Rideshare seeks minority businesses for local transit projects

Liz Marino/Douglas County Sentinel

Gary Watson, director of Douglas County's multi-modal transportation department, which includes Rideshare, shows participants one of the upcoming Federal Transporation Authority (FTA) projects which involves expansion of the multi-modal/Rideshare facility. As a grantee of the FTA, his department is actively recruiting small minority businesses to apply for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certification in order to participate in local projects.

The Douglas County Multi-Modal Transportation Center (Rideshare) is looking for minority small businesses to participate in its federally-funded local transit projects.

Because the county's Rideshare program receives money from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), they are required to have a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) policy in place to give minority firms equal opportunity to participate in federally-funded projects.

Multi-Modal Services held a public meeting Wednesday to explain the benefits of becoming certified in DBE and how to go through the application process.

Assistant Multi-Modal/Rideshare Manager Davidae Walker sent out 93 invitations to businesses and organizations in order to attract small minority businesses to learn about how they can reap local transit opportunities.

Gary Watson, director of the county's multi-modal transportation department that includes Rideshare, said the multi-modal transportation complex was built by leveraging federal money. Other federally funded dollars paid for improvements at Park and Ride locations on Post and Thornton roads.

"It has been fortunate to use a lot of federal money to get things done and utilize minority firms," said Watson "We received $170,000 to renovate this building and $90,000 for improvements on the Park and Ride lots. We received $150,000 for 100 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprises for work in the transportation study," he said. "All furniture and fixtures in the building are also 100 percent DBE."

He explained that in the role as a grantee of the Federal Transit Authority, they must reset a DBE goal every three years for DBA minority participation in the county's Rideshare projects.

Watson said they have reached a percentage of 15 percent DBE participation over the next three years--but hope to attain even more minority participation.

"We're entering into a very exciting phase to this program" Watson said. "There will be a lot of opportunities for contractors and we want to include DBE in the process."

He said the multi-modal/Rideshare division is in the process of implementing a "flex" or Flexible Zone Circulator (Flex Zone) bus schedule expected to be up and running by mid-January of next year.

"There will be a lot of projects in bus service over the next three years," Watson said. "We're looking at including 15 percent participation in that contract and will identify a third-party contractor to run the day-to-day operations of the bus service."

Another project scheduled for next year is to complete a $1 million expansion of the multi-modal transportation center, which will be contracted out to contractors and subcontractors.

There will be minority opportunities available for the "dial ride" or demand response bus service for more rural areas that regular bus service doesn't cover, said Watson.

It has been a challenge in the past to attract certified DBEs in Douglas County, he admitted.

"The problem we've had in the past," he said, "is there are not many DBEs in Douglas County in trades we've had a need for. As we move forward and expand our projects, we hope to expand DBE involvement. We are actively recruiting DBEs in Douglas County."

The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise offers a win-win to both the small minority business and the county's multi-modal transportation program.

"It is different being a minority business and being a DBE," Watson said. "We don't get credit for minorities--you must be certified as a DBE."

So how does a minority small business become a DBE?

Walker said there is a certification application process, but that once certified in Douglas County, an individual can be certified in the state of Georgia and any other state to do business with the government. They can then apply for national certification as well.

"Once done," said Walker, "it is easier to apply for other DBE certifications. It is a wonderful opportunity for small business to get in the game."

There are no set deadlines for certification, but the entire process could take at least one month to complete.

"This opens up a lot of opportunities for small minority businesses," said Watson.

"Selfishly speaking, we want you to become a DBE so you can work in our projects."

For more information on becoming a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, contact Davidae Walker at the Multi-Modal Transportation Center at 8800 Dorris Road, which runs alongside the courthouse and dead ends at the center, or call 770-949-7665.

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