By Tracy Will
Tribal Transportation Conference
GREEN BAY – The construction season is gearing up in northern Wisconsin and the opportunity is increasing for minority businesses to participate in these large road projects, Wisconsin Transportation Department Secretary Frank Busalacchi said Tuesday at the Tribal Transportation Conference.
With Highway 41 on the drawing board, state transportation officials said now is the time for small businesses to work with the DOT for the opportunity to bid on parts of these massive road projects, he said.
“We’re going to bring the lessons we learned about working with minority businesses on the Marquette Interchange project to Northern Wisconsin,” Busalacchi said.
“These 241 projects are going to be huge road-building projects,” Busalacchi said.
“If we can break them up into smaller chunks – and that’s what we did with the Marquette Project – then we can get the Indian businesses and minority companies to work on these projects,” he said.
“We want to extend the Marquette model up here to make sure these projects are opened up to minority businesses,” Busalacchi said.
Michelle Carter of the DOT’s Equal Rights Division further explained where some of these opportunities will arise when the large road projects are “unbundled.”
“Rather than having a project completed by a single large business, we have separated out the demolition, earth-moving, and fencing parts of the project so that smaller companies that we have identified are eligible to bid on these portions of the contracts,” Carter said.
In developing a means to incorporate more minority businesses into the road buildings projects, the DOT works with local business groups to identify eligible businesses that it certifies to participate in the bidding process.
In the case of the Highway 41 expansion, it plans to work with Native American business groups and minority groups in the Green Bay region and the Fox Valley to identify minority businesses to join the bid-letting process.
The minority business portion of the Marquette project approached 19 percent of the project, which meant nearly $120 million dollars of the projects wen to small businesses, many of them minority-owned.
Bill Beson of the Milwaukee-based American Indian Building & Trades Association told conference attendees that these projects offer Native American companies a chance to share in economic growth and development to improve local economies on and adjacent to Indian reservations.
“We provide these young vendor companies with advice to help them succeed in bidding for state projects,” Beson said, which increases the economic development potential for many of the small businesses in rural areas.