Guilford County government has lower participation rates for women and minority-owned enterprises (MWBE) in its construction and other projects over the years than it would like – and now it’s working hard to see that those numbers increase in the future.

Recently, Cynthia Barnes-Phipps, the county’s new MWBE director, informed the county commissioners of some of the steps Guilford County is taking to get more MWBE activity into county construction and purchasing contracts.

It’s a critical time for Guilford County to address those concerns because the county is currently working on a host of very large projects including the construction of a new animal shelter, a behavioral health center, an Emergency Services maintenance center and a new Sheriff’s Department headquarters. So there’s a lot of work to dole out.

At the commissioners meeting, Barnes-Phipps presented some of the strategies her office has undertaken to get those numbers up. It has, for instance, held two MWBE certification workshops this year – one in March, one in September – and has also launched a new Facebook page for MWBE-related announcements. The county has also begun emailing bid opportunity notifications to MWBE vendors, contractors and suppliers. In addition, the MWBE office has put on eight community presentations titled “Doing business with Guilford County” and has provided one-on-one instruction on how to complete MWBE forms for county jobs.

The MWBE office is also working with other county officials to break up large construction contracts into smaller ones more likely to be handled by MWBE firms.

In another move, the county has hosted a networking event – called Shmoozapalooza – along with other local agencies. The name is reminiscent of the famous Rhino Times parties known as Schmoozefest; however, the news publication is happy to allow the MWBE advocates the use of that name. Interestingly, the “c” was mysteriously left out of the name of the county’s networking event.