State agencies seek to boost local business

Audrey Caro Gomez

Dealing with government agencies can be overwhelming for small business owners, but help is out there for everything from landing government contracts to figuring out paperwork.

“These services are available free for you,” Ruth Miles, small business advocate in the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, told participants at the Sweet Home Business Summit on June 2.

Miles was part of a panel of presenters at a free Sweet Home Business Summit held June 2, co-hosted by Rep. Sherrie Sprenger and the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce.

The panelists could help people who are “having trouble with red tape,” she said. Their services are paid for with tax dollars in an attempt to boost business in Oregon.

Sprenger said she wants to do anything she can to help keep businesses in the area.

Of course, in order for businesses to stay in Sweet Home, they need to have business to conduct.

Representatives from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Business Oregon joined Miles in sharing information about the services they offer and the services they need.

“The four of us travel together all the time,” said Carrie Hulse, of Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. Hulse is the program manager for the Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity.

Small businesses have a better shot at landing work for government agencies if they are certified through Business Oregon’s Certification Office for Business Inclusion & Diversity.

“It’s designed to level the playing field,” Hulse said.

There are four types of certification: Service Disabled Veteran, Emerging Small Business, Minority/Women Business Enterprise, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. The first two are race- and gender-neutral, “so we don’t create a backward problem from the other direction,” Hulse said.

Benefits of certification include networking opportunities and events, education opportunities, and mentorship programs, she said.

Government agencies are required to award a certain amount of money the groups the certifications represent.

In her presentation, Hulse cited a 1983 statutory provision that requires the Department of Transportation to spend at least 10 percent of funding authorized for highway and transit financial assistance programs with DBEs, “encompassing both firms owned by women and minority group members.”

Amy Jermain, Small Business Program Manger for ODOT, talked about the different types of work that her department is looking for help with.

Bridge maintenance, soil sampling and fencing are among the jobs ODOT hires small contractors for.

“We (don’t) only hire in heavy highway construction,” Jermain said.

In rural areas, ODOT is specifically seeking general contractors and regular repair contractors in a variety of areas, including concrete work, framing, flooring, electrical work and general handyman work.

ODOT has a searchable schedule of upcoming construction projects on its website, http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/CS/OPO/Pages/contracting.aspx.

Registering on the Oregon Procurement Information Network is another way to find out about jobs available through ODOT and about 50 other government agencies.

Businesses can complete a supplier registration to have their services viewable. Also, sole proprietors are eligible to register on ORPIN.

Kelly Stevens-Malnar, state outreach coordinator for the state Department of Administrative Services, said in addition to having opportunities, ORPIN offers information about what the state has bought over the last 16 years.

“(ORPIN) is a powerful tool,” Stevens-Malnar said. “Play around with it.”

And if you have questions, ask.

“We’re here for you,” she said. “There are no dumb questions.”

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