Category: Business Written by Diane I. Daniels - Courier Business Writer
THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE—MWDBE Governmental Committee members Duvall Aiken from left: Valerie Waters, and Monica Jones, share a rewarding moment with 2013 Hall of Fame inductees Kathleen Agostino and Barbara Fisher. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
“Mind your Ps,” the theme of the conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises outlined performance, procurement, process and preparation for participants during the MWDBE Governmental Committee’s yearly event. In its 12th year, the conference once again dealt with issues relivant to the needs of small businesses in the region.
“Addressing the government’s responsibility as related to MWDBE companies, Mind your Ps—Preparation, Process, Procurement, Performance was the committees way of providing DBE firms with the necessary tools and techniques to better navigate the public contracting arena,” said Cameil D. Williams, conference chair and DBE Contract Compliance Officer at the Port Authority of Allegheny County. “Topic and resources for this conference derived from much discussion and brainstorming.”
Panelists addressing the event topic were; Barbara Weaver, Procurement Center Representative SBA; Paul Boggs, PJ Dick-Trumbull—Lindy Paving, Elizabeth Bowers, Small Business Administrator, dck worldwide, LLC, Deborah Wojcik, Director Government Agency Coordination Office (GACO), Nathan G. Heitzman, Project Coordinator—DBE Supportive Services Center Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Gregory R. Spencer, Randall Industries, LLC.
Weaver, addressing the topic of preparation, focused on the word embrace. Relaying that embracing leadership, planning, learning and preparation is significant for business owners to succeed against the barriers of gaining contracts. “Leaders make wise decisions, communicate effectively and understand and manage people, money, processes, strategies, competition and priorities. She also indicated that the way to master leadership is by leading self, others, managers and executives.
Planning she explained takes a solid strategic plan, deciding what has to be done today to be ready for tomorrow. The components of a good plan include a statement of vision, mission, value assessment, and goals. To embrace preparation, in conclusion Weaver suggested that businesses have management systems and financial statements in place and to keep all insurances, certifications and regulations current.
Weaver is assigned to monitor government agencies and federal prime contractors throughout West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.
Also talking on the topic of preparation, Boggs pointed out that agencies look for businesses to be prepared. “As potential contractors you should understand the culture of the companies you are interested in. Know how to get to the right people and build relationships. He also recommended that if a business is not successful in receiving a bid on the first try to follow-up and find out why. “If you are successful know what is needed of you, the billing system and deliver quality service.”
Boggs a U.S. Navy veteran has extensive experience as an estimator, in field and project engineering and project and management. As a business development manager he assists in advancing long term corporate strategies aimed toward strengthening positions in target markets.
In a straight-to-the-point fashion, Bowers focusing on process said the reason to be a registered and certified business is to be eligible for state work. “You have to get in the data base to be qualified,” she emphasized. Self-certification web sites she listed included; www.sam.gov and www.pasupplierportal.state.pa.us. Fee based certification web sites are; www.wbenc.com, www.wpmsdc.org, www.nwboc.org and http://uswcc.org. Once certified she said finding business opportunities can also be Internet based mentioning that there are federal, state and local prospects available.
“Marketing is the complex link between what you have to sell, how you communicate its value and the economic response of the marketplace. It is a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to and management of the market,” explained Bowers indicating that market research and implementation is important. Like Boggs she stressed being prepared when bidding.
With more than 30 years of experience in the private and government contracting field, Bowers is the Small Business Administrator for dick worldwide. Formerly the Western PA Regional Representative for the PA Department of General Services Bureau of Minority and Women Business Opportunities, she currently concentrates her efforts on moving dck forward in meeting and exceeding its small business contracting and compliance goals company wide.
“The federal government is a good place to search when looking for contracts,” said Wojcik while discussing the topic of procurement. “They spend billions of dollars.” Her advice for businesses is to become familiar with federal regulations, to identify and know NAICs (North American Industry Classification Systems) codes for business and to have a Dun and Bradstreet number. Like previous speakers she encouraged the audience to do their research and suggested looking at being a sub-contractor. Having a one page capability statement is something she also recommended. “The statement should pinpoint what your company can do as well as list all codes.”
As director of the GACO, California University of Pennsylvania, Wojcik assists businesses with contracting on the federal, state and local levels.
To conduct business with the state of Pennsylvania, Heitzman reiterated the significance of certification. “Companies need to be PA Certified to conduct business with PennDOT.” He explained that Certified DBEs interested in participating in PennDOT’s highway construction projects are eligible to receive a broad range of services from the DBE Supportive Services Center at no charge. Services include, but are not limited to access to trainings and workshops, technical support, business development & management, networking with industry professionals and state agencies.
A shared initiative of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and PennDOT, the agencies mission is to provide services that will enable highway applicable DBEs to acquire the proficiency, expertise and experience necessary to compete, on an equal basis, with non-DBEs for federally-assisted PennDOT highway contracts and subcontracts.
Reflecting on his many years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience, Spencer rounded up the morning panel discussion by advising to do what you say and to do it well. “I have done all the things you are being told to do. I thought I was prepared. But I can tell you it is a lot of hard work, but a great opportunity at the end of the game.” His suggestions to businesses interested in obtaining government contracts is to network, be willing to redefine yourself, to look at doing business on a global level, to listen, and to surround oneself with good information and people.
Spencer, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force is the owner of Randall Enterprises, LLC which consist of a real estate development and services company. A strong believer in giving back to the community he says his company was established to provide affordable housing and job opportunities for the less fortunate. Randall Industries, a manufacturer of chemical products is slated to be one of the largest minority owned chemical manufacturing companies in the United States.
A second highlight of the event was the 2013 Hall of Fame induction. “This is always my favorite part of the program,” said Paula B. Castleberry, Minority/Women Business Coordinator of Pittsburgh Public Schools as she introduced the recipients. Awardees were Barbara Fisher who retired from the SBA last year and Kathleen Agostino, Small and Disadvantaged Business Coordinator of the Mascaro Construction Company, LP.
“I thank God for a 32 year career,” Fisher said. “As I review my career I can say that it was a great experience and I am thankful and grateful for it.”
Pleased to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Agostino pointed out that the MWDBE Governmental Committee is a great group to work with. “We all work toward one goal. Small business is critical to this region, particularly to the construction industry.”
Monica Jones, Manager of the DBE Department of the Allegheny County Airport Authority and Bowers were also awarded for their commitment to the group throughout the years.
Happy with the turnout of close to 275 attendees and more than 70 exhibitors for the trade fair, Duvall Aiken, of Community College of Allegheny County and Chair of the MWDBE Governmental Committee said the numbers and the increase in sponsorship indicates the importance of the event.
The mission of the 22-member MWDBE Governmental Committee is to create effective methods that strengthen economic opportunities for Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and to provide assistance enabling contractors and businesses to secure contracts in the goods and service, construction and professional services markets leading to profitability and growth for the businesses.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:25
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
MARCH 28—Dress for Success Pittsburgh will host its Essence of Leadership Breakfast Series 2013 from 7:15-9 a.m. at the Omni William Penn Hotel, 531 Penn Ave., Downtown. Liz Moore Pessaro, founder of the Bluebird Kitchen, will speak on the topic “Taking the Entrepreneur’s Leap! How I Traded Wall Street For Fresh Bread.” This is the first of four sessions of the series. Registration is requested. For more information, call Jodie Tabano at 412-201-4204.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 06:08
Category: Business Written by CNN
by Blake Ellis
If you’re looking for a free checking account, a credit union is probably your best bet.
More than two-thirds, or 72 percent, of the nation’s 50 biggest credit unions still offer free checking accounts without minimum balance or direct deposit requirements, compared to only 39 percent of banks, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com.
While free checking has declined across the board, it has disappeared more rapidly at the banks—with 65 percent of banks and 78 percent of credit unions offering free checking in 2010.
“While banks have significantly scaled back free checking accounts, free checking remains the rule, rather than the exception, among credit unions,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.
Many banks have been adding fees to checking accounts in recent years as new regulations—like the 2010 Card Act, which limited fees and interest rates issuers can charge certain customers—forced them to find alternative revenue streams.
There are usually ways for customers to avoid monthly fees, however, like carrying a minimum amount of money in an account or setting up direct deposits. A total of 96 percent of credit unions and 95 percent of banks have checking accounts that allow you to avoid a monthly fee by meeting certain requirements.
Monthly checking account fees range from $1 to $10 at credit unions, and the most common are $2 and $5. Checking accounts at banks come with an average fee of $5.48.
ATM fees are also higher at banks. The average fee for a non-customer to use a credit
union’s ATM is $2.29, compared to $2.50 at banks. Meanwhile, using an out-of-network ATM costs a credit union customer $1.01 and costs a bank customer $1.57.
Charges for overdrawing your checking account, known as overdraft fees, average $26.74 at credit unions and $31.26 at banks.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:28
Category: Business Written by Damon Carr
My childhood friends and I were very close. We spent practically every waking moment together—playing sports, video games and just hanging out. Looking back on life from an adult point of view, I must say, “we were spoiled “BROKE” kids.” None of us worked or even thought about doing anything to create an income. We just took what our parents gave us and improvised. We were very creative with the little resources and money that was available to us.
One thing that we did that was smart is we combined our money and our resources allowing us to do and purchase things collectively that we could not do on our own. We called this process “Ante-up.”
If we wanted pizza, a group of five of us may have one to three dollars per individual. Individually none of us could purchase a pizza. By “Anteing up”—pooling our cash together, collectively we can purchase a pizza and all of us would share a piece of the “pizza pie.” This Anteing up or pooling your cash together process is the foundational concept of Mutual Funds.
I believe that mutual funds are the investment vehicle of choice for my target audience—ordinary upwardly mobile people. Since I’m in the business of “Helping Ordinary People Make Extraordinary Progress Toward Their Financial Goals—Regardless of Current Financial Status, I’m always looking at what’s best for the common man.
As I look into my crystal ball, I can state with confidence three things about the stock market. The stock market will rise (Bull Market). The stock market will decline (Bear Market). Fortunately, it has risen far more times then it has declined. As a result, the majority of investments do well the majority of the time. Consequently, simply being in the market over an extended period of time—five years or more, you have a high probability of your investments earning a reasonable rate of return. As investors we want to reduce the likely hood of harm by making wise decisions. The best decision you can make when you’re investing is—DIVERSIFICATION!
Diversification is the process of spreading your investments around. In other words, it’s following the old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you have the ability to invest in 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 of America’s and even some foreign country’s brightest and best companies, you have the closest thing you’ll get to a guarantee that your investments will make money. In order to lose money all 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 companies would have to go broke at the same time. Can you imagine Microsoft, Wall Mart, Dell Computer, Home Depot and 150 other companies all going broke at the same time? I can’t. If by chance that was to happen, your Certificate of Deposit isn’t safe either because the whole economy will have collapsed.
How does the common man invest in 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 companies with limited cash? Many individual securities have large minimum denominations—meaning you have to purchase a block of securities of an individual firm spending a minimum amount of $10,000. If you don’t have $10,000 you can’t invest. If you did manage to save $10,000 and you decided to invest this money, you would have a highly concentrated portfolio. Let’s say that this particular security turned out to be Enron, MCI or K-Mart? There goes your $10,000.
Mutual Funds works to the advantage of the common man because you can make a one time investment with as little as $250 or you can engage in a process called dollar cost averaging and systematically invest as little as $25-$50 dollars per month. Furthermore, your contribution—no matter how large or how small will purchase you a pro-rata share of 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 securities of well-established companies. So if one of those companies happens to be Enron, your portfolio is not as devastated because you have a vested interest in 100-1,000 other companies—many of which may be doing great.
Mutual Funds allow small investors—common man type of investors to pool their cash together (Ante-up). This cash is used to buy hundreds to thousands of securities of established companies that these individual investors could not do on their own. Each individual who invests with the mutual fund has a pro-rata share or piece of the pie based on his or her contribution.
So if you’re like me and you consider yourself to be a common man, 90-100 percent of your investments should be with mutual funds. Your retirement plan including, 401(k), 403(B), 457 Plan, IRA should be invested with mutual funds. Your college savings including Education Savings Account and 529 plans should be with mutual funds. Your wealth-building portfolio should consist of mutual funds.
Why do I believe strongly in this? You get professional management, diversification, convenience, record keeping, liquidity, minimal investment requirements, and regulations!
As an aside, it’s important to note that no two mutual funds are exactly alike. There’s a science to selecting high qualify mutual funds. I’ll share ideas on how to select qualify mutual funds in an upcoming article.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is owner of ACE Financial. Damon can be reached at 412-216-1013.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:31
Category: Business Written by CNN
by Melanie Hicken
CNN—Despite improving economic conditions, a record percentage of American workers remain worried that they won’t be able to afford retirement.
They’re worried about their jobs, high debt levels and rising living expenses, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Only 13 percent of workers surveyed said they “feel very confident” that they will be able to retire comfortably—less than half the percentage reported in 2007.
Nearly half—49 percent—said they were “not too” or “not at all” confident.
A large chunk of the workers surveyed have little or no retirement savings. Of those who provided estimates, 57 percent reported household savings and investments of less than $25,000, which included 28 percent of respondents who said they had less than $1,000. Only 24 percent reported savings of $100,000 or more.
Debt is standing in the way of saving. More than half of workers reported having a problem with their level of debt, while only about half of those surveyed said they could definitely cover $2,000 worth of unexpected expenses within the next month.
“Many lack even a short-term cushion,” Matt Greenwald, president of Greenwald & Associates, a market research firm which conducted and co-sponsored the survey, said in a release.
Though economic conditions are improving, workers may also be waking up to just how much they actually need to save for retirement, according to EBRI.
Workers fear that cuts to Social Security could leave them picking up a bigger share of retirement expenses. Nearly 70 percent of workers reported a lack of confidence that Social Security would be kept at current benefit levels.
Spiraling health care costs and long-term care expenses are also a growing concern.
In 2013, 29 percent of respondents expressed concern with their ability to cover medical costs in retirement, up from 24 percent last year. Nearly 40 percent said they were worried about paying for long-term care, compared to 34 percent last year.
The survey polled 1,254 Americans ages 25 and older, including 1,003 workers and 251 retirees.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:27
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