The California Water Association’s (CWA) Utility Supplier Diversity Program (USDP) Committee sponsored two events in 2015 where water utility prime contractors were brought together to engage diverse business enterprises (DBEs) and explore subcontracting opportunities. The reviews for both events were excellent. Throughout the years, this outreach event has morphed into the premier conduit for introducing diverse businesses to water utility prime contractors.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 156, participating utilities are to establish and maintain a second-tier program for the purpose of encouraging their prime contractors to utilize women, minority, disabled veteran and LGBT business enterprises. The first invitation-only “Meet the Primes” event was held in June in Ontario and served to bring water utility prime contractors together to meet diverse businesses. The event was specifically targeted to provide products or services for jobs on the books ready to go.
Prime contractors are encouraged to subcontract work performed on the utilities’ behalf to DBEs and to report the cost for those services on a time schedule agreed upon by their utility customers. CWA member companies further ask their primes to consider developing their own supplier diversity programs. To that end, the CWA USDP committee makes available an instruction manual detailing how to create a supplier diversity program.
The Southern California event drew more than 70 people, including 12 prime contractors looking for possible subcontracting opportunities. For the first time, the committee utilized the services of the Women’s Business Enterprises Council West to manage the matchmaking portion of the event.
Chris Schilling, President and CEO of Park Water Company, delivered the executive message emphasizing utility members’ commitment to supplier diversity and to the benefits of a diverse supply chain.
The highlight of the event was a panel of utility prime contractors responding to questions about their subcontracting requirements and other questions from the audience. W.A. Rasic Construction, County Pipeline, G.M. Sager and CivilTec Engineering were among the prime contractors in attendance.
Survey results indicated that more than 75 attendees would be extremely likely to recommend the event to friends or colleagues. When asked in the survey, “What does CWA’S Meet the Primes event do really well”, a few of the comments included, “Brings top water companies to the event”; “Set up primes that are looking to work with subs”; and “Getting the right people together.”
The Northern California event was held in September in Campbell, CA. Palle Jensen, Senior Vice President, San Jose Water Company, delivered the executive message pointing out how far the water utilities have come in attaining the GO 156 program goals. There were more than 50 attendees, including 10 prime contractors looking for subcontractors. Among the primes attending were Beebe Diversified, Crosno Construction and West Valley Construction.
A few of the comments from the survey were: “The event was very well structured. I liked the prime panel;” “… it would be nice to see more opportunities for professional services companies.” All who responded to the survey thought the event was either extremely or very well organized, and the overall satisfaction level with the event was extremely satisfied.
The sentiment among many community-based organizations is that utilities make prime contractor contact information public. As the major participating utilities, including many water utilities, remain resistant to that effort, these Meet the Primes events make the information available to those who attend them.
All prime contractors were recognized and thanked for their attendance, emphasizing that their participation in these types of events add value to the supplier/customer relationship.