Camille Austin credits much of her roofing business' success to her relationship with Hillsborough County government.
Two years ago, Camille received certification to bid on County projects as a minority- or woman-owned business. That, and her subsequent success at winning and performing on County jobs, drew the attention of private companies that also sought her services.
Certification gave her company credibility and opened doors. Her association with Hillsborough County also led Camille to participate in sessions that helped grow her business, including a workshop about boosting sales, which she took at the County-owned Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City.
Her company has replaced roofs on many Hillsborough County fire stations. It built roofs at an assisted living facility in Lakes Wales, a high-rise apartment complex in South Pasadena, and a restaurant chain's holdings throughout South Florida. It also maintains roofs for a big-box retailer.
The Robinson High School alumnus is pleased with her company's accomplishments, particularly the local jobs. "To be able to work in my own county… It gives me personal pride," she says.
Hillsborough County Economic Development qualifies businesses owned by minorities and women and small businesses to work on County government projects. The certification process begins with an application, and involves submitting documents showing a firm is properly established and meets the County's performance standards.
Certification allows minority- and women-owned businesses to bid on County projects costing $200,000 or more. Approved small businesses may work on select projects valued at less than $500,000.
There are no fees associated with applying for either certification.
Eligible minority groups include African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. For purposes of the program, women also are considered minorities.
A certification must be renewed every two years for small or minority-owned businesses to keep working on County projects.
As Camille notes, there is an added benefit of certification: It bolsters a business' appeal for private-sector jobs. Companies often reach out to Economic Development, seeking County-certified businesses to work on non-government projects.
More than 770 businesses have received Disadvantaged Minority/Disadvantaged Women certifications or Small Business Enterprise cerifications, or both, from Hillsborough County. Janitorial and landscaping jobs are the most common. In fiscal year 2016, minority and small businesses received a total of about $46 million for work on County projects.
Economic Development staffers will be among dozens of participants in the annual Open Doors Forum on March 16 at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, 4124 N. 50th St. The free networking event is an opportunity for minority and small-business owners to hear about government and private-sector jobs, as well as meet with bankers, insurers, and other small-business owners.