More than 250 small business owner’s showed up to a workshop offered by Supervisor Don Knabe’s office Thursday where they were anxious to learn about a new program that gives them a big advantage on bids for county contracts.
It was the area’s first county workshop since the supervisors voted to increase the county’s small-business bid preference from 5 percent to 8 percent.
Small business owners registered with the county can win a county contract even if another bidder beats their proposal by 8 percent. The program takes effect Nov. 1.
Knabe, who represents Downey, Whittier and much of the southern part of the county, kept his remarks short to give the businessmen and businesswomen at the workshop time to network and research how to get government work.
“We know you don’t want to hear from us,” he said to a packed house at the Radisson Hotel Whittier. “You want to make some money. And we’re going to help you do that.”
The county last year awarded more than $100 million to small businesses with official county certification through the Los Angeles County Office of Small Business.
Certified small businesses don’t have to bid for contracts less than $5,000, Knabe said.
Business owners said they were turning over all rocks in search of new ways to drum up business, and several said the workshop was their first attempt at winning government work.
While many said government paperwork seemed daunting, they were excited to learn how to deal with the county and several other government agencies who showed up at the event.
“I’m just in the process of getting people in place where I can pull myself out of the day-to-day work,” said Randy Gonzalez of Whittier, who runs a pressure washing business, Superior Specialty Cleaning.
He recently hired new crews, is buying a new rig and is building a website, he said.
He has survived more than 30 years by showing up on time and working hard, he said. Now he’s ready to expand.
“I’m not trying to get rich in one day,” he said. “I try to walk the walk and come through on what I said I would do.”
He would love to get small county clean-up contracts, he said.
Many of those contracts end up tying into Downey, where the county – with about 4,100 employees — is single largest employer in the city.
Knabe’s office is working on scheduling another workshop/job fair in Downey in February, which would include the Los Angeles County Office of Education, headquartered on Imperial Avenue near Bellflower Boulevard.
Knabe’s field deputy Andrea Avila said February’s event will link up the government, businesesses and job seekers.
With the county’s unemployment rate hovering around 12 percent, she expects a big turnout, she said.
“That one should be huge,” she said.