Wake County school administrators are touting their success at awarding construction contracts to minority-owned businesses.
Under school board policy, the goal is to have at least 10 percent participation by minority businesses in building construction and repair projects. School administrator said at the Dec. 11 school board facilities committee meeting that they’re at 21 percent and are hoping to increase that percentage, especially on the management side of projects.
The school district has to walk a fine line. Wake is required to accept the lowest responsible, responsive bid while not providing information or other opportunities to minority business enterprises that will not be available to all other business enterprises.
As the R&P for policy 7260 shows, Wake keeps a list of minority-owned businesses and notifies them before bidding begins of building projects. Alex Fuller, director of controls for the school system’s facilities department, told the committee that among the places they advertise for bids are in three minority newspapers.
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The are two kinds of bidding. Formal bidding is used for construction projects estimated to be more than $500,000 or purchase of equipment more than $90,000. Informal bidding is used for smaller amounts.
Fuller said Wake has awarded $1.4 billion in construction projects in the last dozen years, with 21 percent of the work going to minority-owned businesses. The breakdown is 20 percent on formal bids and 25 percent on informal bids.
Fuller said most of Wake’s major projects are done by the construction manager at risk delivery method. He said one of the major benefits of CM at risk is increased minority participation. Construction manager at risk projects had three times the minority participation than work done through single-prime contracts.
Fuller said Wake’s goal is to increase minority participation. With Wake starting nearly $1 billion in projects following passage of a bond referendum in October, there’s a lot of work to be awarded.
Wake recently did an RFQ for construction managers for a series of projects. The request said Wake wanted minority participation in the management side, such as project engineer and assistant contractor. Fuller said the goal is to expose minority-owned businesses to bigger projects so that one day they may be able to run them on their own.
On Jan. 23, the school system will hold the 16th Annual Small Disadvantaged Minority & Women Owned Business Expo at Southeast Raleigh High School.
“Get the word out about your business to more than 100 contacts from City of Raleigh departments, Wake County Public School System, local general contractors searching for subcontractors, end users and other participating vendors,” according to the flier for the expo.