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Good fortune: the Oregon Department of Transportation launches programs to foster small business success and pump up the statewide economy.

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (DOT) is used to big numbers. ODOT is responsible for maintaining and upgrading more than 8,000 miles of state highway and employs more than 4,500 people. The budget for what is currently the largest project, the 10-year OTIA III State Bridge Delivery Program, is $1.3 billion. Of the 365 bridges in the program, contracts to repair or replace nearly 300 bridges are worth tens of millions of dollars.

But besides maintaining highway safety and mobility, the agency is also charged by the legislature with stimulating Oregon's economy, and to do that, it had to get small.

THINKING SMALL

In 2005, the Small Business Administration reported that of the nearly 26 million firms in the United States, most are very small--97.5 percent have fewer than 20 employees. Nonetheless, these firms account for half of the United States' non-farm real gross domestic product. They have generated 60 percent to 80 percent of the net new jobs during the past decade. The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department reports similar statistics: Currently 90 percent of all Oregon business enterprises employ 20 or fewer people.

Compelling numbers such as these were part of the inspiration for ODOT's Small Business Initiative, a comprehensive plan to increase economic opportunities for Oregon workers and businesses. As part of this initiative, the agency has developed the Small Contracting Program for Professional and Technical Services.

The Small Contracting Program works like this: A simplified procurement process registers firms to participate in the program and have the opportunity to be selected as prime consultants for ODOT contracts valued at $74,990 or less. Initially implemented through a successful pilot program in the Portland metropolitan area, the program was launched statewide in September.

To date, 10 firms are under contract through this program, with a total dollar value of nearly $750,000. Five additional contracts are in the development stage and are expected to boost the contracted value well over $1 million.

"Awarding contracts of this size which are relatively small for us but relatively significant for small businesses involved a new way of thinking for ODOT," says Director Matt Garrett.

In the first month October 2006--the agency registered 117 firms in a wide range of disciplines. Of the more than 160 companies currently registered, approximately two-thirds are disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned or emerging small businesses.

NO SMALL FEAT

Jean Ochsner's company; Environmental Science &Assessment, qualifies tinder three of those four categories. Specializing in natural resources management services for public infrastructure projects, the six staff members of ES&A have worked on transportation projects from Jackson County to Portland and are eager to expand their range with this new contract with ODOT.

"Because we're small--this year we'll make around $600,000--a contract of this size is a good chunk of our income," Ochsner says. "The payoff was especially great because the application and contracting process was so easy--we didn't have to spend excessive time and consequently dollars marketing ourselves."

Tom Nelson and Associates LLC is a 17-person specialty surveying firm whose recent work includes staking the landmark Portland Aerial Tram. Through the Small Contracting Program, the firm has also just signed its first contract with the state transportation agency.

"We're excited about the chance to work directly for ODOT," says Tom Nelson, P.L.S., owner of Tom Nelson and Associates. "As an emerging small business, we really appreciate the commitment that ODOT managers have made to finding innovative ways to get us contracted and providing services."

ODOT's efforts to simplify its contracting processes were based on input from the small business community. In response to such feedback, the agency will work quickly to draw up the contracts, get people working and get companies paid.

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"All across Oregon, small businesses will have opportunities to work directly with ODOT in a way that wasn't possible in the past," Garrett says. With the Small Contracting Program statewide rollout, ODOT will be getting small to help businesses grow.

In addition to helping foster the state's small business, ODOT is also looking at ways to bolster the economy as a whole by letting 12 contracts over the next year.

BY THE DOZEN

All across Oregon, from Hood River to Ashland and Cottage Grove to Ontario, the Oregon Department of Transportation is strengthening the state's transportation infrastructure. The coming year marks one of the busiest construction seasons in Oregon's history, due in large part to the millions of dollars in bridge program work being let over the next 12 months. During the next 12 months, ODOT wants local construction contractors to bid on 12 bridge program projects cumulatively worth more than $214 million.

Bridge program projects are grouped, or bundled, in a way that makes it easy for Oregon contractors to bid. By having multiple construction sites close together, contractors are able to cut transportation costs and move workers and materials more efficiently between job sites. As a result, more jobs are done by Oregon firms, further strengthening local economies.

Since it began in 2003, the bridge program has injected more than $70 million into the state by purchasing goods and services from Oregon firms. It has also generated more than $317 million in income, including more than $26 million in taxes for state and local governments.

Each of the 12 upcoming bridge program projects going to let between now and September 2008 provide a great opportunity for local construction companies, large and small.

The contract values, schedules and project scopes provided are subject to change. The latest information on the projects and how to bid is available at the Web site of ODOT's bridge program management partner at www.obdp.org/partner/procurement/bundles/.

This article was submitted on behalf of the Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners.

BUILDING BRIDGES

For a list of the Oregon bridge projects, visit www.CDRecycleer.com.
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Title Annotation:INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:977
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