May is Small Business Month, a time to celebrate small businesses for the critical role they play in the U.S. economy, but small businesses often face big challenges that tilt the playing field in favor of larger competitors.
“Financial issues such as bonding, access to capital, and collections are always more difficult for smaller contractors,” said Maria Triplett, President of Allterrain Paving & Construction. “In addition, it is tough to compete against our much larger competitors in the open market due to their financial resources, ability to provide numerous employee benefits, and equipment ownership.”
Louisville Water created its Small Business Equity (SBE) program to help companies like Allterrain, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, overcome many of the challenges.
Triplett pointed out that “the SBE program has generated a lot of income for our company and provided long-term employment stability. The program has us competing in an open bid situation against firms that are similar in size, thus making us much more competitive on those bids, versus bidding against the larger firms. This has allowed us to provide better benefits to employees and improve employee retention. Additionally, Louisville Water remits payment quickly to contractors, improving cash flow issues as well.”
Allterrain does a range of work for Louisville Water, including new pipeline construction (both PVC pipes and ductile iron water mains) as well as new property services, new fire hydrants, booster stations, and surface restoration. In addition, Allterrain has an annual concrete maintenance contract with Louisville Water.
The SBE program generally includes bidding on construction, professional services, or general services contracts ranging from $30,001 – $499,999 (this is commonly referred to as a sheltered market program). To date, the program has grown to more than 75 members, many of whom are minority or women-owned (MWBE) businesses. Last year was a good year at Louisville Water in terms of the MWBE total spend: $16.2 million.
“These types of programs are crucial to helping firms like ours grow both financially and gain experience,” Triplett said.