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Williams continuing to grow small businesses

Office of Economic Opportunity still facilitating jobs for Blacks

Ashley Montgomery | 2/27/2014, 9 a.m.

Could the old saying, “good things come to those who wait” be needing a revision? Those at the Office of Economic Opportunity [OEO] would say yes. More like, “good things come to those who go out and take opportunities.”

“Those who didn’t think they would have the chance, not only now, do they have the chance, but if you get certified, there are real opportunities to make money,” Brian Williams, development officer of the OEO said.

This initiative began as a way to ensure that the development and growth of black/woman-owned Small Business [SBE] and Mirco Business Enterprises [MBE] have the maximum opportunity to do business with the Miami-Dade County Public School Board.

With the year one projects hitting a minor delay and many of the jobs already secured by larger firms, the OEO is already has a plan and looking forward to acquiring jobs for minority businesses for year two projects.

Since his appointment in February of 2012, Williams says, “A lot of great things are happening and we are getting a lot of positive feedback.”

“I am committed to increasing Blacks getting jobs and also committed to increasing that participation over time,” Williams said.  

Lawrence Cook, a Black general contractor certified with M-DCPS can attest to the OEO’s process and how helpful they are.

“I started the process back in 2012, and the people that helped me were the best,” Cook said. “They were very detailed in their instructions, and double-checked everything to make sure it was correct.”

The OEO is committed and passionate about increasing the Black/women participation with the school board jobs in construction management at-risk firms for miscellaneous projects, architectural/engineering projects consultants, and construction companies for instance.

Breaking ground

Torey Alston, executive director for the OEO brings a lot of experience and expertise to the table. He is the former executive director for the Office of Supplier Diversity. Also, he is currently the Economic Development Chair for the NAACP state of Florida.

Alston points out that 40 percent of the black architectural firms in Miami have gotten work through this initiative.

“In less than a year, the OEO has certified 290 small businesses — that’s record participation for these firms,” Alston said.

Alston’s job is to look at various impacts and to record the success of the initiative.

“I can tell you there has been a sharp turnaround, my job is to also look at various impact,” Alston said.

Williams and his team are confident in their abilities and says that the proof is in the numbers. He recounts have much of a process it is to get the trust and apathy from the community.

Of the firms in the Official Final Ranking for the CM At-Risk Sheltered Market, of the MBE five out eight are Black owned and three out of eight are female owned. Of the firms that were selected as SBE’s 11 percent are Black owned and three out of nine are owned by women.

Of the firms in the Official Final Ranking for the A/EPC Sheltered Market, of the SBS’s: five out of 11 are woman-owned and 18 percent are Black owned.

The total number of certification filed received since inception is 343, that’s record breaking for the OEO. Their current certification rate is 84 percent.

“When people actually see businesses getting jobs through us, others are kind of like. . . wait a minute — I try not to get frustrated with it,” Williams said.

The OEO has leveled the playing field for Blacks and women in SBE and MBE.

For the month of March, the OEO is planning to reach the community and partner with other organizations to shed light on their initiatives. For more information, contact them at 305-995-1307.