According to Paul Toth, Port Authority president/CEO, the Port Authority board, in an effort led by board member Margarita De León, challenged the administrative staff in 2009 to do something about diversity and minority inclusion. “DCAP was the result of that effort, designed to provide financial solutions to encourage increased participation by Northwest Ohio-based minority and women-owned contractors in publicly bid work and privately funded construction projects.”
Mr. Toth advised the guests that the program was modeled after a situation in the 1990s, where Leo Mack, a sprinkler fitter, had submitted the low bid for work at the downtown Toledo train station. But Mack lacked a bid bond, because of the cash flow problems that typically plague a small contractor.
The Port Authority agreed to pay him every two weeks so he could meet payroll, as well as pay his suppliers directly when they invoiced the port. Mack got the contract and grew his local business as a result.
“17 years later, he’s still in business,” said Toth. “This whole program [DCAP] was built off that experience.”
The Port Authority president stated that in order to make the program work and grow, partners were needed. The University of Toledo (UT) became one of those major partners, helping the port to finance the DCAP program.
“We in the public sector have not only a moral commitment, but a legal commitment, to step up and use participation of minority and disadvantaged businesses in our programs,” Toth said. “What we constantly saw was the same four or five contractors showing up at every job and we realized that wasn’t good.”
DCAP started in October 2010 with three contractors in the program. Since then, the Port Authority has seen 32 small minority contractors perform over $1.6 million worth of work.
Current DCAP participants include: TAS, Inc. (electrical), Lymco Fire Protection, Inc., Bryson/Tucker Electric, Mandell-Vásquez (Heating & Air), American Flooring Installers (Flooring), Toledo Tin Knockers, North Regional Builders, Inc., Bebley Enterprises, Inc. (Interior Systems), R&L Plumbing Services, Inc., V&K Electric, R&S Roofing, LLC, SK Roberts (Rehab/Lead Abatement), Pipe Solutions, Ltd., Forever Green Landscaping , LLC, C. Bates Fine Design, LLC (Construction), Glory Management, LLC (Construction/Remodeling), Sky Reach Construction, LLC, AB&B Ergonomics (Material Handling), Ecom-Ane General Contractors, Universal Electric NW Ohio, LLC, RL Williams Concrete, LLC (Highway & Road Construction), Shelmon Concrete Co., Peak Electric, Inc., Just Take It, LLC (Demolition & Hauling), Abco Contracting, LLC, Jackson Security Services, LLC, AABA Trucking & Hauling, REH Systems Solutions, LLC (Technology), Wyse Enterprise, Inc. (Transportation), Scott’s Quality Concrete, Inc., K. Davis, Inc. (Construction), and Whisper Creative Products, Inc. (Construction Supplier).
“We’re going to continue to grow it and we’ve helped fund 48 projects throughout Northwest Ohio—everything from as small as a $6,000 landscaping project to a roofing job where we had to buy the shingles from Home Depot to help the contractor and deliver them to the job site,” Toth said. “He never would have had a chance to get that project had it not been for this program.”
Toth pointed to a report called What Matters to Metros, a 20-year look at 115 mid-sized cities including Toledo. The report makes three recommendations for communities going forward, including what it referred to as a “diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
“Their study shows that self-employment continues to be a vehicle for the integration of disconnected populations to the local economy, particularly African-Americans,” Toth said. “In other words, what this study shows is that poverty continues to build in communities like Toledo. One of the most effective ways to reverse that poverty is by creating entrepreneurs. I think this program goes a long way. It’s a start and it’s just nicking the edges—but it’s a great program and I think it’s a start we can continue to build on.”
According to the Port Authority website, DCAP offers access to bid, performance, and payment bonds to contractors who are unable to obtain bonding through traditional sources and offers access to capital for the purchase of materials and payment of labor costs. Many small contractors suffer from a lack of cash flow and unable to handle the large construction contracts needed to grow their business to survive and flourish.
“It’s really one of the best decisions I’ve ever been involved in,” said Larry Burns, UT vice president for external affairs. “To see how successful the program has become, to become friends with many of the entrepreneurs who are now successful is very rewarding. For the university, that’s what we should be doing. We hope this program continues and grows.”
UT also has a minority business development center that mentors entrepreneurs. There are now 13 businesses housed on the UT Scott Park campus through that program, which generated $4 million and 40 new jobs in the local economy last year.
Toth commented that DCAP works in conjunction with two other programs: a Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC), which is housed at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Lathrop School, which helps small, young companies get started in the contracting business.
“When you get three organizations working together like this, it really should be a model for across the country,” said Toth. “We’re really achieving what that report says we ought to be doing, creating entrepreneurs from every level.
“This is about capacity (building), but what really has to come out of this is consistent capacity,” said Steve Johnson from the Lathrop Company. “With our school, we long ago realized the importance of building that capacity—and that’s what our school is about: taking small businesses, minority businesses, and helping them grow their businesses. But all the other parts, including financing, have to come together to make that work.”
“My goal is to make this thing bigger and possible reach outside the contracting [industry],” said Toth. “Maybe we can figure out how to expand this to other parts of our community and continue to create entrepreneurs.”
Anyone interested in learning more about DCAP can call the port authority’s Joe Bajas at 419.243.8251 ext. 109 or email [email protected].