Business owners learn how to get city, GRU contracts


The city of Gainesville Office of Equal Opportunity held a small business workshop to educate small and minority business owners about the process involved with procuring contracts from the city and GRU.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

Joann Dorval, purchasing manager at Gainesville Regional Utilities, shared her memory about meeting Errol Reshard more than 10 years ago when he was trying to find out how to get a contract to do landscaping business with GRU.

Speaking at a workshop sponsored by the city of Gainesville Office of Equal Opportunity to target small and minority-owned businesses, Dorval said once she gave Reshard, owner of EWReshard Inc., the information he requested, he put it to work.

Dorval said Reshard then met with successful small-business owners, banks, insurance companies and other agencies.

"I think everyone in Gainesville met this man," said Dorval, adding that she spent time teaching Reshard about contracts. She also said that after receiving his first contracts, she would still see Reshard at workshops, where he would ask even more questions.

Reshard joined more than 20 other small and minority business owners who listened to presentations by Dorval and others at the workshop held last Thursday at GRU in downtown Gainesville. The workshop was held to provide business owners with information about how to navigate the process of doing business with the purchasing departments at GRU and the city of Gainesville.

Dorval said the GRU small business program has been in existence since 1992 and she said GRU awarded nearly $24 million worth of contracts to small- and minority-owned businesses during the 2012 fiscal year. At the end of her presentation, Dorval talked abut the characteristics she has noticed in all successful small businesses. She said those characteristics include a commitment to excellence, integrity, fairness and good leadership.

"I think, above all, the people I have seen be successful were the ones who were willing to ask the dumb questions because there are no dumb questions," she said. "It's OK not to know something."

Reshard, whom Dorval talked about during her presentation, was given several minutes to talk about his experience doing business with GRU. He said GRU has been great to him. Reshard said he started his landscaping business once he retired in the late 1990s after working for 23 years for the Florida Department of Corrections. He said the connections he has made by attending small business workshops and being able to use GRU as a reference has helped him tremendously.

"When I starting using GRU as a reference, I got calls from Santa Fe College, Advanced Discount Auto Store and Auto Zone to do landscaping," said Reshard, who received his first contract in 1998 with GRU. "I was doing 18 different stores for those companies because I can also do floors. I then got a call from SunTrust Bank to do banks in Gainesville, Ocala, Dunnellon and Belleview."

Along with Dorval and Reshard, other presenters were Sylvia Warren, director of the city's Small Business Procurement Program; Staci-Ann Bertrand, business opportunity manager with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Bill Dorman, coordinator of the Entrepreneur Peer Group at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development.

Warren said the OEO, led by director Cecil Howard, has been administering the Small Business Procurement Program since October 2012, when those duties were transferred from the city manager's office. She said the workshop was just one of numerous efforts by the office to enhance and grow the program to help small- and minority-owned businesses as much as possible.

She said her job is to help residents understand the process involved with procuring contracts from the city of Gainesville. She encouraged business owners to network with other businesses and to use all of the resources available to them.

Some of the resources she talked about included dealing with her directly in person or on the telephone, registering as vendors with GRU at www.gru.com and with the city at www.cityofgainesville.org, monitoring those websites for available contracts and taking advantage of the services provided by her office, which include getting contract bid documents for free or at a discounted cost and being placed on the city's small business directory listing.

"There are many resources for people who want to grow their businesses and to help people who want to start their own business," Warren said.

For more information about procuring contracts with the city of Gainesville and GRU, call Warren at 352-334-5051 or visit www.cityofgainesville.org and click on "I Want to be a Vendor" or call Dorval at 352-334-3400, ext. 1253 or visit www.gru.com and click on "Work with GRU" and "Purchasing."

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