By Carla Thomas
The Association of Professionals and Contractors (APAC) and the Asian American Architect and Engineers this week hosted the California High Speed Rail Small Business Opportunity Conference in San Francisco at the Empress of China Convention Center.
Sponsored by Ferrovial Argoman US Corporation and F.E. Jordan Associates, Inc. the conference gave small business enterprises the opportunity to network with prime contractors on the project worth an estimated $68 billion over 25 years.
Veteran broadcaster Belva Davis served as mistress of ceremonies with a keynote address by California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard.
“This conference is the result of a lot of hard work,” said Fred Jordan, chairman of the contractors´ association, the organization that filed the discrimination complaint with U.S Department of Transportation against the Federal Rail Administration and the California High Speed Rail Authority.
“Giving businesses that have been previously excluded from bidding process the opportunity to meet the prime contractors performing the work on the California High Speed Rail project for the next 25 years is huge.”
In 2011, the Federal Rail Administration ordered the rail authority to open up their closed contracting system following a civil rights complaint filed last December by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of the contractors’ association.
The association had asserted that minority-owned small businesses were being largely excluded from contracting opportunities available through the country’s largest public infrastructure project and that there were also misrepresentations regarding the receipt of federal funds.
Although rail authority is mandated to ensure that 25 percent of contracting business is allocated to small businesses, over the past five fiscal years, less than four percent of contracting dollars had gone to small or micro-businesses, with nearly all the money begin funneled to large, majority-owned firms.
The complaint asked federal agencies to open a formal investigation into the rail authority’s contracting practices under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Federal Rail Administration ruled in favor of the small businesses in August 2012.
For more information visit www.apac-ca.org or www.aaaenc.org