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Freeway plan could mean local biz boost

By: Cheri March
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Colfax businesses could get a big boost from the last leg of the Interstate 80 improvement project. Caltrans has chosen Colfax to host its mandatory pre-bid meeting for potential prime contractors, a move that could give local companies a home court advantage when it comes to meeting and greeting some of the largest contractors in California and beyond. Approximately 23 bidders are in the race for the contract and about 15 are expected to attend the meeting, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Sierra Vista Community Center. The winning bidder will spend an estimated $160 million to resurface the freeway from Sacramento to the Nevada border. Much of that money will go to materials and services, including asphalt, steel, concrete, signs, landscaping, excavation, and lighting. “If any local businesses can do or provide any of these bid items, this is a chance to introduce themselves,” said Liza Whitmore, the small business liaison for Caltrans District 3. While there’s no guarantee Colfax firms will be given a role – that depends on both the prime contractor’s interest and the competitiveness of local bids, Whitmore said – the purpose of the meeting is to give small businesses, subcontractors and suppliers a fighting chance. “It’s a really exciting networking opportunity,” Whitmore said. “If you walked into the CC Myers office and handed them your business card, what kind of a chance are you going to have to get their attention? But (at this meeting), the contractors are just waiting to speak with small businesses.” Along with the chance to make connections, Caltrans will provide information on how eligible businesses can increase their odds of being awarded jobs by becoming state certified. For instance, five percent of the federally funded I-80 resurfacing contract must be spent on UDBE (Underutilized Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) firms – businesses owned by women or certain minorities. Caltrans’ timing couldn’t be better, said Chris Wright, president of the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce and owner of local business Ship It. “We’re dealing with hard times. For them to have the pre-bid meeting in our area is huge,” Wright said. “There are going to be some bigwigs there with big bucks.” But even if contractors choose not to go local, Colfax stands to gain from the nearby construction as workers stop in local coffee shops, eat in local restaurants and maybe even stay at The Colfax Motor Lodge, Wright said. “That’s a lot of money and somehow some of it’s going to make its way into our little city,” he said. “Whoever they go with, Colfax is going to benefit.” To register for the meeting, businesses can go online to www.dot.ca.gov/dist3/sbevent/emigranGap.php. For more information, call Liza Whitmore at 741-4222.