Sphere’s Minority Contractor Mentorship Program – Just Launched!
Beginning on January 3, 2017 Sphere College Project launched a mentorship program for African-American contractors in the Asheville area for the purposes of helping them achieve their DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) certification from the NC Department of Transportation, as a first step toward sustained development and growth.
DBE certification, which is a rigorous undertaking of paperwork and pre-qualification, including a field visit from North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, provides two critical advantages to minority contractors:
1. It establishes credibility for a contractor: Contractors who are DBE/DOT certified are taken more seriously and viewed more favorably in the industry, because their competency is affirmed by the Department of Transportation.
2. Guarantees greater access to federally funded contracts as well as other opportunities.
Congress initiated the DBE program after learning that discrimination and related barriers pose significant obstacles for minority and women-owned businesses seeking federally-assisted surface transportation work. The program has been reauthorized by Congress several times since its inception, most recently in 2015, and provides that at least 10% of monies for federally funded projects be expended with DBEs. However, with few active DBE-certified contractors in the Asheville community, the majority of available contracts are awarded to businesses outside of Asheville, thereby increasing construction costs while denying local workers of much needed income.
Why the African-American Community?
Asheville’s African-American community is currently in great need of support for economic development and mobility through reliable pathways. For years, urban development has negatively impacted many in this community.
Helping contractors in the African-American community become viable, long-term employers will aid in increasing economic mobility as well as overall economic growth in the community – the single most important factors impacting poverty. Presently, there are no comprehensive programs in place that develop African-American contractors who wish to grow an already existing business, or become business owners.
There are services in any community that can benefit minority businesses; however, many individuals are not able to access them for meaningful outcomes. Sphere endeavors to bridge the gap between individuals and pertinent services, but to also provide personal and professional development through mentorship until a goal is satisfied.
Mentors of Sphere College Project work with individuals to help them first identify and define their goals. Then, working with participants, we construct and oversee learning plans that include other helpful community resources. Sphere’s key difference is to ensure assimilation and growing competency throughout the process; we are there as a stabilizing force, providing guidance, support and encouragement to ensure successful outcomes.
To date, we have assisted four contractors through the NC-DOT, DBE paperwork process, and are preparing for pre-qualification. Beyond this, we aim to continue to provide development in essential skills (communication, research, critical thinking, and more) as well as in the fundamentals of navigating bid platforms, estimating, submitting bids, networking, and human relations – all of which are required to succeed in a contracting business.
Help Us Achieve Our Goal
Over the next 5-10 years, nearly $3 billion will be spent on construction services in Asheville. Therefore, the potential economic impact to Asheville’s African American community is significant.
Because of our desire to have an immediate impact on the situation, we implemented a no-fee program, so that there were no barriers to participation. Ideally, we would like to continue to offer the program based on an individual’s ability to pay, starting at $0 per hour. Our hope is that through our support contractors will grow their success and be able to contribute to Sphere at some point in the future.
However, in the meantime, we require funding, and are actively seeking it, in order to continue to provide our vital services to this community. If you would like to support Sphere financially, or in any other way, please click here.
If you would like to take part in our contractor mentorship program, or know someone who might be interested, please call Richard or Lynn at 844-774- 3731, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.