TRANSCRIPT: A closer look at the Small Business Chittlin Circuit in Houston, Tx. | CoH Public Works

You can listen to the show @: Houston LIVE! | PWE

~ Beginning of Transcript

Good Afternoon, this is Rudy Sutherland and I am your host for today’s episode of Houston LIVE! I want to say welcome to those of you listening in online and those who have called in – and those of you who have contacted me to say how positive and beneficial this series has been for you so far.

If you have downloaded this show as a podcast from our archive, I sincerely hope the information is as relevant as when we first recorded it.

Before we get started I would like to thank our sponsors, this show is made possible by the generous support of:

  • ALJUCAR & Co., the premier strategic consulting & program management firm in the SBA 8(a) & VA Serviced Disabled Veteran Programs
  • ECCHIES Uniforms, a women-owned business whose tag line is “buy direct, for less
  • LinTech Global, whose tag line, is “Business &Technology Solutions that Make Sense
  • Project & Knowledge Concepts, an 8(a) certified project & program management powerhouse with offices in Herndon, Virginia and Franklin, NC;
  • Meridian Working Capital: whose tag line is “Providing capital today for tomorrow’s growth!”

Hot Links:

The City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department, like those in most large metropolitan areas, provides many of the basic services that affect the daily lives of everyone who lives and works in the city. Primarily, the department is responsible for all the things we take for granted on a daily basis: the administration, planning, maintenance, construction management and technical engineering of the City’s infrastructure. This includes the production and distribution of over 146 billion gallons of water per year and the treatment of over 90 billion gallons per year of wastewater.

That is enough to fill the Astrodome four times per day with fresh water and over twice per day with wastewater. It also includes the maintenance of the City’s over 16,000 lane miles of streets, over 60,000 stormwater manholes, over 100,000 stormwater inlets, over 900,000 street name and traffic control signs, over 17,000 freeway and under bridge light fixtures, over 50,000 fire hydrants and traffic signals at over 2,000 intersections.

The Public Works and Engineering Department is staffed with a trained work force of approximately 3,900 employees under the leadership of Michael S. Marcotte, P.E., who is the Director of the Department. The annual operating budget of the department is approximately $1.2 billion. Operating funds are derived from a number of sources including user fees, utility charges and General Fund revenue. The department is also responsible for implementing the storm water, street, wastewater and water programs of the Mayor’s five-year Capital Improvements Plan with a bond-funded budget in excess of $450 million per year.

The responsibilities of the Public Works and Engineering department are distributed among six divisions:

  1. Engineering and Construction Division
  2. Planning and Development Services Division
  3. Public Utilities
  4. Resource Management
  5. Right-of-Way and Fleet Maintenance Division
  6. Traffic and Transportation

There’s has been and still is the perception that doing business with the City of Houston Department of Public Works & Engineering is only for the “good ole big boys.”  While there may be a lot of truth to that, theirs is now some activity towards changing the status quo for Small (code for White-male owned) and Minority/ Women Business Enterprise. The Small Business Development Group (SBDG), led by Tony Henshaw, in the Public Works and Engineering Department, was established a few years back to administer the Small/ Minority/ Women Business Enterprise (S/MWBE) Program and the City Contractors’ Pay or Play (POP) Program for the PWE Department.

Specifically, the SBDG, established within the Management Support Section of the PWE Directors’ Office, attempts to address the need to expand the S/MWBE Program by promoting equal access to PWE contract and procurement opportunities for Houston’s S/MWBE’s;, and develop strategies to increase their participation and encourage diversity in firm selections.

Since its inception, the SBDG has provided informative presentations at events such as the Government Procurement Connections (GPC) Conference and the Contract Compliance Networking Sessions. These events attempt to put prime and sub contractors at the same table where they conduct brief interviews with the hope of creating new business connections.

I have attended some of these events in the past;

SBDG also explores other sources of assistance to S/MWBE’s such as:

  • Identifying participating prime/sub contractors for potential business connections.
  • Fostering business connections between prime and sub contractors by holding events and meetings specific to types of contracts.
  • Reviewing contracts prior to advertisement and assisting with setting realistic goals based on the actual scope of work.
  • Implementing recruitment efforts to increase the number of certified S/MWBE’s.
  • Conducting outreach and providing education on the business process and available opportunities.

The Pay or Play (POP) Program, established by the Mayor’s Executive Order 1-7, requires contractors to offer employees a minimal level of health benefits or to contribute a designated amount to be used to offset the costs of providing health care to uninsured people in the Houston/Harris County area.

Compliance with the program means that the contractor will either:

  • “Pay” by contributing $1.00 per covered employee per hour of work performed under the City contract; or
  • “Play” by providing health benefits, which meet specific standards, to covered employees.

This program applies to contracts that fit the following guidelines:

  • Contracts that are advertised after July 1, 2007
  • Are valued at or above $100,000 and subcontracts valued at or above $200,000
  • Utilizes employees who work any amount of time on a City contract who are over the age of 18 and work at least 30 hours per week.

But lets back up for a minute, and understand better what the Public Works & Engineering: Engineer Services, Construction Management & Inspection Services Procurement Capital Improvement Program is all about.

Mission: To plan, design, construct, operate and maintain Houston’s public infrastructure in a coordinated, efficient and environmentally responsible manner – providing excellent customer service, superior drinking water, safe streets and mobility, and effective drainage, wastewater collection and treatment, and to assure safe and healthy living, recreational and work environments by efficiently administering the building code.


  • To be the best in all that it does, and to take the lead in making Houston a model for other cities in serving the needs of its citizens.
  • To employ the most highly qualified, motivated and well-trained workforce
  • To effectively utilize technology to provide the most “user friendly” services

Project Cycle

  • Operate & maintain
  • Plan/Program
  • Design
  • Construct

Selection Goals

  • Procure well managed, highest quality construction management and inspection services
  • Employ firms who intend to place City of Houston qualified inspectors on site.
  • Make timely selections, get to work
  • Minimize contract administration inefficiencies
  • Facilitate opportunity

Selection Processes

  1. ****Simplified Selection-Recommendations by committee to Director from PWE Form 100; for lower cost non-complex projects.
  2. Open RFQ – Recommendations by committee to Director based on submittals of project qualifications in response to RFQ

Required with Submittal

  1. Transmittal Letter
  2. Sub-consultant Commitment Letter(s)
  3. Conflict of Interest Questionnaire
  4. Updated PWE100
  5. Pay or Play POP-1A form
  6. Qualifications (not to exceed 10 – 81/2×11 pages)

Now, within this context we shift back to the Small Business Development Group

The SBDG’s #1 goal is to maximize S/MWBE participation in PWE contracts by…

Providing contracting opportunity information to S/MWBE.

Assisting prime contractors with identifying certified S/MWBE to participate.

Providing education and outreach and serve as an advocate for S/MWBE.

Review PWE contracts and set realistic participation goals.

To participate in the program, you must be certified by the City of Houston Affirmative Action and Contract Compliance Department (AACC).

All suppliers and contractors interested in bidding on products and services should complete and submit:

  • A Supplier Registration Form
  • Obtain a vendor number

This registration:

  • Identifies you as a potential bidder;
  • Captures contact information about your business; and
  • Matches your company with required products and/or services.

To get a vendor number, visit City of Houston website:


The Strategic Purchasing Division (SPD)

901 Bagby Bagby, Room B , B-120

Houston, TX 77002


There are three basic contract types:

  1. Professional Services Contracts
  2. Construction Contracts
  3. Suppliers of Goods and Non-Professional Services Contracts


To be considered for professional architectural and engineering services with PWE:

A firm must be qualified by submitting a Standard Form for Architect/Engineering and Related Services (PWE 100) to the City. A firm will submit multiple forms, one for each project type for which the firm would like to be considered. Each firm may update their forms or project type at any time during the year (scheduled updates are not required). It is expected that a firm would update their forms to reflect changed project, firm or personnel experience that is substantive in nature.

To obtain a copy of the PWE 100 form, go to 611 Walker, 5th Floor or download the form at:

View current firms selected for this fiscal year:

For additional information on obtaining this types of contract, you may contact Tony Henshaw @ (713) 837-0819


  • Check the Notice to Bidder section in each Friday Friday’s Houston Chronicle and Houston’s Business Journal for prime and/or subcontracting opportunities.
  • Attend pre-bid and pre-proposal conferences. The conference schedule can be found on the Strategic Purchasing Division website at:

Street & Bridge

Per City Ordinance 2003 2003-1313, all companies wishing to bid on PWE Street and Bridge construction contracts are required to have:

  1. A valid Certificate of Responsibility (Pre-qualification Approval Letter from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
  2. For information on pre-qualifying visit TXDOT’s website at: or call (512) 416-2540.
  3. For more information on PWE Street and Bridge Construction Contracts, contact Tony Henshaw @ (713) 837-0819.


For the current listing of bid advertisements over $25,000:

  1. call the Bid Hotline at 832.393.8762
  2. View Requests for Proposals and bids in the Houston Chronicle and Houston Business Journal
  3. Attend pre pre-proposal conferences and network.

~ End of Transcript


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