It is 3:30 a.m. on a warm Houston April morning and as I prepare to participate in the Stand Up 4 Transportation National Day of Education, I am reflecting on the projects that my company worked on in the transit industry. Through our involvement in the design on Houston's light rail system, we ultimately help thousands of passengers go to work, school, church or to enjoy entertainment. And every day thousands of riders use smartcard fare collections systems that we helped to install on buses, rail platforms and in retail stores.
While many are able to benefit from public transportation, the reality is short term federal funding bills for transportation infrastructure for more than 10 years has left small businesses at the curve impacting job creation in our nation. Passing a long term transportation bill for our nation's infrastructure helps in the upkeep of our transportation systems, highways, roads and bridges. And because 74 percent (APTA March 8, 2015 Legislative Issue Brief) of all capital spending on public transportation flows through via contracts to the private sector, small businesses like mine are able to make a greater difference in our communities.
In addition to improving our nation's transportation infrastructure, small businesses benefit from a long term federal transportation bill in the following three ways.
- Removes uncertainty and allows for better long term planning and investments. When a small business leader in government contracting is unsure about the consistency in funding this results in short term planning and cautiously making investments into their business, if taking the risk to make any investments at all.
- Grows business via awarded transportation contracts. Transportation and transit authorities primarily use the private sector to procure products and services. With long term and the right amount of funding in place, small businesses pursue transit procurements and if successful in being awarded contracts, can grow their small business. And from experience, a multi-year transportation project assists in building a stable financial foundation for small businesses to plan, take risks, invest and grow.
- Provides a greater economic contribution to local communities and creates good jobs. Industry data show that for approximately $4 is generated in economic return and $1billion of federal investments supports 50,000 jobs through direct job creation and increased productivity. ( March 8, 2015 Legislative Issue Brief)
For small businesses that are interested in learning how to do business in the transportation marketplace, consider the five suggestions below.
- Visit resourceful industry web sites to learn about the transit industry at www.apta.com, www.comto.org, www.wtsinternational.org and on the Federal side go to www.dot.gov
- Schedule an appointment with your local Transit Authority's Small Business Development Group and ask how to do business with them. In Houston, you can go online at www.ridemetro.org to obtain contact information.
- Call your local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) which receives funding from the Small Business Administration via your Federal tax dollars to help small businesses. Go to www.sba.gov to obtain contact information on the PTAC in your area.
- Meet with your local chamber of commerce that has information on most of the government agencies and a host of other information for helping the business community.
- And last but not least, ask your Librarian for assistance in conducting market research. Librarians are a wealth of knowledge, trained to do research and are free (at least at my library).
As I close out my entry for today, I leave you with a great transit industry saying which you will find true in your city and that is "Where Public Transportation Goes -- The Community Grows". I am Standing Up 4 Transportation and I am excited about helping our nation to grow and assisting many Americans to have a better place to live, work, play and pray.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.