By Jeffrey C. Arndt, President/CEO
I often say “opportunity” is VIA Metropolitan Transit’s middle name. It’s probably more accurate to say it’s VIA’s first name because that’s our No. 1 priority, to connect people to opportunity. That is the way to uplift our community.
Through our public transit programs and services, VIA connects people to places of work, education, or critical services. It also connects people to business opportunities through our Office of Diversity and Federal Compliance (DBELO) and Business Supplier Diversity Programs.
Our goal is to provide equitable access to opportunity and ensure Disadvantage Business Enterprises (DBEs) and Small Business Enterprises (SBEs) are encouraged and able to participate in VIA’s competitive procurement processes. It’s exciting to see companies grow and invest in our community through their work with VIA.
VIA’s Procurement team works to make opportunities for DBE and SBE firms to participate in the process. We also know how important it is for prime contractors to have a cadre of ready, willing, and able subcontractors and encourage all prime contractors to provide those opportunities to DBEs and SBEs regardless of any contract-specific goal.
It’s gratifying to see a contract that had a goal of 15%, for example, achieve even higher participation. This reflects a true partnership with an SBE or DBE performing a commercially useful function.
VIA’s Office of Diversity and Federal Compliance team aims to be a resource for these businesses. The Office of Diversity provides technical support so that DBE and SBE firms can grow through working for VIA. For example, VIA is conducting a pilot program that helps firms build capacity. The initiative is designed to provide technical assistance to strengthen and improve bid-hit ratio while enhancing revenue and bottom-line profitability. The pilot also serves to assist and educate noncertified firms on the benefits of obtaining both DBE and SBE certifications.
Our commitment to business diversity includes partnerships and established Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with supportive organizations such as the Maestro Entrepreneurial Center, Black Contractor’s Association, Hispanic Contractor’s Association of San Antonio, Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce, and others. We also work closely with the Fair Contracting Coalition and the NAACP of San Antonio and many other service providers in joint efforts intended to broaden VIA’s reach and help prepare firms to compete.
As the economy recovers and contracting opportunities open up, VIA will continue to be part of our community’s equitable recovery and keep innovating to find new ways to conduct business that help ensure DBE and SBE participation. We are proud to help lead the way for growth and opportunity in San Antonio.