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Banner Biz QandA

10/5/2010, 7:26 p.m.

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Brooke Woodson, director of the Small and Local Business Enterprise Office, has worked for the City of Boston for more than 20 years. His duties have included stints as assistant to City Council President Bruce Bolling and to Mayor Thomas Menino. He presently serves on the boards of Madison Park Development Corporation, the Initiative for a New Economy and the Hyde Park YMCA. Woodson graduated from Northeastern University and earned a master’s degree at Boston University.

Q: What is the objective of the Small and Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) Program of the City of Boston?

The SLBE Office certifies small, local, minority and women owned businesses and offers assistance to help them compete for city contracts and other business opportunities

Q: What are the criteria for business owners to be eligible for the benefits?

The business must be managed, owned and controlled by a person of color or a woman.  In the case of a small business, its revenue must fall below certain Small Business Administration standards. The size standards vary by industry.  For example, for most of the construction sub-trades, such as carpentry and masonry, the size standard is $10.5 million for an average of three years gross receipts. For most professional services, such as architectural services or computer programming , the size standard ranges between $3.375 million and $18.75 million.

Q: How is the investigation to determine the ethnic or gender eligibility conducted? 

For ethnicity eligibility, we require one or more of the following items: a driver’s license; a birth certificate; a valid passport or residency card. The proof of ethnic identity is unique to each applicant, and may require additional documentation. Native Americans must present a tribal affiliation card. For gender eligibility, a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport is required.

Q: Can the business be based downtown as well as in the neighborhoods? And what constitutes a base in the city of Boston?

As long as the business is based in Boston it can qualify for local certification. The principle office of the business must be located in Boston.

Q: What are the resident job policy requirements for companies in the Small and Local Business Enterprise Program?

The job policy requirements apply only to the construction industry.  On construction projects being built by the City, there are workforce goals of 50 percent residents, 25 percent workers of color and 10 percent women for each trade.

Q: What are the benefits of being eligible for SLBE assistance?

Certified companies are listed on our on-line data base (www.cityofboston.com/slbe). As certain bid opportunities become available, our office sends notifications to the potential vendors and tries to assist the businesses and City departments with the public bidding process.

Q: How does the city enforce its jobs policy?

The City requires that all subcontractors submit weekly payroll reports. From this information we produce reports by trade.  On the B2 Police Station project in Dudley Square we have established a monitoring committee with City Councilor Chuck Turner, the Roxbury Master Plan Oversight Committee, and the Dorchester-Roxbury Labor Committee to review all hiring information and work with the Property and Construction Management Department and the general contractor to improve compliance on the project.  It’s a successful model that we plan to use on other large projects in Roxbury.

Q: What city controlled investment funds are available to business owners?

Some sources of funding include Community Development Block Grants administered by the Department of Neighborhood Development and loans and bonds issued by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). For example, the BRA’s Boston Local Development Corporation provides loans of  between $15,000 and $150,000 for businesses in, or relocating to the City of Boston. In addition, businesses that qualify as “Back Streets” businesses are eligible for the Back Streets Backup Loan Program that provides favorable financing of up to $250,000. These loans can be used when buying a new business property, purchasing equipment and machinery, constructing an addition to an existing plant, making leasehold improvements or providing working capital to grow your business.

Q: What are some recent success stories by your office?

The City recently closed its printing office and is putting that work out to bid. We worked with the City Purchasing Department to get Calloway Graphix, a local minority-owned firm, to be approved as a vendor for the City’s printing business.  We also recently helped Precision Auto Body of Mattapan win a contract with the Boston Police Department for towing services.  In addition, we advocated on behalf of a minority-owned company, Done Right Building Services, to get their City Hall maintenance contract renewed. On workforce projects, the Kasanof Bakery project on Blue Hill Avenue, the 35 Creighton Street housing project in Jamaica Plain, and the Kroc Center in Uphams Corner have all greatly exceeded the job policy requirements.