By Barney Blakeney
Fixing and maintaining South Carolina’s roads is a massive undertaking that will ramp up as the new state gas tax provides more revenue. The S.C. Department of Transportation expects that road construction and improvements will be ongoing even after the new gas tax increase of 12 cents maxes out over the next six years in two cents per year increments. S.C. legislators May 10 approved a plan to provide $600 million a year over the next six years for roads repair and maintenance. SCDOT has structured a plan to engage minority owned businesses in the economic windfall generated by the agency whose annual budget tops $1.6 billion.
Arlene Prince of the SCDOT said currently the department is projecting to spend about $350 million with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises through fiscal year 2020. Currently the department is in the process of approving those spending goals. The amount it will spend with DBEs is expected to increase from the $87.5 million it spent with DBEs in the 2015-2016 fiscal years, she said. Since the 2013-2014 fiscal years, the amount it’s spent with DBEs has increased about 50 percent totaling some 10 percent of total expenditures. Between fiscal years 2018-2020 the department hopes to increase the DBEs share of contract awards to 11.5 percent.
The key to increasing DBE participation will be finding firms with which to do business, Prince said. The department has a data base of certified companies it currently uses and wants to add new ones. The companies contracted will depend on the type of work to be done. The department will spend some $2.1 billion through 2020 for projects that include bridge replacement, interstate maintenance, pavement and resurfacing, system upgrades, safety and enhancement projects, transportation alternatives, and preventive maintenance operations. Some 80 percent of the state’s roads need to be repaved. The share to DBEs is projected to be about $190 million.
It’s important that minority firms position themselves to become certified. In the past three years only about 23 percent of SCDOT contracts either were bid on or awarded to DBE firms Location will play a key role in contract awards as well, Prince said. At the department’s website – www.scdot.org – small and minority businesses can find valuable information that may help them engage with the department, Prince said. The department’s spring 2017 newsletter can provide newsworthy information. The informational tool can be a resource for recent activities within the Division of Minority & Small Business Affairs. The site also has the department’s fall 2017 DBE Training Calendar and a Title VI notice to the Public.