The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has launched a website and a division that will help small businesses connect with contractors who are rebuilding state roads and bridges after this year’s flooding.
Statewide, road and bridge damage totaled an estimated $450 million, said Amy Ford, CDOT spokeswoman. Because of the catastrophic nature of the incidents, the federal reimbursement was lifted from $100 million per incident to $450 million for the state, Ford added.
State bridge inspectors have completed their review of 400 state bridges and are now inspecting bridges not on state roads, Ford said. To expedite construction, CDOT has partnered with the Small Business Development Center network, a series of 14 SBDCs in the state. The goal is to offer guidance for small businesses wanting to contract with the state to mitigate flood damage.
Ford highlighted two avenues available for small businesses that want to help with rebuilding.
One, work with a consultant who can facilitate connections (contact: connect2dot.org, 720-624-6728). The site takes a business owner through the processes needed to bid on projects that are already underway.
The second — the one Ford recommends — is to get required CDOT certifications and network directly with contractors who have received the primary contracts.
“Prime contractors have scopes of work they will look for help with,” Ford said.
CDOT started the emergency maintenance program to speed up the process contractors must go through to help rebuild roads and bridges after the flooding.
“You can come in and work directly with one of our resource specialists with consulting and business training help,” Ford said. “There are a number of different supportive services that we help businesses get their foot in the door.”
The website shows how businesses can get free advice from state transportation specialists, attend workshops on topics related to highway construction, get business certifications such as being named a “disadvantaged” business to increase successful bidding, get one-on-one industry help and more.
Being named “disadvantaged,” or women- or minority-owned, may help businesses obtain bids, as state regulations require a certain amount of business be given to “disadvantaged” concerns.
“We have an amazing program to help businesses get into transportation-related projects,” said Kelly Manning, state director of the SBDC network.
The Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center will help small businesses connect with the larger companies working on road projects, Manning said.
“There’s a lot of great opportunities out there,” particularly for contractors wanting to help in northern Colorado, said Aikta Marcoulier, executive director of the local SBDC. “There has been a lot of interest from the small business contracting community regarding how they can help the state highway and bridge system in the Front Range areas that were devastated by recent floods.
“Our team running this has seen everything that could happen to a business when it comes to a fire or a flood.”
Under the program, regional project engineers and environmental managers can give a purchase order directly to a contractor without going through a formal bidding process, she said.
“That means they’re making calls to contractors but they will typically just call who they know,” she said.
Small businesses can reach out directly to contacts in CDOT Region 4, in northern Colorado, Marcoulier said. The CDOT Civil Rights and Business Resource Center encourages staff in the regions to check the DBE directory (coloradodbe.org) and ESB directory (coloradoesb.org) and consider small business contractors for emergency projects, she added.
Marcoulier outlined the basic steps for small business contractors:
• review the CDOT emergency maintenance procedure;
• contact prime contractors deployed to job sites;
• check the bidding section of the CDOT website;
• contact project managers in the regions affected to advise them of services available and to assess the need; and
• contact the regional civil rights manager for more information.
The statewide SBDC network will host a Nov. 14 event in Colorado Springs to help small businesses deal with “a diverse range of perils,” the SBDC website says. Specialists will conduct one-on-one consulting for businesses primarily affected by the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires and the subsequent flooding, Manning said.
Another resource for small businesses is the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center located in Colorado Springs. It offers help for businesses that seek government contracts, Manning said.
Grant money aimed at the Colorado Springs SBDC has primarily helped businesses affected by flooding in Manitou and surrounding areas, Manning said.