Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland today announced the launch of two new business support programs funded by a $1 million grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA).
Half of the funds will support a training program for small minority-owned contractors, and the remainder will support technical assistance to BIPOC-owned small businesses. These programs plan to provide services to more than 1,110 small businesses and up to 50 small contractors over the next two years. The city has hired three trusted community partners with the technical expertise, cultural and language skills to support Oakland’s diverse small business community.
“Through the Minority Subcontractor Assistance Program, Oakland will break down barriers that have historically prevented small BIPOC-owned contractors from making successful bids on city tenders,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Removing these systemic barriers will lead to more equitable outcomes, while also leveraging government procurement funds to help our diverse business community thrive and thrive.”
Support for minority entrepreneurs
Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services will provide technical assistance to BIPOC-owned construction companies to help small, minority-owned contractors compete for and win city contracts. One-to-one business support and training prepares contractors to meet construction contract requirements for City Capital Improvement Projects. Areas of focus in the public procurement process include pre-qualification, certification with the city’s Social Policy, online bidding, retention and insurance requirements, and job reporting requirements.
Merriwether & Williams will work with representatives from the Departments of Workplace and Employment Standards, Transportation, Public Works and Economic and Human Development to determine specific training needs. Challenges to be overcome include bonding access and cash flow bridge financing.
Contractors interested in assistance should contact Merriwether & Williams at (510) 740-6922 or email [email protected]
Technical Support Support for small businesses owned by BIPOC
To advance the goals of equitable economic development and recovery for the city, staffers from partner organizations – The Unity Council and Black Cultural Zone CDC – will lead personal contacts with BIPOC-owned small businesses along low-income trade corridors from east to west Oakland, including 30 census tracts, designated as Opportunity Zones, and the Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors project area in East Oakland, where 51% of the area is in the top 5% of disadvantaged communities in California.
In addition to providing financial, human and technical resources, the outreach teams will identify unmet business training needs. The partners expect to deliver 12 new workshops and training sessions per year.
Businesses interested in assistance should contact Karen Gordon Brown of Black Cultural Zone at (510) 470-0183 or [email protected]; or Mayra Chavez with The Unity Council at [email protected] or visit us unitycouncil.org/biz.
As well as additional business support, the two partners will benefit from organizational capacity building training.
“The EDA grant furthers our goals of supporting and expanding local small businesses to maintain and create good jobs in Oakland,” said Alexa Jeffress, director of the city’s economic and human resource development department.
About the EDA grant
City officials from the Economic and Human Development Department and the Public Works Department have prepared a grant proposal in response to the EDA’s 2020 Economic Adjustment Support Program competitive grant with Unity Council and the Black Cultural Zone CDC as co-applicants. After a multi-stage federal review, the Oakland proposal was awarded $1 million in funding in July 2021. A competitive RFP process in late 2021 resulted in the selection of Merriwether & Williams as the joint partner for the minority contractor support program. In January 2022, The City Council passed a resolution on the acceptance and use of the grant. Contract negotiation and execution completed last month.
The mandated complement for EDA grant funding is being met by the Black Cultural Zone through the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors grant, which funds support for businesses in Far East Oakland, and in-kind contributions from Unity Council and City of Oakland.
Ongoing support resources for businesses
To keep Oakland businesses updated on resources to help them recover and thrive from the pandemic, the city is broadcasting regular business updates. Businesses are encouraged to subscribe to these updates.
That Neighborhood help for companies The program allows entrepreneurs and business owners to make one-on-one appointments with city employees at seven different locations throughout Oakland. Appointments can be booked online at oaklandca.gov/BizHelp or by calling (510) 238-7398.
About Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services
For the past 25 years, Merriwether & Williams has worked to remove barriers for contractors by enabling small minority-owned, women-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses to apply for public works worth over 1.05 Billions of dollars to advertise while generating over $20 million in contract savings Sponsor Partners. Participating contractors successfully completed jobs with a failure rate of less than 1%, compared to a much higher construction industry average.
About the Unity Council
Unity Council promotes social justice and improves quality of life by building vibrant communities where everyone can work, learn and thrive. Business assistance is provided at the Business Assistance Center in the Fruitvale Transit Village and is interwoven with offerings and resources from the EDA grant, the Onward Oakland program and various partners.
About the Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation
Black Cultural Zone CDC’s mission is to place an uncompromising focus on Black arts, culture and business as they collectively shape, resource, transform and build collective power for our communities. The long-term impact of BCZ CDC’s vision and mission is disrupting the community and economic development model, where limited benefits have accrued to our nation’s most vulnerable communities, particularly old black communities like East Oakland.
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