In the Money: L.A. Area Chamber Chief Executive Maria Salinas said the database will help local businesses access billions of dollars.

In the Money: L.A. Area Chamber Chief Executive Maria Salinas said the database will help local businesses access billions of dollars. Photo by Ron Murray

Los Angeles-area small businesses seeking information about bid opportunities for government contracts now can access a single online database, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs announced last week the formation of OneLA Regional Collaborative to provide small businesses with technical assistance, business certifications required by government agencies, and access to the online contract database.

Online portals within individual jurisdictions — such as the city of Los Angeles — that allow businesses access to contract bid opportunities across all departments have long been available. But this is apparently the first attempt to cover all public agencies serving L.A. County at the federal, state and local levels with a unified database.

It is also one of the first efforts to combine contract database access with helping companies get certified as women-owned or minority-owned small businesses for the purpose of bidding on those contracts.

This partnership will “help our diverse local businesses better access the billions of dollars in opportunity throughout our county,” Maria Salinas, the chamber’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The OneLA Regional Collaborative will serve as a navigation system for small business and stimulate economic mobility as well as economic growth. It’s a whole new and unprecedented way for the public sector to engage with businesses.”

The initiative is being funded primarily through a $1 million grant from Citi Community Development, a unit of New York-based Citigroup Inc. whose mission is to promote economic development in underserved communities.

Other public agency partners include the City of Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

One of the key features of this initiative will be the use of downtown-based Avisare’s procurement platform — a cloud-based online tool allowing small businesses to attain the necessary government, small business, and minority certifications, and to apply with government agencies serving the Los Angeles area.

One longtime local government contractor welcomed the new database.

“Right now, you have to go on several websites of individual government agencies to find out about contract bid opportunities, so if executed correctly, this could be quite helpful,” said Gene Hale, chief executive of Gardena-based G&C Equipment Corp., which procures and sells construction equipment and supplies. He is also chairman of the Greater Los Angeles African-American Chamber of Commerce.

But, Hale said, it’s not enough to provide access to contract bid opportunities. “Small businesses need help to ensure that when they bid on these contracts, they can win out over the big guys,” he said. “So, the real test here will be if this effort actually results in more contracts going to small businesses.”

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