo the following day. Those in attendance had the opportunity to meet with four Large General Construction and/or Design Firms, based on priority. Unlike traditional matchmaking, where a person only has one to two minutes to speak, attendees had ample time to meet with the Large General Construction and/or Design Firms of their choice.

The response to the event, which attracted over 100 people, was an overwhelming success —  so much that registration was cut off because so many people wanted to attend.

At the popular event, eleven Large General Construction and Design Firms shared their plans for bidding and learned what subcontractors and designers can bring to their team. The Large General Contractors and Design Firms who participated were: AECOM, Clark Construction, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Kiewit Infrastructure Group, Manson Construction, McCarthy Building Company, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Sully-Miller Contracting Co., Turner Construction, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc., and Walsh-Austin Joint Venture.

The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive! CalCon Construction Expo is looking forward to having this event again next year, hopefully with even more people able to benefit from this unique networking and learning opportunity.

Thanks to all who made this important day a success for our industry.