College program prepares new contractors for government bids

Ken Thompson, a contractor from Norfolk, Va., never knew that government contractors had to pay trade workers set minimum wages. That is, until he went to Construction Contractors’ College.

The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Empowerment 2010 recently started an educational program for new contractors. The program is targeted primarily at women and minority-owned construction companies, and educates the contractors about how to compete for local government contracts. The contractor’s college has been relatively successful so far. On April 4, Thompson, along with 90 fellow representatives, graduated from the program.

“I knew I was weak in areas, but I didn’t know how weak I was,” Leo Outland, owner of Outland Construction told The Virginian-Pilot. “I can see a real difference already in how I’m doing some things.”

Modeled after a similar program developed by Curtex Construction Corp. in 1994, the housing authority started the college to help smaller businesses compete for some of its contracts. After graduation, the authority plans to keep a list of the program graduates to give to firms looking for subcontractors.

Free classes were offered to qualifying companies, and involved six, six-week courses. Subjects, including marketing, estimating, accounting and project management, were taught by volunteers from larger construction firms. According to housing authority deputy executive director Robert K. Jenkins Jr., the authority hopes to offer the program every two years.