By Valerie Jones
In recent years, government statistics have shown an increase in Minority- (MBE) and Women-Owned Businesses (WBE) in the U.S. Much like Historically Underutilized Business (HUB), these entities have not always received the same opportunities for government contracts as other businesses in the state of Texas.
This is precisely why HUB programs in Texas were created and are so important.
With a focus on actively involving HUBs in the Texas procurement process, these types of programs help to ensure HUBs receive their fair share of the state’s business.
The University of Houston’s (UH) HUB Operations Department, which is independent of the Purchasing Department, was established to identify and encourage HUBs to participate in the competitive bid process with the objective of increasing the number of contracts and subcontracts awarded to HUB vendors.
In July 2014, UH hired a full-time HUB director and in Fiscal Year 2015, the HUB director hired two HUB specialists to assist the director with HUB outreach and compliance.
UH’s HUB Program has seen successful growth since inception, having 13.82 percent of spend with African American HUB vendors in Fiscal Year 2015, 11.91 percent of spend with African American HUB vendors in in Fiscal Year 2016 and 17.11 percent of spend with African American HUB vendors in Fiscal Year 2017.
“The University of Houston HUB Operations Department is committed to expanding business opportunities available in order to promote successful development of growing businesses, to have a positive impact on improving our local economy and to give back to our community,” Maya P. Thornton, director of the HUB Operations Department of UH, told Subc.
Thornton took some time to chat with Subc about UH’s HUB Program, its importance and the institution’s future goals for the program.
Subc: Why do you feel it’s important that minority businesses that qualify as HUBs utilize the resources offered by UH’s HUB Program?
Thornton: The University of Houston has a vast amount of resources and networking opportunities for HUB vendors to utilize. The first Wednesday of every month HUB vendors have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a member of our department to discuss how to do business with the university or to introduce themselves to our department. We host monthly HUB Business Development Seminars and we host the following annual events each fiscal year:
- HUB Construction Fair
- HUB Vendor Fair
- HUB Forum
We partner with the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce and East End Chamber of Commerce, as well as various other chambers of commerce and provide chamber members with free specialized training and one-on-one interview sessions with our prime contractors. HUB vendors would be selling themselves short if they did not take advantage of our program.
Subc: Do you think it helps level the playing field in a sense for all Texas businesses to be afforded the same opportunities for work?
Thornton: I believe the intent of the HUB Program is to level the playing field. The HUB Program provides accessibility and access to contract opportunities that were historically unavailable to HUB vendors. The University of Houston’s HUB Program provides exposure, networking, mentorship and subcontractor development opportunities. While all our business development initiatives are important, we believe that development paired with program change initiatives have a more impactful outcome in garnering more HUB participation. A significant program change that the university has initiated is adding HUB Procedures and Past Performance as a solicitation criteria for solicitations that exceed $10 million. We believe that this provides additional contract opportunities for HUB vendors.
Subc: Tell me about the Mentor Protégé Program.
Thornton: The Mentor Protégé Program was revamped and relaunched in March 2015. The Mentor Protégé Program is designed to foster relationships between prime contractors and HUBs. The intent of the program is to provide professional guidance and support to HUB vendors. The one-on-one relationship between a University of Houston prime contractor and HUB vendor is mutually beneficial. The mentor (prime contractor) can use their protégé (HUB vendor) to fulfill HUB subcontracting requirements when bidding on state contracts and the protégé can learn business practices and techniques from the mentor that will help their business grow. To find out more information about the program or download an application, visit: http://www.uh.edu/adminstration-finance/hub/Mentor.
Subc: How many mentor-protégé relationships do you currently have?
Thornton: We currently have two active agreements in place.
Subc: How does this program complement the HUB program?
Thornton: Our Mentor Protégé Program helps to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Our business development classes and outreach activities are complemented by the knowledge and hands-on experience of a competent prime contractor mentor.
Subc: What are your future goals for the HUB Program?
Thornton: Our goal is to continue to be a change agent within the community. Our department will continue to develop systemic policies and procedures to help manifest HUB inclusion, both internally and externally.