To inform VAA and VTCA members on the details of the SWaM program, both associations have collaborated with VDOT to prepare a series of articles covering the topic. Part I will be an overview of the SWaM program and discuss the facts of the program. Part II will cover the new special provision being inserted into VDOT contracts regarding SWaM participation. Finally, Part III will cover the legislative aspects of SWaM and what changes may be on the horizon.
Part I – Just the Facts, Ma’am!
SWaM, or Small, Women-Owned, and Minority-Owned Business Program, was established in 2006 under Governor Tim Kaine’s administration. The founding purpose of the program was to expand and diversify the number of businesses providing goods and services to state and local governments. Since its inception, the program has grown, and more than 15,000 firms are certified SWaM companies.
Over the last decade, several Govenor’s have issued Executive Orders related to the SWaM program. For example, in 2019, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 35 (EO 35) to all executive branch agencies. EO 35 set an aspirational goal of 42% of state expenditures going to SWaM certified businesses. As such, VDOT and other agencies routinely work with SWaM companies by purchasing items, and some procurement is set aside for SWaM entities.
In the Spring of 2021, VDOT announced the expansion of SWaM by adding goals to state-funded construction and maintenance contracts. With VDOT being under the Secretary of Transportation and having one of the largest budgets, increasing SWaM participation on VDOT projects will help EO 35 be achieved. However, with the expansion of the program, many questions have been raised about implementation. Therefore, to get the facts, industry representatives sat down with VDOT’s Civil Rights Division Administrator, Sandra Norman, to get the most common concerns addressed.
Mrs. Norman, thank you for agreeing to sit down with industry and discuss the SWaM program. As you know, there are questions and even some myths floating around regarding expanding SWaM goals to VDOT contracts. We would like to have you respond to these concerns and put some minds at ease.
VAA/VTCA: EO 35 has a SWaM goal of 42%. This seems a very tall order. Does VDOT intend to set this goal on construction and maintenance contracts?
MRS. NORMAN: VDOT does intend to set goals on construction and maintenance contracts. However, even though EO 35 has a SWaM goal of 42%, VDOT has a goal-setting methodology that considers and applies many factors. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that one project will ever have a 42% SWaM goal. However, this would be a great opportunity for VDOT to select projects in the Virginia Small Business Enterprise Program as a set-aside for certified SWaM firms.
VAA/VTCA: As you know, all projects are not the same, nor are all parts of the state the same. Some projects have many facets where SWaM participation is available, but other projects like bridge painting or subdivision paving projects do not. How are the goals set on a project? Do you consider the location of the project when setting goals?
MRS. NORMAN: Yes, as part of the goal-setting methodology, one of the factors used in determining the goal for a project is the location. In addition, the number of certified vendors performing the requested work within a specified radius of the project location is also considered.
VAA/VTCA: A common frustration for companies is the number of firms that could be SWaM certified but have chosen not to become certified due to the process. What can be done to aid these potential SWaM companies in completing the certification process?
MRS. NORMAN: As stated in the EO, state contracting provides the catalyst for economic opportunity and expands access for many businesses. Therefore, there should be a continued effort to streamline the administrative process for those companies to become SWaM certified. The Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity has an online certification process. In addition, VDOT Civil Rights and the SWaM staff will help any firm with its certification process.
VAA/VTCA: Is a firm that is a registered DBE automatically a SWaM certified firm?
MRS. NORMAN: Once upon a time, that was the criteria. However, currently, this only applies to the DBEs initial or renewal certification, and the vendor must recertify when required to remain eligible as a SWaM vendor. Therefore, a beneficial recommendation is that all DBEs who are certified and meet the SWaM criteria should receive reminders to ensure that their SWaM certification does not expire.
VAA/VTCA: Final question, we realize there is value in a larger number of companies that can perform general and specific services on VDOT contracts. Why should a company not certified participate in the SWaM program?
MRS. NORMAN: SWaM certification is one of the most powerful business tools you can use to grow your sales among state agencies, public colleges and universities, local municipalities, and private sector firms that utilize the SWaM database. The advantages of becoming certified are encouraged with the barriers of bidding lowered by the fees charged; 1%, capped at $500 per order to eVA-Registered SBSD-Certified Small Businesses versus 1%, capped at $1,500 per order to eVA-Registered Businesses That Are NOT SBSD-Certified Small Businesses. There is no charge to become certified.
Sandra, we would like to thank you for your time, and we look forward to working with VDOT on the SWaM program. Look for Part II of the SWaM Program article coming soon.
About Sandra Dee Norman: Sandra D. Norman currently serves as Division Administrator for Civil Rights for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) where she is responsible for Civil Rights Internal EEO and External DBE programs. Prior to being promoted in this role, Sandra served as the Assistant Division Administrator for Civil Rights where she managed the Equal Employment Opportunity Programs for VDOT (Internal). Before becoming a part of the VDOT family, Sandra was appointed January 23, 2006 by the Governor of Virginia, The Honorable Timothy Kaine to serve as Director for the Virginia Human Rights Council (Council). Also in January 2006, former Governor Mark Warner appointed Sandra as Acting Director to the Council. Prior to both appointments, Ms. Norman was the Assistant Director for the Council, and held that position for five years. Sandra was employed with the Council beginning May of 1989 where she was promoted from the positions of Executive Assistant and Administrations Operations Manager. Sandra graduated from Averett University with a Bachelor and Master of Business Administration.
Ms. Norman was selected in 2020 to present testimony to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at the United States Congress on the significance of the Disadvantage Business Enterprise Program. She also was selected as one of Virginia Media’s 2020 Women in Business who celebrated women who have been successful in their careers, have made significant impact in the business community and who have served as mentors and examples to others. Just recently, Sandra was named the 2021 Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Recognition Award by the Women’s Transportation Seminar, the Central Virginia Chapter.