Big Opportunity for Small Businesses, with Metrolink

We’ve all seen how the pandemic has continued to expose gross inequities in all aspects of our society. At Metrolink we are committed to being part of the solution and playing an important role to help create a more equitable workforce.  Part of that means improving opportunities for diverse and small business enterprises.

This week Metrolink launched an innovative initiative that helps Southern California’s local small businesses bid more competitively and equitably on the agency’s contracts. The Small Business Partnership Program (SBPP) helps a wide range of small business enterprises address three areas that have traditionally prevented them from competing for Metrolink contracts: opportunity, capital and capacity.

Now, through the program’s collaboration with top organizations in financial services and technical training, Metrolink is equipping these enterprises with the support and tools they need to bid competitively. Once a business completes the SBPP, they are designated “Contract Ready” which allows them to take advantage of special contract opportunities and incentives, such as insurance relief and payment schedules.

California’s Small Business Community: A Powerful Growth Engine

Senior man using smart phone in cafe.

Our trains connect you to many small businesses in our region, ranging from restaurants, suppliers, boutiques, pet stores and other service providers. We love that our trains allow you to easily access specialized products and services from small businesses all over the Southland.

California is home to 4.1 million small businesses, representing 99.8 percent of all businesses in the state and employing 7.2 million workers in California, or nearly half of the state’s total workforce. Our Small Business Partnership Program embraces a wide range of these enterprises in the six counties we serve including traditional SBA guidelines to include micro-businesses, local small businesses, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), as well as for profit and not-for-profit small businesses.

The program recognizes how important these small businesses are for long-term economic growth of our region, and how critical their contributions are in keeping our economy humming — from hiring local talent to providing specialized products and services. All their efforts—driven by innovations and an entrepreneurial spirit—help to make our region one of the most competitive in the nation.

How SBPP Helps

Many of these enterprises, however, don’t have the tools and skills they need to compete for large contracts—which can be so important for the growth of any small business.  

Vida Mannings, Director of Special Projects for Metrolink who is leading the SBPP initiative, explains how the program addresses this challenge. “We understand that the opportunity to compete for Metrolink projects is just one component of supporting sustainable growth, which is why we want to help small businesses mitigate potential barriers for success—opportunity, capital and capacity—when bidding on contracts,” she said.

The program’s unique approach provides training from top minority-owned organizations in financial services and technical skills—Lendistry and The Center by Lendistry.  Once they go through the program, which is free, small businesses receive a “Contract Ready” designation—which means they can compete for and fulfill Metrolink contracts with excellence.

Metrolink’s Upcoming Opportunities

In the coming months, we’ll be providing ample opportunities for small businesses to bid on projects that further establish Metrolink as the safest, fastest, most reliable passenger rail system in the region. For example, we’ll soon be breaking ground on the first projects from our Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion program (SCORE). This $10 billion capital improvement project will upgrade Metrolink’s system in time for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the other world class sporting events coming to our region. We’ll need a public transportation system to support the visitors, participants and fans who attend.  And with the SBPP program, we can tap into the innovation and unique services from more small businesses in our region to help!

A Win for Small Businesses, the Economy and Metrolink

We’ve always known small businesses were important, but the idea to create a Small Business Partnership Program became more paramount as an agency when we introduced our pandemic Recovery Plan and committed to the triple bottom line of protecting the environment, embracing social responsibility and creating greater economic vitality.

Looking at our own long-term sustainability as an organization, we used the moment of disruption caused by the pandemic to examine all our business practices. We challenged ourselves to find more innovative, efficient and inclusionary ways of doing business that would impact our entire supply chain of goods and services with our vendors and service partners. We realized, too, that expanding the opportunities for more qualified businesses to bid successfully on Metrolink contracts would benefit us as well by creating greater operational efficiency through increased competition.

We got to work developing a program that could help drive revenue and increase contract opportunities for local and diverse suppliers—a community of qualified suppliers that’s often underutilized and overlooked.

According to Small Business Advocate, Schenae Rourk, the small business community is excited about the opportunity for growth. “I know I speak for many of us in the small business community in that we are grateful Metrolink has recognized the need to level the playing field by helping us compete for key transportation contracts, and contribute to the recovery, growth and sustainability of our local economy,” said Rourk, who is also a Principal at Redwood Resources, a strategic procurement, diversity and inclusion consulting firm serving California small businesses.

Metrolink’s Board unanimously approved the program in February, and we are in the process of institutionalizing this innovative, new approach to doing business throughout the organization and within our Procurement and Contracting Policies.

Ara Najarian, Metrolink’s Board Chair and Glendale City Councilmember, said, “The program is a win-win for the small business community, for the local economy and for Metrolink.”

One thing is certain about small businesses: they are resilient, and they’re nimble enough to pivot to new operating models when necessary. We are excited to help them take advantage of all they have to offer our region and be a resource for their long-term prosperity.

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