> San Diego Association of Governments

One of the most innovative public agencies in the region

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.

The SANDAG Diversity in Small Contractor Opportunities (DISCO) Program ensures that small businesses have an equal opportunity to work on SANDAG projects. Led by Ms. Elaine Richardson, Manager of Small Business Development, the program makes it easier for small firms to partner with SANDAG, while also offering them training, guidance, and strategies that maximize their chances of securing government contracts.

One DISCO program that stands out 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 was preparing a $260 million on-call procurement program for Architecture and Engineering (A&E) services. Essentially, the Bench was created to offer a pool of certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Small Business (SB) firms that could partner with prime consultants as subcontractors.

Before the Bench existed, few small and diverse firms participated on A&E contracts. After SANDAG debuted the Bench, the number of small and diverse firms working on SANDAG contracts increased exponentially. From 2012 to 2018 DBE participation grew from 15 firms to 78 firms, a 420 percent increase. Over that same period, the number of women-owned firms participating increased from 8 to 41, a jump of 413 percent. Participation by minority-owned firms also grew dramatically: 800 percent for African American-owned firms, 129 percent for Hispanic American, 100 percent for Native American, 117 percent for AsianPacific American, and 400 percent for Subcontinent Asian American.

Since 2011, SANDAG has expanded the Bench Program to also include Construction Management (CM) and Planning contracts. The main focus of the Bench Program continues to be helping small businesses win new contracts an grow. To date, the A&E and CM Benches have committed more than $100 million in contract agreements to more than 160 Bench firms.

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 UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley service from Downtown San Diego to the University Community area. The General Contractor for this project, MidCoast 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 $101 million has been paid to DBE firms and about $35 million has been paid to 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

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 the 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 has since increased to $8 million, and she has purchased ten more trucks and hired seven 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 one success story highlights the significant impact that programs like the Bench can have on small and emerging businesses.

San Diego Association of Governments

+1 619-699-1900
[email protected]
401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101

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