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Association for minority contractors gets started in Western Pennsylvania

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 4:56 a.m.

A newly chartered organization dedicated to changing the business landscape for minority contractors in Western Pennsylvania has arrived.

Western Regional National Association of Minority Contractors hosted an inaugural breakfast Wednesday morning at the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania facility in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise director Ruth Byrd-Smith petitioned the national association in Washington to create the Pittsburgh-based chapter a year ago.

She received official approval this month.

“I see a lot of companies that are minority and women (owned),” Byrd-Smith said. “They get to a certain point and it's hard to make that next leap. It takes a different kind of skill set once you start to manage people as opposed to projects. That's kind of what this organization is for. So we can inspire each other and can help them get some solid educational and technical kinds of skills in place so it's easier to make that kind of transition.”

Byrd-Smith said the organization can help budding businesses through its connections.

“A lot of groups similar to this start up with the hopes of assisting start-up companies,” she explained. “Most of the contractors that we're engaged with at this time are at the middle of their business life. Who better to mentor start-up companies than people who have been in the business for some time? They know what kinds of challenges that those companies are up against.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was Wednesday's guest speaker. He had his own engineering business for almost 30 years prior to taking office in January 2012.

“I had to get up and go out and fight for business every day,” Fitzgerald said. “I know exactly what you're up against. It's also sometimes more difficult when you're a minority business because you face other barriers that other businesses don't have. At all levels of government ... we can partner in a positive way that makes improvement. My administration has been very committed to doing that.”

He highlighted a multi-million dollar U.S. Steel expansion in Clairton.

“They were very good about making sure that they were providing opportunities for minority contractors in those projects,” Fitzgerald said.

Regional president Gil Berry of Clairton's Gil Berry & Associates presented Fitzgerald with an honorary lifetime membership award.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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