The Fair Contractor Coalition has been effective – very effective - at helping San Antonio small minority and women owned businesses win contracts in the local community.
Most recently, San Antonio’s newly sworn in
City Council last Thursday voted unanimously in favor of unbundling a contract for lifesaving defibrillators and supplies so that a local, woman-owned small business could win a share of the estimated $2.4 million procurement agreement. This would not have been possible without the active protest of the FCC.
The entire contract was previously set to go to Massachusetts-based medical manufacturing company Zoll Medical Corporation. But Council members put it on hold in February after asking city staff to find a way to give a local company a shot at some of the business.
At the time, San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood had pointed out that the Fire Department had less than 90 days worth of defibrillator supplies on hand. Defibrillators are portable devices that check patients’ heart rates and can send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. They are used to treat cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.
With Thursday’s vote, the City accepted the MEDWheels bid to provide accessories for the Zoll defibrillator for a total estimated annual amount of $887,000 for two years. The Council also approved Zoll’s bid to provide defibrillators, supplies, and services for a total estimated amount of $324,000 for two years. Both contracts are funded by the Fire Department’s annual budget, with the option to renew for three more years after the two-year contract expires.
“We have been very successful at de-bundling contracts throughout the city,” the City’s Deputy Chief Development Officer Troy Elliott said, responding to questions from the Council. “There are a couple of contracts we’re still looking at, particularly on the medical side, and this is one of them. Historically they have been sole-sourced.
The Fair Contractor Coalition knows that all too well – the coalition made up of all the minority chambers of commerce organizations with Neighborhood First Alliance have been monitoring every contract that is being offered by the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and the agencies featured in the Report Card.
The FCC has served as the watchdog to ensure there is fairness and equity in the contracting selection process. Councilman Shaw better get to know this group before he steps out too far warns the group members. Now, about three weeks ago, with the recent River Barge contract of the City of San Antonio, the FCC visibly supported the Go Rio San Antonio team over the Chicago team supported by Tony G’s - Tony Gradney – then the campaign treasurer of Councilman Shaw. The FCC was concerned that the Houston team of Cruz and Gradney was not in sync with the local politics of the city of San Antonio as they were on the opposite side of the City’s SBEDA ordinance. “We have reached out to Councilman Shaw and look forward to meeting with him.”
The FCC has been fighting with Medwheels to have the City of San Antonio debundle contracts that were deemed emergency commodities that the Fire Department could only buy from Japanese company Zoll. Names like Calvert, Omowale, Herring, Cavazos have been the chief strategists to have the city roll back the way it has done business. Councilman Shaw has been absent from FCC participation and the group looks forward to meeting with him.
New District 2 Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw told MEDWheels Inc. President and CEO Jane Gonzalez, “Janie, you’re a trailblazer in our community because you are opening the door,” “Small business builds communities. Never forget that.”
With this news, a District 2 company, Medwheels will benefit largely from the work of the FCC and former Councilman Alan Warrick. The entire contract was previously set to go to Massachusetts-based medical manufacturing company Zoll Medical Corporation. But Council members put it on hold in February after asking City staff to find a way to give a local company a shot at some of the business.
“We attended the High Profile Audit Committee meetings and met with the City Council members to ensure they understood that we wanted to see change. We believed in the capacity and opportunity a local city company could produce over that of an international giant.” said Christopher Herring.
Jane Gonzalez was affectionately dubbed the Rosa Parks of the Eastside business community by TC Calvert Sr. largely because she would stand her ground even as the City Manager and the City wanted to spend taxpayer dollars their way.
“We now have processes in place working with [the City’s] Economic Development [Department], working with our stakeholders in the contracting coalition and Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC). So for each procurement that comes through us, we’re looking at that, and we’re looking to see how we can de-bundle that. We have processes in place, and we’re going to keep chipping away at it. We’ve made great strides today. Sole source [contracts] are very limited today compared to five years ago.”
A San Antonio native, Jane Gonzalez serves on the City of San Antonio Economic Development Department’s Diversity Action Plan Subcommittee and has attended the SBAC Citizens to be Heard regularly. She is an active member of the FCC – a proud member indeed!
Gonzalez became emotional when she thanked the Council, City staff, and several chambers of commerce for their work on de-bundling the contract, and introduced David Ray, a regional sales manager for medical technology company Masimo, a supplier to Zoll. Ray, she said, helped her company succeed in meeting the requirements of the contract. “It is important for all new Council members to understand the importance of SBAC,” Gonzalez said. “There are going to be some new openings coming up. Be very careful who you choose because that can lead to a lot of tremendous work for San Antonio.”
SBAC is a citizen group appointed by the mayor and City Council to advise on issues affecting small businesses in San Antonio. It’s Diversity Action Plan subcommittee, chaired by FCC co-founder, Christopher Herring, oversees strategies and tactics aimed at increasing the availability and utilization of minority and women-owned businesses included in a five-year plan adopted by Council in 2013.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) noted that the un-bundling of the contract was a “long time coming,” and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) added that Gonzalez has been working on the issue for several years to champion the idea. “By the very chance of us asking a few extra questions in previous council to try to push it back, to try to de-bundle it, [we] try to make sure a small, local, minority-owned business would be able to take advantage of a piece of this contract,” he said. “And believe me, we give and award a ton of money and work in the city, and it’s only right that our local folks benefit in some way where they can, where they can bring expertise.”
The FCC has a list of companies that they have backed and have been awarded contracts. The Report Card, which is the tool used to account for public agency support of local minority businesses is now the talk of Texas.
On June 24, 2017, At the Texas Association of Black City Council Members, Herring shared the FCC’s Report Card with a number of Texas mayors and city council members to enable them to use the strategy, tools and techniques to increase minority business participation. Herring told them, “You cannot afford to be forgetful of who you are, and the fact that the business community needs you to do your best to have them in the procurement process. It’s life and death!”