The Hispanic American Construction and Industry Association (HACIA) is playing a key role in helping open the door to success for minority companies by assisting them in the process of attaining minority certification. For this Special Edition, Negocios Now sat down and interviewed HACIA Executive Director Jorge Perez and asked about the process.
What is HACIA doing to help companies attain MBE certification?
If a company wants to get certified, we can provide a general overview of what is expected from the business and the owner, including all required documentation. We then identify which public authority would be the best fit for their application. In talking with the business owner, we can usually quickly understand what area of the construction marketplace they are in as well as helping them determine if there are new markets where they want to grow their business. Once the application is submitted and they become a member of HACIA we can monitor their progress and assist with any follow up.
According to your experience in the organization, how have companies taken advantage of the certification process?
Over the past several years, we have seen that after companies receive certification new business opportunities have opened for them that allow them to bid on and compete for publicly-funded projects. Some of these include projects for the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Housing Authority as well as the historic O’Hare International Airport expansion plan. We have also assisted businesses who want to expand their certifications into areas that complement their mission. This has helped their services grow, and the enhanced certifications have allowed them to enter the utilities’ market place and private development.
What opportunities do you see for MBE companies in the Construction arena?
Right now, the opportunities for MBE firms are the greatest they’ve been in almost a decade. O’Hare has $8.5 billion in planned development; CTA has a $2 billion plan; the Department of Water Management is involved in $2 billion in upgrades, the Chicago Public Schools has a new capital plan of $1 billion — that’s not even mentioning the tollway and highway projects in the state. The public utilities in Illinois have opened their bidding process to more Hispanic and other minority venders.
Can you mention an example of a company that has grown after receiving HACIA’s help in acquiring certification?
Sure, Abitua Plumbing and Sewer is just one. Like everyone several years ago, they were struggling to recover from the Great Recession. The business had previously exclusively focused on the private housing/residential/commercial sector. As you recall, the recession had left the housing sector in extremely bad shape. We got the business certified and as a result, they were able to bid on and win contracts for public projects and their business grew. The owner then expanded his certification with our help and was able to get into the business of producing concrete. HACIA helped this business have new opportunities and expand its scope of services.
What do you think are the biggest challenges to having more Latino-certified companies?
The biggest challenge to having more Latino firms receive certification is focusing the leadership of a company and making them understand that it must be a priority for their business. Companies must take advantage of the good economy. With all the projects underway in Chicago and the region, there are great opportunities for businesses to grow if they take advantage of the certification process. While the process to receive certification can be daunting and requires great focus, we at HACIA are here and ready to help. (CN)