Economic Impact

In March, Councilmember Mitchell Englander – the strongest pro-business voice on the Los Angeles City Council – hosted his quarterly Northwest Valley Business Roundtable that focused on City contracting opportunities for San Fernando Valley businesses.

At the event, Merriwether and Williams presented lots of information and education about the Bond Assistance Program (BAP), and how local, small and minority-owned businesses can receive technical and administrative assistance to help them successfully bid and compete for City contracts.

But that’s not all. The L.A. Department of Public Works, LA Department of Water and Power, Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Airports and LAUSD gave presentations on upcoming City contracting opportunities related to major construction projects.

The event also included a question-and-answer session with representatives from Councilmember Englander’s office, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, and participating City Departments.

All who came agree that this was an invaluable way to network, get educated, and gain a deeper understanding of how local businesses can thrive.

Susan Muranishi is the County Administrator. As the “CEO” for the County, Susan watches over many crucial departments, including Risk Management, and oversees many services such as welfare, health, probation, and more. We caught up with Susan to ask her a few questions:

MWIS: What is Alameda County is doing to improve outcomes in the community for local workers and local businesses?

SM: Alameda County promotes business development throughout the County through collaborative efforts with other local organizations and its own contracting and procurement activities. It also recognizes the need to conduct business in a manner that preserves our resources for future generations, and is very active in promoting sustainable business practices in the region.

As a social services provider to the County’s most vulnerable populations, we link residents and employers via employment resources such as The East Bay Works One-Stop Career Center Programs through our Social Services Agency. We also work with local youth to ensure they are prepared for the new economy through training programs at Youth Uprising in Oakland, and our New Beginnings program, which works to provide job training and opportunities to foster youth and youth in our juvenile justice system.

MWIS: What made the County adopt an Owner Controlled Insurance Program for Alameda County construction projects?

SM: The County continually strives to utilize its resources in a fiscally prudent manner while encouraging local business development. Under an owner controlled insurance program (OCIP) the County provides standardized insurance coverage for all covered subcontractors at a lower cost than would be possible for the subcontractors to do on their own without the benefit of the pooling of risk. The County and the subcontractors both benefit from the more uniform coverage that is provided at a lower total project costs.

MWIS: What are some other programs creating jobs in Alameda County?

SM: The Small, Local and Emerging Business (SLEB) program is designed to enhance contracting and procurement opportunities for small, local and emerging businesses within Alameda County by providing up to 10% bid preferences on eligible contracts. The program was developed to promote and foster inclusiveness, diversity and economic development, as well as provide on-going evaluation to ensure that all local businesses are provided equal opportunities in County contracting and procurement activities. The SLEB program is administered by the Office of Contract Compliance (OCC), which is located in the Auditor-Controller’s Agency.

And of course, The Contractor Bonding Assistance Program was established by the County Administrator’s Office Risk Management Unit in July, 2008 to reduce barriers and assist eligible contractors to obtain bid, performance, and payment surety bonds for work on Alameda County contracts.  Guarantees up to 40% of the bond amount or $750,000 (whichever is less) are available for qualified contractors.  Each contractor receives one-on-one consultation and assistance to identify their barriers to bonding. The program links them to the resources they need to avail themselves of program services to obtain bonds needed to bid on County contracts. CBAP also provides contractor-focused group workshops and seminars and regularly communicates with CBAP participants to inform them of upcoming bid opportunities, resources for business growth and news and other information to help them grow their businesses.

The County is actively engaged with labor to develop project labor agreements for the East County Courthouse.

SM: The First Source Program assists County vendors in fulfilling staffing needs, places County residents in sustainable, local jobs, and provides workforce education and training. The program was developed to link Alameda County residents with employment opportunities provided through the County’s relationships with businesses, including contracts that have been awarded to vendors through the competitive process, and economic development activity in the County. The First Source Program allows the County to create and sustain these connections. Vendors awarded contracts for goods, services and/or professional services for $100,000 and over are automatically qualified to take advantage of the First Source Program — there are no additional enrollment requirements. The success of the First Source Program represents a valuable service to vendors by effectively and efficiently delivering a qualified, local worker in response to an employer’s workforce request.

MWIS: How has the Contractor Bonding Assistance Program benefited the County?

SM: Small local contractors have successfully bid on County contracts through their participation in the program. Since the collateral pool and full complement of services became available in May, 2009, 20 have progressed through the process to obtain bonding or evidence of “bondability” in the aggregate amount exceeding $9 million. Over the past year, CBAP contractors have been awarded contracts with Alameda County, totaling over $9.4 million.  Most of these contractors did not have bonding prior to participating in the program.

The increase in awards to the local contractors has strengthened the local economy on multiple levels. One of CBAP’s contractors was awarded a job order contract (JOC) for $3 million.  As a result of that contract, the local business was able to hire two permanent employees.  Both employees are residents of Alameda County and were unemployed prior to being hired. Overall, in the last year, CBAP contractors report over 100 additional jobs resulting from CBAP assistance.

We have seen the program open the door to additional non-County contracting opportunities for small contractors within Alameda County. The technical assistance provided under the CBAP has enabled 12 local contractors to successfully bid on contracts with other public and private entities. One small, local, African–American male owned construction company has been awarded a contract by another entity in Alameda County, a solar project with Cal Trans, based on the improved bonding capacity achieved through technical assistance from the County’s program.  Another African-American male owned construction company was awarded a million dollar project with the City of San Jose based on a referral from CBAP. Since these contracts were not with the County, no bonding guarantees were provided.

The County benefits from the awarding of these non-County contracts to local firms through the overall strengthening of the local economy, the expansion of the bidding pool, the additional revenue flowing to small local businesses and the resulting increase in tax revenue to the County. The small businesses benefit by increasing and diversifying their revenue stream and building capacity that may lead to a future successful bid on a County project.

MWIS: Is Alameda County doing anything else to assist small businesses to compete on GSA or Public Works projects?

SM: The County has a very robust outreach program for local contractors. Information on contracting opportunities is readily accessible to the public via postings on its website,

The General Services Agency Enhanced Construction Outreach Program (ECOP) incorporates goals for local participation in County construction projects that encourage large contractors to fully utilize the small local contracting community and minority and women-owned businesses.

The Public Works Agency Building Opportunities for Business (BOB) program works to promote economic growth, local employment and business development within Alameda County through maximizing public contracting opportunities to local businesses and ensuring non-discrimination through outreach, education, and technical assistance. BOB periodically holds outreach meetings with local contractors to provide information regarding Public Works contracting opportunities. These meetings are usually held over breakfast, to accommodate the early work schedule of most contractors.

MWIS: What are some of the upcoming projects that small Alameda County contractors should be looking out for?

SM: There are three capital projects being managed by the General Services Agency that will provide opportunities for Alameda County contractors.

  1. There are still subcontracting opportunities for small contractors on the Highland Hospital Acute Tower Replacement Project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
  2. The East County Hall of Justice, a $141 million project in Dublin, has prequalified bidders, but contracts have not yet been awarded.
  3. The seismic retrofit of Peralta Oaks, which will be the new home for the Sheriff’s crime lab, Coroner’s Office and Public Health lab will also have opportunities for local contractors.

MWIS: Tell us about The East Bay Economic Development Alliance

SM: The East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA) was established by Alameda County 22 years ago and is a vehicle through which the East Bay’s public and private leaders collaborate to achieve our shared goal of a healthy, vibrant economy able to create and sustain quality jobs. It has grown into a public/private partnership serving the San Francisco East Bay including Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. It seeks to establish the East Bay as a world-recognized place to grow businesses, attract capital, and create quality jobs.

East Bay EDA recently completed a comprehensive report on economic development and job creation in the East Bay “Building on our Assets”, which is being utilized by private and public partners to further encourage business development in the region. The study reveals that Alameda County is ranked second nationwide in the receipt of venture capital funding in three industries – industrial energy, semiconductors, and electronics equipment.

Photo of Ingrid Accepting GLAAAC Award

Photo of Ingrid Accepting GLAAAC Award

We’re tingling with pride to announce that our Ingrid Merriwether has won the Small Business Advocate Award from the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce. Presented in March, the award was given in recognition of MWIS’s bonding and finance programs that address the most difficult barriers faced by small and minority contractors seeking to work in the public sector.

The accolade was presented at the 19th Annual Economic Awards Dinner, which recognizes corporations and individuals that have provided scholarships, mentoring, jobs, and subcontracting opportunities for students and businesses in the Los Angeles area that strengthen the African American community.

A big congratulations to Ingrid, our staff, and our sponsors! Click here for more information about GLAAACC and the 19th Annual Economic Awards Dinner.

We know that small businesses fuel the economy and keep dollars in the community. But don’t take our word for it. A Cal State study, “The Economic Impact of the Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Programs on the State of California,” concluded that small businesses can have a substantial impact on local economies — and government-issued contracts are a critical factor affecting how small businesses succeed.

In the study, Professors Sanjay Varshney and Dennis Tootelian say that “small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy in the United States.” We couldn’t agree more. Here are a few interesting findings:

  • Small business accounts for 99.2% of all employer firms and drives the economic engine of the State.
  • Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration documented that small businesses accounted for over 92% of the net new jobs creation between 1989 and 2003.
  • Of the total 21.8 million jobs created between 1989 and 2003, small businesses under 20 employees created 18.6 million jobs, small businesses with between 20 and 500 employees created 1.5 million jobs, and large businesses and companies (with over 500 employees) created only 1.7 million jobs.”
  • The total net new economic activity generated by the State through contracting with SBs [Small Businesses] and DVBEs [ Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise] through gross State output is approximately $4.243 billion, is at least $2.523 billion, and is as high as $6.408 billion.

Ingrid Merriwether accepting 100 Black Men of the Bay AwardIn June, over 100 people gathered at the San Francisco City Club to honor President and CEO Ingrid Merriwether with the 2011 Women of Color Achievement Award. The award, sponsored by the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, Inc. and Women Presidents’ Organization, recognized Ingrid’s impressive record of success as a distinguished business leader and community visionary.

More accolades came our way this summer. Out of over 2,000 nominations, MWIS was selected for the Inner City 100 List, which was published in the May issue of FortuneIngrid Merriwether accepting ICIC award. CEO and President Ingrid Merriwether was acknowledged for this achievement at the Inner City Advisors Brunch in Oakland. In May, our COO Rick Williams accepted the award at a Gala Awards Dinner in Boston, with more than 600 people in attendance.

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and Fortune Magazine partnered together to create the Inner City 100 List, which spotlight and support growing companies in urban areas; highlight the importance of a healthy economy in developing healthy urban communities; explore how the advantages of inner cities, such as a diverse workforce and strategic location, can combine to create explosive growth; and change perceptions about inner city business.

Congratulations to our hard-working team for making a huge impact on communities and lives. We’re proud to get acknowledgement for our efforts in business and the community.