Bexar County is working on solutions that offer business owners an equal opportunity to excel towards success in the construction industry. The county invests time bringing information and resources to business owners whether new or established. This is essential to their success, especially as they look to grow.
Mentor Protégé Program
The Bexar County’s Mentor Protégé program was established in 2005. The sole purpose of the Mentor Protégé program is to build effective working relationships between leaders of mature established companies and locally owned small businesses so that newer companies can benefit from the wisdom and experience of established firms. 13 firms have completed the program. Eight firms are currently matched thru November 2019. The program recently started with four African-American Business Enterprises (AABE); making up 50 percent of the protégés enrolled in the program. This is a huge milestone for the program setting this kind of precedent. The AABEs leading the way are - Vernon Bryant, owner of BRC Remodeling; Joe Monroe, owner of Consolidated Installation Support; Nehemiah O’Neal owner of O’Neal’s Furniture Assembly; and Alex Pennington, owner of ALP Contracting.
“I have very high expectations of how the program will improve my business and standard of living,” says Vernon Bryant. “My expectations are high because of the talented individuals, who have willingly volunteered their time in helping all the protégés prosper in their businesses.”
Bringing information and resources to business owners is essential to their success, especially as they look to grow. “Providing the knowledge, skills, and resources for business owners in the construction industry to thrive is essential to a diverse and inclusive workforce,” says Renee Watson, Director of the Bexar County Small Business & Entrepreneurship Department (SBED). The program offers protégés the ability to receive first hand, real world hands on experience from their mentors. “Connecting these diverse business owners to industry veterans through the Mentor-Protégé Program helps them grow and succeed.”
The relationship between the mentor and protégé is a two year commitment where the protégé, two mentors, Associated General Contractors staff, and Watson work together to help develop the protégé firm’s marketing, operations and financial performance. “It’s intriguing for me to be able to get first hand assistance from top tier company professionals that are willing and able to help me become the business owner that I want to be,” says Nehemiah O’Neal.
Mentors give their protégés advice and assistance based on their real life business experience, along with one-on-one assistance to help the protégé develop the tools for business capacity. “Our partnership with Bexar County has been fantastic, and has now been a nationally recognized success in helping minority and women-owned construction businesses,” says Doug McMurry, Executive Vice President of AGC San Antonio Chapter. “We look forward to more accomplishments in the future.”
Protégés learn they are not alone as part of the program is about receiving guidance. “Being in the mentor protégé program means that I am not working or building my company alone,” says Alex Pennington.
The connection between the mentors and protégés will build understanding of the importance of business relationships that can benefit the business community.
“Protégés receive knowledge, connections, overall growth and development opportunities that are not only beneficial to them, but the San Antonio community as a whole,” says Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
At the 100th Annual AGC of America National Convention in New Orleans, the San Antonio Chapter received the first-ever Chapter Diversity & Inclusion Award, which was created to honor those who promoted diversity and inclusion within the chapter’s leadership, membership, programs and events. The San Antonio chapter’s work with the Black Contractors Association (BCA) and partnership with Bexar County on the “Basics” of Construction Program and the Mentor/Protégé Program were reasons that they were recognized with this honor.
The AGC/Bexar County Basics of Construction Training Program is a ten-session educational program designed to assist small business contractors in understanding the basic elements of running a commercial construction business. The sessions inlcuded elements of running a successful construction business, project scheduling, financial management, understanding contracts and more. Once firms complete the Basics Program they are eligible for the Mentor Protégé Program. To date 155 firms have completed the Basics Program. “
The Chapter’s commitment to diversity and inclusion began 13 years ago in partnership with Bexar County,” says McMurry. “The team visited Portland, Oregon to learn more about The Stempel Plan, which serves as the foundation for a very successful Mentor/Protégé Program.”
The county’s UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) AABE Survey identified a gap in availability and capacity of African American owned businesses in the Alamo Region. From this survey, the AABE Initiative was created in March 2017 to help stimulate local outreach, economic growth, and development.
In November 2017, ACCELERATION CONNECTION was held where several African American contractors shared information regarding their most recent projects. This was designed to help build the capacity of AABEs and directly connect with County staff.
By assisting with building the capacity of AABEs to work with Bexar County, the county will enhance a robust, diverse pool of businesses and resources to meet the needs of the county residents.
“Our economy is strongest when it is inclusive and diverse,” says Wolff, “And our robust SMWBE program works to ensure entrepreneurs and small businesses have the tools and resources they need to succeed.”
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Department
Renee Watson, Director
Torence White, Contract Compliance Specialist
Shantana Robinson, Capacity Building Coordinator