> San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)

Well Known for Helping Advance the Public Transportation Industry

As one of the most innovative public agencies in the region, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is well known for helping advance the public transportation industry. SANDAG is a leader in developing partnerships with small and disadvantaged businesses that help them grow.

Ms. Elaine Richardson, Director of Diversity and Equity, SANDAG

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) is a new SANDAG division that advocates for communities, the workforce, and small and diverse businesses through various program initiatives. A significant ODE objective is ensuring that small businesses have an equal opportunity to work on SANDAG projects.

Led by Ms. Elaine Richardson, Director of Diversity and Equity, the program makes it simpler for small firms to partner with SANDAG and offers them training, guidance, and strategies that maximize their prospect of securing government contracts.

SANDAG Office of Diversity and Equity Team

SANDAG “Bench” with the San Diego Skyline

SANDAG Bench Program

One standout Diversity and Equity program is the SANDAG Bench Program.  SANDAG introduced the Bench in 2011 to increase opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses to participate in capital improvement projects. At that time, SANDAG prepared a $260 million on-call procurement for Architecture and Engineering (A&E) services. Essentially, the Bench was created to offer a pool of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Small Business (SB) firms that could partner with prime consultants as sub-consultants.

Before the Bench existed, few small and diverse firms participated in A&E contracts. After SANDAG debuted the Bench, the number of small and diverse firms working on SANDAG contracts increased exponentially. Comparing data before (2008) and after the Bench was implemented (2012) shows that DBE participation grew from 15 firms to 78 firms—a 420% increase. Over that same period, the number of women-owned firms participating increased 413% from 8 to 41. Participation by minority-owned firms also grew dramatically: 800% for African American–owned firms, 129% for Hispanic American–owned firms, 100% for Native American–owned firms, 117% for Asian–Pacific American–owned firms, and 400% for Subcontinent Asian American–owned firms.

SANDAG expanded the Bench Program to include Construction Management (CM) and Planning contracts. The continuing focus of the Bench Program is helping small businesses gain new opportunities and grow. Through 2019, the A&E and CM Benches have committed more than $110 million in contract agreements to almost 170 Bench firms.


Mid-Coast Trolley Project

A highlight of the Bench Program has been its contribution to the Mid-Coast Trolley project, a $2.1 billion, 11-mile extension of the Blue Line Trolley service from Downtown San Diego to the University community area. The General Contractor for this project, Mid-Coast Transit Constructors (MCTC), earmarked up to $200 million for DBE/SB participation and worked with Ms. Richardson to implement a Construction Bench.

Currently, more than $175 million has been paid to DBE and SB firms.  Through the hard work and guidance of Ms. Richardson, the SANDAG Bench Program has expanded opportunities for small and disadvantaged firms throughout the San Diego region. Ms. Richardson continues to improve other SANDAG programs that support the small business community, and she is working with her team to develop a more robust Small Business Program.

Ms. Leinaia King, Owner, Leinaia’s Transportation

SANDAG Bench Success

One example of the many firms that have benefited from the Mid-Coast Trolley Construction Bench is a woman-owned trucking firm, Leinaia’s Transportation, that began working on this project with just one truck.

After attending numerous networking events hosted by SANDAG and MCTC, receiving her DBE/SB certifications, and speaking to a Senior Vice President within MCTC, the owner secured an initial contract for $500,000.  The contract award has since increased to approximately $9 million, and she has purchased 17 more trucks and 26 pieces of heavy equipment and hired 20 more staff members. With the experience this firm has gained on the Mid-Coast Trolley project, the firm has won new contracts with other agencies collectively worth millions of dollars. This success story highlights the significant impact that programs like the Bench can have on small and emerging businesses.



Bench Outreach Events

Various SANDAG Bench Outreach Events

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)

401 B Street, Suite 800,
San Diego, CA 92101

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