Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

Minority Contractor Mentorship

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.

Background

The DBE certification, which is a rigorous undertaking of paperwork and “pre-qualification,” which includes field visits 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 view more favorably by the community, 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 certain federally funded projects be expended with DBEs. However, there are very few active DBE-certified contractors in the Asheville community, so most of the available contracts are awarded to minority businesses outside of Asheville.

Help Us Achieve Our Goal

Over the next 5-10 years, more than $1 billion will be spent on construction services in Asheville, of which at least $50 million is federally funded. Therefore, the potential economic impact to Asheville’s African American community is potentially significant.

This is where Sphere comes in. Through our lead mentor, who is DBE certified, we are currently assisting a cohort of contractors through the paperwork process. Beyond this, and provided we secure the necessary funding, we aim to support interested contractors with mentorship in the fundamentals of navigating bid platforms, estimating, submitting bids, networking, and human relations – all of which is required to grow one’s business, and pay living wages to qualified workers.

If you would like to support Sphere financially or in any other way, with this endeavor, please click here.

Why the African-American Community?

Asheville’s African-American community is currently in great need of support toward 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 overall economic growth in the community – the single most important factor impacting poverty. While programs are already in place to develop construction skills for marginalized workers through Green Opportunities’ (GO) 9-month GO Build program, there are no programs in place to develop African-American contractors who wish to become business owners.

Sphere endeavors to continue to fill this need through complementary mentorship while actively developing partnerships in the Asheville community to ensure ongoing support for entrepreneurship among African-American businesses.

If you would like to take part in our contractor mentorship program, or know someone who might be interested, please call Lynn at 844-774- 3731, or email to: lynn@spherecollege.org.