LANDOVER — FSC First held a panel discussion for local business owners to meet with industry experts to discuss how to work with contractors as minority businesses and avoiding the pitfalls that can come with obtaining contracts from a job costing and compliance perspective on Sept. 19.
“The panel was to bring knowledge of the contractor to ensure that they are knowledgeable of the process, what to submit, and that they are fully compliant so that they know the nuances that would make them viable and successful in winning contract opportunities for now and in the future,” said FSC First Business Development Manager James Steward Smith.
Aimed at small and minority businesses, FSC First provides funding for local businesses through innovative and creative financing solutions and loan administration services to benefit small and emerging businesses.
“We are committed to growing the county and growing the small business community,” Smith said. “Our small business owners know their skills, but they need successful contribution and other aspects to be successful. We’re here to make sure we’re providing them with all they need in addition to their personal skills to survive.”
The meeting was the first of a fall series aimed at allowing business owners to come together and discuss various aspects of starting a company. This meeting consisted of about 20 businesses owners in everything from healthcare, career coaching and video production.
Leading the discussions were President and CEO of Creative Proposal Dynamics Group Angela Holmes, CEO of Blackdragon Robert Rosenberger, Prince George’s County Council Compliance Manager Mirinda Jackson and Andrews Federal Credit Union Branch Manager Timothy Blue.
A large part of the meeting was spent discussing some of the roadblocks associated with starting a business and the contracting process such as creating proposals, getting together a team to make those proposals a reality, certification in local contracting, job costing and successful networking.
“I think one of the major issues is that they have an idea and know how to provide that service but they don’t have the business administration part to run the business,” said Holmes.
Jackson is a minority business development plan compliance manager for the county and she has established the goals and monitors the achievements of small businesses, and refers them to contractors.
She serves as the point of contact between major development projects like Westphalia Town Center, Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, and MGM National Harbor, that may be looking to work with small businesses.
“One of the things I do is ensure that the local businesses benefit from the major development projects in the county,” Jackson said. “That’s very important because we’re looking at nine to 10 million dollars over the next two to three years. We want our companies to benefit. What happens on these projects, the developer will invite the companies they want to do business with to bid on one of these projects.”
Jackson and the other speakers made sure that business owners were aware of how to navigate working with contractors in Prince George’s County, especially because major contractors will first look for big businesses to work with instead of small, minority companies.
“The county’s focus, because of the demographics, our focus is really local minority businesses,” Jackson said. “Some of the ways that we ensure inclusion, we make sure that businesses are certified. It’s a win-win when you’re certified because the developers need you to meet their goals.”
When working with these companies, the speakers emphasized the importance of business owners to ensure that they are being paid in a timely fashion.
There is a prompt payment clause where they pay in 30 days and if they don’t pay in 45 days, they’re supposed to pay with interest by working on a federal level.
In the private sector payment usually takes 60 days or longer.
“In the construction industry, what I’ve witnessed in the last two years, particularly in the higher level with the architects and the engineers, even though the written document says you’re going to pay me, their mentality is the architect will pay the engineers, be it civil, structural, mechanical, when they get paid but that’s not the documentation,” Holmes said.
“If you have a document here that says I get paid in whatever the regulations governing that contract say, specifically when you’re dealing with Maryland government agencies like the University of Maryland, you want to make sure you’re going to get paid. As of right now, a mechanical engineer has not been paid in almost 340 days, and he’s five figures in the hole.”
Dwayne Lewis owns a staffing recruiting and career coaching business that focuses on real estate, hospitality, retail and business administration. He came to the panel hoping to get information on getting off the ground with his startup and how to do business and contracting and thought the meeting was very useful.
“We came here to get more general information on what resources are available and helping to grow and find within the county how to meet certain criteria, what pitfalls we should be looking out for, what thing we should make sure we are attending to carefully and make contacts perhaps even do business amongst those who are here,” said Avery Gray.
Gray and her husband Rick own a post-production business and found that the meeting provided beneficial resources that they could use going forward in their business plan.
“From what we found out here today I was surprised about how much is available as far as potential work, potential resources, and that there is a lot available to us to help us along the way,” Gray said. “It’s not something that has to be done in a vacuum, that there are resources and folks around to help you move along and get along really.”