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3 minute read

Building Relationships Key to Subcontracting Success

By: Angel Rodriguez

In 2017, an unprecedented expansion project began at the Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) to increase the output of freshwater from 80 million galloons per day (mgd) to 400 mgd. This project, slated to be completed by 2025, has a projected budget of $1.765 billion, and is considered one of the largest of its kind in the United States. The overarching goals of the NEWPP project are two-fold: the first, to meet the demand for clean drinking water for the growing Harris County population; the second, flood mitigation by reducing the dependency on groundwater usage. 

As of October 2020, the NEWPP expansion has utilized the services of more than 95 certified Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) subcontractors working on 196 contracts. To date, these MWSBE firms have been awarded approximately $71,716,012 for their work. With MWSBE participation integral to building city projects, including the NEWPP expansion, the Office of Business Opportunity encourages contractors and vendors to enroll in the NEWPP  database to be considered for bidding opportunities. More information can be found at www.newppexpansion.com/

Among the Tier 2 subcontractors working on the NEWPP expansion project is Mbroh Engineering Inc., an engineering consulting firm and certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) founded by Anthony Mbroh in 2006. The company performs a wide range of services including electrical engineering, instrumentation controls and supervisory control data acquisition (SCADA) programming and integration. In 14 years, Mbroh has grown to more than 30 full-time employees who provide quality solutions in the water and wastewater industry across Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

"For Mbroh's work at the NEWPP expansion, the company is partnering with two MWSBE firms as subconsultants, and is always seeking to partner with other well-qualified MWSBE firms on City of Houston projects", said Efram Fuller, director of federal programs and Houston-area client manager for Mbroh. 

“Developing the right relationships and consistent, superior performance when given the opportunity to work on projects has helped our company succeed as an MBE-certified contractor," Fuller said.  “We also foster relationships with end user and other large firms, maintain memberships in professional organizations and attend client-sponsored industry day events."

Fuller cited Contracts Connect, an annual event hosted by Houston Public Works, the City of Houston department that oversees the NEWPP expansion project. The event is designed to connect major engineering consulting firms and construction companies with certified minority, women-owned  and small businesses (MWSBE) in areas of engineering, design and civil construction. 

On Dec. 10th, the Office of Business Opportunity will host the Meet the Buyer (MTB) Purchasing Forum, another opportunity for small businesses to connect and network with City procurement agents, local government agencies and prime contractors. MTB  is free and open to all, and registration is open at www.tinyurl.com/mtb20. For more information, go to www.houstontx.gov/obo/meet-the-buyer.html. 

"It is essential that MWSBE firm establish relationships with City of Houston departments such as the Office of Business Opportunity  to truly understand the intent of the MWSBE program, how it works, and for assistance in getting connected with potential teaming partners,” Fuller said. “Getting to know and establishing relationships with an organization’s acquisitions leader and team members are just a few of the best practices that a certified firm should utilize." 

For firms who want to grow their capacity, Fuller suggest patience, being flexible to change and regular communication, especially when working on a major project like the NEWPP expansion.

"One of the main goals of many firms is to become a prime consultant for the City of Houston,” Fuller said. “To do so, most firms will need to start out in subconsultant roles, prove themselves, then start to position for prime opportunities.”