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Construction bigs help small, minority firms.

Some of the area's largest construction companies, including Tishman, Lehrer McGovern Bovis and Ebasco, and accounting firms have joined New York and New Jersey public-sector efforts to help the area's small, minority - and women-owned contractors expand and compete for the estimated $10 billion to $20 billion in public works contracts to be awarded in the bi-state metropolitan area over the next five years.

While their innovative public/private partnership has been in existence for two years, the groups last week officially announced the formation of the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors and named its 30-member board directors, seven of which are from small, minority and women-owned firms. The alliance is chaired by Peter Lehrer, Lehrer McGovern Bovis.

According to Tim Sheehan of the Port Authority and acting executive director, of the alliance, the private-sector companies were called on by the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, the Dormitory Authority, and the School Construction Authority, to discuss how they could help minority and small firms participate in contracts put out by the public agencies.

"What came out of the discussion is that we could do it together...the partnership allows us to do things that the public sector can't do," Sheehan said.

Louis Katsos of Tishman Construction Corporation said he and other private sector people were not interested in the "eye-wash scenario" for purposes of political agenda. They wanted to help the firms participate and expand, he said, and, at the same time, ensure there would be enough qualified firms to bid on the "certain-sized" projects the larger firms contract out. He and other construction concerns, he said, have found a "lack of competition within certain trades."

Managing Growth

The alliance gives "Managing Growth" courses focusing on construction and business management. The private sector execs, and engineers from some of the public agencies, have designed the curriculum and provide the instruction free-of-charge and the New York City Regional Center for Economic Development, part of the New York State Education Department and City University of New York, lends the financial and technical support.

Besides the educational benefit, says, Katsos, who is one of the teachers, there is the networking aspect. "There would be an interface between the smaller contractors and the larger construction managers," he said.

Katsos said there was a "snowball" effect as construction professionals saw their colleagues getting involved.

"Everyone wanted to join in because it looked like an idea that would make sense," he said.

Pro-Bono Advice

Through LEAP (Loaned Executive Assistance Program), small minority and women-owned firms receive pro-bono assistance on a one-to-one basis from 25 top construction and accounting professionals. The execs advice on specific construction, financial and business management situations. The program also provides pre-construction and on-site assistance and helps contractors qualify for work.

Help with Loans

The alliance also aims to assist smaller contractors with applying for loans through its Financing Small Contractors (FiSC) program. "Small loans to small contractors is something banks traditionally shy away from and some do it as a matter of policy," Sheehan said.

The program helps contractors prepare applications for loans to complete a specific project or expand their businesses. Twelve loans have already been approved, totally more than $2 million. Contractors can receive working capital at market rates through participating banks, like Citibank and Norstar, and public lenders like the New York State Business Development Corporation which deals in state pension funds. Someone from the alliance may also accompanying the firm on its meeting with the bank.

"It can make the difference to a lender if you can provide a consultant," Sheehan said. "They'll be somewhat reassured by that."

The alliance has been funded from various city and state agencies and the construction companies contribute their time pro-bono.

Lena Douglas, a Native American women whose firm Thunderbird Constructors, Inc. is a board member of the alliance, and was one of the small, minority and women-owned contractors honored last week. Douglas's firm was awarded a 20 percent joint venture partnership in the $46 million LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment Program. She is involved in the expansion project of LaGuardia's Central Passenger Terminal Building 50 feet. The "multi-crafted" project, she said, involves moving roadway departures.

Douglas has attended the managing growth classes and has taken advantage of the other services. Douglas said Sheehan attended her meeting with the bank. And her association with the alliance put her on the Port Authority's approved subcontractor list, which, she said, helped her get the assignment at LaGuardia.

Douglas said the program has a "ripple effect". The program promotes competitive bidding for the public agencies and the private companies, while helping the smaller firms and improving employment in the city.

"I believe they're genuinely trying to help," said Douglas

The other board members are: Jeffrey Breen, Deloitte & Touche; Bert Mitchell, Mitchell/Titus; James J. O'Brien, O'Brien Kreitzberg; Stanley Brezenoff; The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; Franklin E. White, New York State Dept. of Transportation; Thomas Downs, New Jersey Department of Transportation; Donald Watson, New Jersey Turnpike Authority; Shirley DeLibero, New Jersey Transit; Dennis Moore, D & L General Contractors; Hamilton Bowser, Evanbow Construction Co.; Lena Douglas, Thunderbird Constructors, Inc.; Louis J. Coletti, New York Building Congress, Inc.; Harriet Michel, National Minority Supplier Development Council; Vice Chairman John Egan, Dormitory Authority of the State of New York; Theodore C. Weigle, Jr., Bechtel Corporation; Robert Marshall, Ebasco Constructors, Inc.; John Cavanagh, Morse Diesel; Harold Parmalee, Turner Construction Company; Gen. Charles Williams, New York City School Construction Authority; Vincent Tese, New York State Urban Development Corp.; George Zoffinger, New Jersey Dept. of Commerce & Economic Development; Ray Bramucci, New Jersey Department of Labor; David Smith, New York City Office of Business Development Leslie Levi, Livel Mechanical & Equipment Corp.; Nelson Gisberg, Nelson Maintenance, Inc.; Darryl Greene, Darryl E. Greene & Assoc.; Ronald M. Ollie, Fleming Corporation; Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., New York Cit Regional Education Center for Economic Development.
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Title Annotation:new alliance
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 22, 1991
Words:979
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