Jun 25, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - Following through on its commitment to maximize the number of local businesses and employees working on the next round of school construction and renovation projects, today the Recovery School District (RSD), along with supporters from the local business community, announced the creation of its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program. The announcement fulfills Commitment 12 as outlined in the What Will It Take? report, which details the RSD’s commitments to the city of New Orleans.

"We desire to provide an inclusive, transparent, and accessible means by which disadvantaged businesses of our region may benefit from the economic opportunities within the RSD," said RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard. "As we build great facilities for the children of our community, the RSD also endeavors to provide great opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged business concerns of our community."

The RSD is currently undertaking the largest school construction program in the city’s history and the largest post-Katrina public sector rebuilding program on the Gulf Coast. The RSD is establishing the DBE Office as a strong, fair, and viable program that encourages the participation of local DBE contractors in building and renovating schools throughout the city.

To create the DBE program, the RSD cooperated with community organizations, including the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, to study aspects of DBE inclusion in expanding outreach to contractors, contractor associations, and the minority contracting community.

Additionally, the RSD restructured the contract language for all District construction contracts, requiring that construction contractors make every effort to ensure that 25 percent of all construction work is provided by DBEs. The contract language also specifies the ’good faith’ efforts that each contractor must put forth to achieve these new DBE goals.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu applauded the RSD’s effort in successfully creating the DBE Program.

Sen. Landrieu said, "As Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, I appreciate the Recovery School District’s efforts to involve local contractors in New Orleans’ extensive and historic school construction project.  With the creation of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, the RSD is rightly taking the initiative to maximize the number of local businesses rebuilding and reimagining the city’s public schools." 

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said, "The Recovery School District should be commended for their efforts in creating a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program that encourages the participation and involvement of local businesses in the city’s historic school construction project. The RSD has made great strides in developing a strong DBE program that will be extremely beneficial in strengthening economic development opportunities throughout the region and city of New Orleans."

Sombra Williams has been named director of the DBE Program for the RSD and will lead the program implementation. Through the new DBE Office, Williams will provide tracking and oversight to ensure compliance among contractors. Williams’ work will include mandating that contractors report clearly how well they hit Disadvantaged Business Enterprise goals and will require that they employ in-state residents, per the laws of the State of Louisiana.

The DBE Office will:

  • Establish and maintain ’entrance points’ for qualified DBEs seeking participation in RSD construction projects.
  • Provide information on general contractors for capital rebuilding projects.
  • Keep general contractors informed of interested, qualified DBEs and DBE outreach opportunities/mechanisms.
  • Keep interested, qualified DBEs informed of RSD opportunities and related events.
  • Engage RSD contractors, providing assistance in addressing barriers to meeting compliance goals and with identifying/articulating ’good faith’ efforts.
  • Track and review actual contractor compliance/compliance efforts.

George Washington Carver High School and Phyllis Wheatly Elementary School are set to go out for bid later this summer. Other school construction projects set to go to bid within the next 12 to 18 months are: Sophie B. Wright Charter School, Dwight Eisenhower Elementary School, Gentilly Terrace Elementary School, and Samuel J. Green Charter School. A complete list of upcoming projects will be available on the RSD website in the near future.

Disadvantaged businesses interested in RSD construction contracting opportunities can visit the RSD website to download a copy of the DBE vendor form. The information submitted by vendors will be used to build a viable database of qualified interested DBEs to share with RSD contractors.

For additional information about the RSD Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, visit the RSD website at www.rsdla.netor call (504) 373-6200 ext 20082.

About Sombra Williams

Sombra Williams completed a master’s degree in urban planning at Texas A&M University in 2001. After working in the public housing sector for several years, she relocated to New Orleans in July 2005. Although she has worked extensively in community outreach, recruitment and workforce development in the Greater New Orleans area, her most recent work was in Section 3 tracking and compliance. Between 2009 and 2012, she developed and implemented the Section 3 Compliance Program for the Lafitte Redevelopment Project in New Orleans, currently known as Faubourg Lafitte.

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