Oakland, California – Today, the City of Oakland announced the launch of two new business support programs funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA).
Half of the funds will support a training program for small minority-owned construction contractors, with the rest supporting technical assistance to BIPOC-owned small businesses. These programs plan to provide services to more than 1,110 small businesses and up to 50 small construction contractors over the next two years. The city has engaged three trusted community partners with the technical expertise and cultural and language skills to help Oakland’s diverse small business community.
“Through the Minority Contractor Support Program, Oakland will reduce barriers that have historically prevented BIPOC-owned small contractors from successfully bidding on city tenders,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Removing these systemic barriers will result in fairer outcomes while leveraging public procurement funds to help our diverse business community grow and prosper. »
Support for minority entrepreneurs
To help minority-owned small contractors bid and win contracts with the City, Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services will provide technical support to BIPOC-owned construction companies. One-on-one business assistance and training will prepare contractors to navigate construction contract requirements for city capital improvement projects. Priority areas of the public procurement process will include prequalification, certification with city social policies, online bidding, bonding and insurance requirements, and security reporting requirements. Workforce.
Merriwether & Williams will work with representatives from the Departments of Labor and Employment Standards, Transportation, Public Works, and Labor and Economic Development to identify specific training needs. Challenges include access to surety and cash flow bridge financing.
Contractors interested in receiving assistance should contact Merriwether & Williams at (510) 740-6922 or email [email protected]
Helpdesk support for BIPOC-owned small businesses
To advance the city’s equitable economic development and recovery goals, staff from partner organizations – The Unity Council and Black Cultural Zone CDC – will conduct in-person outreach to BIPOC-owned small businesses along trade corridors. low-income from East to West Oakland, including 30 census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones and the “Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors” project area in East Oakland, where 51% of the area is within the 5 % of California’s most disadvantaged communities.
In addition to providing financial, human and technological resources, outreach teams will identify unmet business training needs. The partners plan to offer 12 new workshops and trainings per year.
Businesses interested in receiving support should contact Karen Gordon Brown of the Black Cultural Zone at (510) 470-0183 or [email protected]; or Mayra Chavez with The Unity Council at [email protected] or visit unitycouncil.org/biz.
Beyond additional business support, both partners will benefit from training that builds organizational capacity.
“The EDA grant advances our goals of supporting and expanding local small businesses to retain and create good jobs in Oakland,” said Alexa Jeffress, director of the Department of Economic Development and Workforce at the town.
About the EDA grant
City staff from the Department of Economic Development and Workforce and the Department of Public Works developed a grant proposal in response to the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program competitive grant 2020, with The Unity Council and Black Cultural Zone CDC as co-nominees. After a multi-stage federal review, Oakland’s proposal received $1 million in funding in July 2021. A competitive RFP process in late 2021 led to the selection of Merriwether & Williams as a community partner for the Minority Entrepreneur Support Program. In January 2022, City Council passed a resolution accepting and awarding the grant. Negotiation and execution of the contract concluded last month.
Required matching for EDA grant funding is met by the Black Cultural Zone through the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) “Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors” grant which funds business relief in the far east of Oakland and through in-kind support from Unity Council and the City of Oakland.
Ongoing Business Support Resources
To keep Oakland businesses informed about resources to help them recover from the pandemic and grow, the city is sending periodic business updates. Companies are encouraged to subscribe to receive these updates.
The Help for neighborhood businesses The program allows entrepreneurs and business owners to schedule one-on-one appointments with city support staff at seven different locations across Oakland. Appointments can be booked online at oaklandca.gov/BizHelp or by calling (510) 238-7398.
About Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services
Over the past 25 years, Merriwether & Williams has worked to break down barriers for contractors, enabling small businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans with disabilities to bid for more than $1.05 billion. dollars worth of public works while delivering more than $20 million in savings on their contracts. sponsors-partners. Participating contractors have successfully completed work with a defect rate of less than 1%, compared to a much higher average in the construction industry.
About the Unity Council
The Unity Council promotes social equity and improves quality of life by creating vibrant communities where everyone can work, learn and thrive. Business assistance is provided at the Fruitvale Transit Village Business Assistance Center and is aligned with offerings and resources from the EDA Grant, Onward Oakland Program, and various partners.
About the Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation
The mission of the Black Cultural Zone CDC is to unabashedly center Black arts, culture, and economy as they collectively design, resource, transform, and collectively build collective power for our communities. The long-term impact of the BCZ CDC’s vision and mission is the disruption of the community and economic development model where only limited benefits have accrued to our country’s most vulnerable communities, especially black legacy communities like East Oakland.
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