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Port Partnership Supports Minority Businesses

July 7, 2021

If you are a small, minority, or woman-owned business, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is your go-to resource for technical, strategic, marketing, planning, and business consulting services. Now the Tacoma MBDA and the Port are collaborating to better support the small businesses they serve. The two organizations have formed an unofficial partnership to help companies find and apply for contracts with the Port. 

"Small businesses need to understand how they can scale and build capacity.  We also help them get through the State's Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE/DBE) pre-certification process. In our two-year partnership we’ve helped four businesses get contracts with the Port of Seattle," said Linda Womack, director of the Tacoma MBDA.

The Tacoma MBDA is one of 30 centers across the country operating under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The central office is co-located with the City of Tacoma, but it's a regional office serving the greater Pacific Northwest.

For those seeking contracts with the Port, Womack stresses the necessity to communicate with the Port’s Diversity in Contracting team early before the bids are released. The opportunities are there but the business owner must understand he or she will be working with prime contractors and needs to have sufficient capacity to do the job.

Linda Womack

“We do a thorough financial analysis and review of each company’s business operation and capabilities. We also let business owners know there are smaller contracting opportunities such as job order contracting, small works rosters, and ways to identify which areas of the bid would be most appropriate for them.” 

Another bonus for businesses seeking Port contracts is the MBDA’s partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Capacity Building Mentorship Program, which pairs prime contractors or consultants with owners of minority and woman-owned firms. Many of the large prime contractors who serve as mentors in the program have contracts with the Port.

“We’re always looking for strategic technical assistance mentor partnerships because it takes that kind of support to help small, minority, and women-owned businesses to scale for Port jobs,” Womack said.

Womack and the Port’s Diversity in Contracting team work together to create a roadmap to success for small businesses. It’s a win-win with no cost to the small businesses.

“Businesses just need a willingness to learn, a personalized plan to follow, and to meet with the primes,” Womack said.

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