By David Pendered
This story has been updated with new comments from the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
Businesses that are small or disadvantaged will have their fair shot at contracts for more than $3 billion worth of transit projects that are to be built if the transportation sales tax is approved.
GRTA’s board of directors unanimously approved a resolution today affirming that all contracts it oversees will comply with federal and local regulations on disadvantaged business enterprises. The resolution also says GRTA will collaborate with local governments to develop policies that promote work for small businesses.
GRTA’s lawyer, Kirk Fjelstul, said the idea for the resolution grew out of the agency’s ongoing discussions with local governments over the transit projects to be built if voters approve the transportation sales tax.
“As we’ve been working with local government and project sponsors of transit projects, we felt it important to adopt a resolution,” Fjelstul told the board before the vote.
“The way this referendum is set up, the revenue is local revenue, the projects selected by the Transportation Roundtable that was comprised of local elected officials, and the projects and schedules were selected by local governments, as well,” Fjelstul said. “That’s our compass for managing the execution of these projects.”
Stacey Key, president and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, praised the resolution and said it goes further than federal requirements in terms of addressing job opportunities for local workers.
“The resolution is clearing moving in the right direction by including small and disadvantaged businesses, and by including the job opportunities for a skilled local workforce,” Key said after reviewing the resolution.
Key has been concerned for months that the proposed transportation construction projects would not be accessible to small businesses. Key thinks the bids may be structured in such a way that disadvantaged companies will not have a realistic chance at winning a contract.
Key’s questions arise partly from a new state law that is to take effect July 1, which greatly expands the definition of small business. Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 863 into law on May 1.
The new law defines small businesses as those having gross receipts of up to $30 million a year or a staff of up to 300 employees.
The previous law set the gross receipts at a maximum of $1 million a year and the staff at no more than 100 employees.
Another source of Key’s concerns involves the regulations involved with federal funds. Generally speaking, an entire project must comply with federal regulations regarding disadvantaged businesses in order to receive even a penny of federal funds.
The guidelines call for at least 10 percent of the funds to be spent with DBEs.
However, the section then goes on to say that: “The national 10 percent goal does not authorize or require recipients to set overall or contract goals at the 10 percent level, or any other particular level, or to take any special administrative steps if their goals are above or below 10 percent.”
Here’s the conclusion of GRTA’s resolution:
“Now therefore, be it resolved that GRTA will collaborate with the region’s local governments, projects sponsors, and those delivering the projects, using publicly and privately available resources, for the development of policies and administrative procedures that facilitate job opportunities for the skilled local workforce;
“That assure local, small and community businesses fair opportunities to compete for contracts;
“That will comply with other applicable legal requirements;
“And that will result in regional transit projects being delivered on time and on budget per the roundtable’s approved costs and schedules in the final investment list; and
“Be it further resolved that transit projects on the final investment list seeking eligibility for currently identified or potential future federal funds will have non-discrimination, DBE, and SBE (small business enterprise) policies that are developed, implemented, and tracked in accordance wtih federal regulations in 49 CFR Part 26, and will be published in regular status reports to be made available to the local jurisdictions where the projects are located.”