KINSTON, N.C — As part of its efforts to increase opportunities for diverse businesses, the N.C. Department of Transportation Office of Civil Rights hosted outreach events for small, women and minority-owned firms online and in Kinston last week. 

The Future, Funding, and Finance of Transportation Infrastructure: Part 3 webinar was presented in Spanish on Wednesday. The webinar provided Small Business Enterprises, or SBEs, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBEs, the opportunity to learn what the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could mean for their businesses.

Jose Alvarez, vice president of a North Carolina economic development nonprofit called Prospera, applauded NCDOT’s efforts in hosting the webinar.

“Shout-out to @NCDOT on taking this initiative to provide the first information session ever in Spanish to #NorthCarolina’s Latino-owned businesses about contract opportunities, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and its impact on the state’s economy.” Alvarado tweeted on March 30.    

Then on Friday, NCDOT’s Highway Division 2 staff hosted an in-person workshop in Kinston. During the workshop, SBEs met with NCDOT staff to learn about contracting opportunities and how to apply for the certifications needed to bid on projects. Eleven people attended the workshop and six firms completed applications.

Both the Spanish webinar and the workshop are the latest of several similar events NCDOT has hosted.

“We hosted our first webinar in Spanish to be more inclusive and show our commitment to diversity,” said Tunya Smith, director of the NCDOT’s Office of Civil Rights. “The Office of Civil Rights is committed to increasing access to opportunities, workforce development, and economic growth in North Carolina’s transportation industry.”

In addition, more than 500 people have attended NCDOT’s outreach meetings for DBEs since June. In that same time, NCDOT has seen a 34% increase in the number of DBEs certified to bid for transportation contracts.

“It’s a privilege to work with NCDOT to make sure we get key information about the importance of the federal infrastructure bill and the recently passed state budget to every community in our state,” said N.C. Rep. Ricky Hurtado (D-Alamance), gave a presentation during last Wednesday’s webinar. “We are making historical infrastructure investments across the state; our office will continue to make strides to improve conditions for rural and urban communities alike as we build a bright future for North Carolina.”