RECENTLY ON TOL:
- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
As a former City of Portland, Facilities Services project manager (currently in public service), I worked 11 years primarily on large capital projects, but also with the Bureau of Purchasing, Sheltered Market Program (SMP) on projects valuing $100,000 or less.
Since affirmative action was successfully challenged in the courts, ending programs that discriminated based on race, gender etc., cities like Portland have endeavored to develop incentive programs like the SMP to provide opportunities for women, minority and emerging small businesses (emerging small businesses include owners of any race).
While a recent audit report indicates that businesses owned by whites are awarded City of Portland contracts disproportionately, that result is most certainly not for lack of effort on the City's part. While the City can provide the opportunities, by law they are required to award contracts based on low bid (in all but exceptional cases). I have worked directly with MBE, WBE and ESB firms that have successfully graduated from the SMP and gone on to work within the broader construction industry. I have also seen some SMP construction firms fall short, despite the City's best efforts. Overall, I would say the City's SMP program has worked for those best equipped to succeed in a very tough and competitive environment (which is not inconsistent with the real world construction industry).
The divisive argument that the City of Portland is doing a disservice to women or minority owned construction firms, is not rooted in reality. So how can the City improve its construction contracts incentive programs for minorities and women? I point to the basis of contract award - low bid success. By no means, does low bid always translate into project success. In today's complex construction industry, it is better to be second low bidder or worse, than to be low bidder and inaccurate. Knowing how to be a "successful" low bidder requires extensive technical knowledge and a little luck. Before the City considers spending more resources on data collection, reports and program adjustments, they may want to consult the OSU Construction Management Engineering department and explore ways to offer free valuable technical training for motivated SMP contractors desiring a competitive advantage.
Property Services Manager
posted 3 years, 4 months ago
view in context