BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has created a disaster recovery program and center to help small businesses certified as disadvantaged get back on track in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The department has been awarded $1 million from the Federal Highway Administration to provide low-interest loans to certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBEs, in the hurricane-affected areas to help them resume operations.
Meanwhile, a one-year extension on certification has been granted in the wake of the storms, announced DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry.
DOTD held an informational breakfast today at headquarters to introduce the program and its accompanying Disaster Recovery Center, which is being managed by Henry Consulting of New Orleans.
Some 200 Louisiana businesses are certified DBEs, meaning the companies are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by minorities, women or other socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. More than 80 of them were affected by the hurricanes.
The center is operated by Henry Consulting and will provide assistance to certified DBEs with the loan application process and business registration, and also will help each business identify potential contracting opportunities at DOTD; assist with bidding, estimates, scheduling and other contracting services; and assist with insurance matters and the preparation of additional financial loan packages.
Any disadvantaged business, certified or not, also may use center facilities, including access to project plans; advice and referrals; and use of computers, fax machines and telephones. However, the loan program is designated for DBEs that were certified at the time of the storms and that were affected by the storms.
Bradberry said the breakfast was held in conjunction with a major bid-letting to ensure the appropriate audience for the information – owners of disadvantaged businesses and prime contractors who might be able to use the DBEs as subcontractors in future projects.
“We’re trying to lower the barriers for these small businesses to get back into the marketplace,” he said. “We hope not only to help the businesses recoup equipment and materials they need to operate through the loan program, but the center also will be able to identify projects that the DBEs can target for work.”
For example, he said, the center will work to identify projects in which perhaps two or three DBEs can unite to bid on a project themselves as the prime contractor or seek opportunities to act as subcontractors.
Fran Gilson, DOTD compliance program director, said businesses interested in becoming a certified DBE should call her at (225) 379-1382.
For more information about the DBE Disaster Recovery Program, call the center at (225) 242.4631 or go to its Web site at www.businessrecoverycenter.net.