Business sought from small, minority firms

Macon-Bibb County government and related agencies want more business from firms that may often get left out of bidding for work and supplies.

This year the government created the Office of Small Business Affairs to attract more bids from local small businesses and any area business that’s at least 51 percent owned by women, minorities, veterans or the disabled. Those can be officially designated as disadvantaged businesses.

Friday evening the SBA office is teaming up with the Bibb County school district, Macon Water Authority and Macon Housing Authority for the first “reverse vendors fair,” showcasing for all those businesses what they can find or expect in seeking to do business with public entities.

The free public event will have officials from those agencies giving information on business licenses, bonding, insurance, contract compliance, Community Development Block Grant funding, government projects, disadvantaged business certification and business development, according to an announcement from James Bumpus, director of the Office of Small Business Affairs.

The reverse vendors fair will be from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Terminal Station, 200 Cherry St.

One major purpose for the event is to show potential contractors the wide range of things that local government buys or hires for, Bumpus said.

“Construction services is always a big one,” he said. But there’s also advertising, engineering work, legal services, office and janitorial supplies, and specialized equipment, Bumpus said.

Guy Boyle, executive vice president of business operations for the water authority, said he’s not sure what to expect Friday night but hopes for a good turnout.

It can be challenging for smaller firms to bid on many water authority contracts, since much of what the agency needs is specific types of pumps and valves, he said. But like other agencies, the water authority also needs office supplies, vehicles and other equipment, Boyle said.

He hopes to get future bid packets into the hands of business owners who may not have considered the water authority as an opportunity before, he said.

“I’d like to see more local small business owners turning bids in when we put the bid packages out. That has not historically been the case,” Boyle said.

The water authority doesn’t currently track its level of participation from minority-owned businesses, but all its contracts have clauses specifying that minority-owned and small businesses are sought, he said.

Water authority work is advertised online, in Georgia newspaper legal ads and the Georgia Informer newspaper, Boyle said.

Macon-Bibb government gives preference to local businesses, paying up to 5 percent more to keep money in the community. But it doesn’t give further financial preference to minority-owned businesses specifically, Bumpus said. His office is charged with tracking outreach to and participation from businesses that meet the “disadvantaged” definition, and the first full report on that is coming in December, he said.

“We’re still in the process of refining our data collection processes so that we can accurately report on our spending levels,” Bumpus said. Once that’s done, a target for future participation can be set, he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.