How to Do Business with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (Part 2)

In this episode, we continue a previous conversation with Teresa McDow from the County’s Economic Development Department with the Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) Program, and Nancy Rosado from the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion (CBI) Program. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

AB- Andrew Bowen     TM- Teresa McDow    NR- Nancy Rosado

AB- And we’re back. We’re excited you’re tuning into another episode of CBR’s B2U Podcast, bringing business resources directly to you. I am still your host, Andrew Bowen, and our goal is to connect you to the information you need to start and run a successful business. This podcast is presented by CBRBiz.com.

Today, we will be continuing our conversation with Teresa McDow from the County’s Economic Development Department with the Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) Program, and Nancy Rosado from the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion (CBI) Program. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet, please do at CBRBiz.com.

Welcome back to both of you, Teresa and Nancy.

NR- Thank you.

AB- Thanks for hanging around. Last time, we talked about vendors, becoming a vendor, certification, how they are a little bit different. But my first question, before we even get to exactly what the CBI program is at the City’s CBI–Charlotte Business Inclusion. Why are the City and the County doing this–having vendors register as certified?

NR- Maybe the question is, Why is the City investing in these types of programs?

AB- Yes, thank you.

TM- And the County.

NR- And Why does the County have an MWSBE resource?

TM- We thought it was important to be inclusive in their spending. So MWSBE was born.

AB- That’s great, and is the City pretty similar?

NR- Yep. I mean, the City has a long history of creating and implementing strategies to really support and encourage local business growth and development in making sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the City’s procurement process and contracts. It’s important, so they dedicated the resources to really make sure that, you know, the City has a strong inclusion program.

AB- So strong, I believe from my limited understanding of the programs–CBI specifically, because I am a City employee–that there are targets that we try to hit every year in terms of the number of contracts we hit with the CBI certified, or the dollar amount, or can you talk a little about what that looks like?

NR- Yep. Currently, we are in fiscal year 2016, and so currently, the City has a 12% goal of spending with Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprises. And that’s on discretionary purchases, which, really, discretionary only means take out salaries, insurance…take out all of those expenses, like the energy bills, and then take a look at, ‘Okay, how much are we spending in purchasing goods and services?

The City’s goal is 12% for FY ‘16, and we are on track to meet that, but to kind of just give a little bit more context, last year, in FY 2015, the City spent 27 million dollars with local Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprises, and those are companies that are headquartered here in the Charlotte region, so there are opportunities, you know, for growing your business and for looking to the City to be a customer.

AB- Will that number be about the same this year? 20-something, high 20s?

NR- It tends to average about the same. Last year’s goal was 10%. This years goal was 12%, so we’ll see how we do at the end of the fiscal year, but it really depends. Every year, the spend opportunities are different, so if there was a contract for janitorial last year, then there may not be one for another year or two, and so it really depends on where the opportunities are.

AB- Yeah, so how do you source businesses to come through to get certified through Charlotte Business Inclusion? Do you do a lot of outreach, or is it mostly people calling and saying, “Hey, I’m an MWSBE. I’d like to be certified and do business with the City under that certification.”

NR- You know, it’s a combination. The program is one that is art and science–it’s a little bit of both–and the art side kind of has to do with the outreach efforts, and so we do a lot of outreach. We go speak at every event that we’re invited to speak. We do a lot of networking opportunities with our businesses so that they can get to meet City buyers–and so they can not only, you know, meet our City buyers–the people that are making the decisions on contracts and awards–but also connecting them with our prime vendors. And prime vendors are those big vendors that we spend money directly with because a lot of our certified MWSBE’s are looking for sub-contracting opportunities because the City’s direct spend opportunities may be too big, and so there are opportunities at both the large end of the spectrum and the smaller end of the spectrum.

AB- So kind of like, maybe, Teresa, what you were saying in the last segment where there’s a mowing contract for the 200 parks–where someone could not necessarily have to be the general contractor to take the contract but could be a sub-contractor. Does the County have any goals for spend on MWSBE?

TM- Our goals are aspirational goals. Goals that that we aspire to meet in construction, professional services, non-professional services-type contracts…

AB- Great, and I know the services delivered–well, I guess it’s kind of backwards because the services delivered by the City differ quite a bit from the County. You are looking for a different–not always the same–contract.

TM- Yes, a lot of the small business owners do not understand the separation when I say health and human services. They are not sure what that means, so we have to break it out: Department of Social Service, Health Department, Parks and Recreation…

NR- Well, and our programs do Teresa’s MWSBE Program and the City’s Charlotte Inclusion Program. We partner on a lot of efforts together. We have a great working relationship; we coordinate every year. Right? The Crowns of Enterprise Awards….from the City and County.

AB- What’s that?

TM- Crowns of Enterprise–it is an award that is five years old this year, where we celebrate small business owners that have provided an excellent service to the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

AB- That’s awesome. So just one award?

TM- No, M,W and S. And this year we added two new ones: Prime Contractor and Diversity Advocate of the Year.

AB- That’s great.

NR- So there were five awards awarded, and the Mayor was there.

TM- Yeah, and our Chair of the Board and the City Manager.

AB- Well, it’s great that we’re celebrating a lot of the vendors that are coming in, many of which are probably new, through outreach opportunities and such.

NR- I mean, the City currently has approximately 900 certified MWSBE (Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprises), and there are advantages to being certified as well. You know, on the City side, certified vendors have access to opportunities and to networking. They also have access to loans programs specifically for Small Business Enterprises, access to capital. We have a partnership with CPCC where we will pay up to $300 a year for a certified SBE to take a course so that they can grow and develop business and their capacity.

AB- Thats awesome.

NR- We also really want to make sure that we encourage networking opportunities with the businesses, and so the City will pay up to $100 for an MWSBE that wants to become a member of, you know, certain membership organizations, professional associations–like the Metrolina Minority Contractors or the Hispanic Contractors Associations–so that they’re not only looking to build their customer base directly with the City but that they’re also looking among each other to really network with their peers in order to find opportunities and to grow relationships.

AB- Thats awesome, so once certified, are you certified for life?

NR- No, now, no, it wouldn’t be that easy. Well, we need to make sure, you know…the goal really is that when a business gets certified as a Small Business Enterprise, hopefully they’re going to grow! And they’re going to be successful, and, you know, they are going to not need the program anymore. So certification, when you initially certify, it’s good for three years, and then there’s a re-certification process after that where we’re going to look to see if you still meet the eligibility requirements, and if you do, then we’ll continue to certify your business as a Small Business Enterprise.

AB- That’s great. Guys, this has been a blast. We’ve been giggling and having a good time for about 45 minutes, but I think that’s all I’ve got. Do you guys have any closing thoughts before I do the official close out?

NR- No, I would just say that, on my end, you know, if you aren’t certified as a Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprise with the City, I encourage you to do so. You can look our information up online on either CharlotteBusinessResources.com or CharlotteBusinessInclusion.com. You can get to us by both, but that there are a lot of opportunities. And don’t let the application process deter you and the supporting documentation that’s required. We have 900 businesses certified, and that’s because they clearly must see some value in being certified as a Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprise, so, you know, give us a call, and we can talk to you and see if certification is right for you and for your business.

AB- That’s great, and there’s plenty of support there for people who are looking to become certified through your staff.

NR- Yes, we are here to help, here to support, for the public good.

AB- Absolutely, so become a vendor, get certified, get business.

NR- That’s right! But you still have to do the work; I think that is a really important. Thank you for saying that.

AB- You’re welcome, just to tell anyone that we’re not done yet.

NR- No, no, we’re not because I think this is very important that there are misconceptions about certification, and one of the biggest misconceptions is that certification does not guarantee you a contract with the City or the County. Certification is a tool, and it’s to help you grow your business, and it’s to help you build capacity, but you still have to put in the time, energy and effort to market your business, you know, and to submit requests for proposals to respond, so you still have to do all of the work in order to be considered for an opportunity.

AB- So no guarantees.

NR- There are no guarantees.

AB- Alright, so I’ll amend my statement. Become a vendor, get certified, and bid for business.

NR- That’s right!

TM- Correct.

AB- Super. You guys have been wonderful. Thank you so much. Listeners, this was the second and final part of our conversation with Teresa McDow from the County and Nancy Rosado from the City. Listeners, if you want to learn more, visit CBRBiz.com, or follow us on Twitter @cbrbiz. Stay tuned for our next podcast. Thanks for tuning into CBR’s B2U Podcast, presented by CBRBiz.com. Until next time we, especially today, mean business.

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