Alliance Trains, Certifies Subcontractors

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A weak job market combined with growing demand for field services is forging innovative alliances that generate small business opportunities.

The Foundation for Small Business Development, Citi and Safeguard Properties have launched the Partnership for Small Business Development, a national training and certification program that will enroll over 400 minority- and women-owned business enterprises to be trained and certified as subcontractors of Safeguard Properties, which is a field service vendor of Citi.

The goal of the program is to enable participating businesses to qualify for set-aside contracts with federal, state and local governments that need assistance in managing large inventories of real estate owned properties.

Contracting opportunities are expected to help generate local jobs in low- and moderate-income communities. Through the partnership small businesses are given the “tools and know-how to compete for more contracts from government and the private sector,” said Bob Annibale, Citi’s global director for community development.

Various statistics have shown that especially during times of crisis small businesses are the No. 1 source of job creation. Findings were part of the drive to start the partnership.

According to Charles Rowe, chairman of the Foundation for Small Business Development, which is coordinating the initiative, the program is the first to bring together the nation’s largest small business support network and the country’s “two main third-party certifiers” of minority- and women-owned business enterprises to provide assistance to small entrepreneurs.

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and other local and national certifying organizations, which offer national certification and business directories that match vendors to certified subcontractors also are joining the partnership to help ensure participats receive one-year certification by the end of 2012.

Such programs are proven venues that generate “enormous growth,” said Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. In 2010 corporate members spent $88 billion with certified women-owned business enterprises, almost double what was spent in 2007, so the association is concentrating efforts to help contractors expand their economic opportunities in 2012.

In addition to being potential employers, says Safeguard Properties CEO, Alan Jaffa, “contractors actively contribute to neighborhood stabilization through their property maintenance efforts in communities across the country, including Neighborhood Stabilization Program communities.”

The Small Business Development Center network, one of the largest network of its kind in the country, will provide each participating business with after certification training and counseling about how to build the capacity and resources to seize new contract opportunities. Its 16-hour “grow your business” training curriculum will be offered in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas and New York.

The training aims to provide tips on financing opportunities and efficient business management practices designed to help these small to midsize companies sustain their business into the future.