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April 15, 2014 > A boost for small business

A boost for small business

Submitted By Thomas M. Blalock, BART Board Vice President

IÕm sure BART riders donÕt think about it, but every time they put their ticket into the faregate or tap that Clipper Card, their fare dollars arenÕt just paying for their ride, they are also putting skilled, but jobless Bay Area residents back to work. ItÕs all thanks to BARTÕs small business initiatives, which the BART Board of Directors recently implemented to help fuel our economy.

ItÕs no secret that small business is driving the nationÕs economic recovery. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, firms with fewer than 20 workers account for approximately 65% of all new jobs created.

With that in mind, BARTÕs Board of Directors approved several small business initiatives a few years ago, aimed at returning as many state, local and fare dollars as we can to the very people who put money in the agencyÕs coffers - our riders and taxpayers. Today, I couldnÕt be more excited to tell you that those initiatives are paying off.

Nobody appreciates BARTÕs efforts to recycle fare dollars locally more than BART rider Terry Johnson, owner of Oakland-based Masterpiece Painting, Inc. HeÕs currently a subcontractor on the $890 million Warm Springs BART extension and the $484 million BART extension to Oakland Airport.

Because of BARTÕs small business initiatives, Johnson Ð a once struggling solo operation - has grown his business to five employees and expects to hire more. Two of JohnsonÕs hires are skilled, union painters who were unemployed for more than a year.

ÒOne of my guys has three kids under the age of six,Ó Johnson said. ÒHe was living house to house with various family members. Now that heÕs employed, heÕs looking for a place to rent and to raise his family.Ó

Through the small business initiatives, BART unbundles large contracts and identifies services that local mom and pop shops could do. BART also sets sub-contracting requirements for large-scale corporations to ensure those corporations include small, local businesses in their bid proposals for BART work. BART also organizes matchmaking events to connect local business owners with large corporations.

ÒLarge contractors tend to work with businesses with whom they have relationships,Ó said Andrea Lowe, President of A Squared Ventures Ð an Oakland based firm that conducts matchmaking events. ÒSo what usually happens is the number of small businesses that have the opportunity to participate is very minimal.Ó

BARTÕs small business initiatives do more than just match little companies with larger ones. BART also hires firms like A Squared Ventures to support small business owners from start to finish on a project. ThatÕs because BART knows most small business people have neither the time nor the resources to calculate costs, hire personnel and complete the paperwork associated with being a subcontractor on a large-scale project.

ÒBART realized that itÕs not enough to just get small business owners subcontract work. If they go out of business because they didnÕt estimate the work properly then thatÕs not a success for BART either,Ó Lowe said. ÒSo realizing that small businesses need help on these multi-million dollar projects, BART put several processes in place to support small business owners.Ó

During bidding on the Warm Springs extension, BART used financial incentives to encourage large corporations to meet BARTÕs subcontracting goals. Warm Springs Constructors Ð an international joint venture of Kiewit Pacific Company and Mass Electric companies - ended up winning the $300 million phase two contract, which included construction of the new Warm Spring/South Fremont station. As a result of the incentives, the firm hired JohnsonÕs business. Now heÕs not only getting paid to paint the new station, heÕs gaining valuable experience that enhances his resume.

ÒBidding on projects like Warm Springs was always out of the picture because of its size and other obstacles,Ó Johnson said. ÒBy breaking down those contracts and having companies like A Squared Ventures assist us, BART made the mega projects available for a small contractor like me. ItÕs really a game changer for my business.Ó

ÒNational firms tend to bring their people in from out-of-the area Ð those people make their money here, then take it back home and spend it,Ó Lowe says. ÒHere you have a small Oakland firm, hiring locally and buying from local suppliers. That initial BART fare dollar has now been spent over and over improving our economy.Ó

So riders, the next time you use your ticket or Clipper card, remember, your fare and tax dollars are moving both trains and local businesses like JohnsonÕs forward. For more on BARTÕs Small Business Program visit:

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