September 29, 2011

Astra, MCIP, Mercy Corps, PDC

Pilot program will help link small businesses to federal contracts, spurring economic development in the Pacific Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced this week that a Portland-based small business pilot program was awarded a $433,000 grant annually for up to five years. The project team, which includes Mercy Corps Northwest as the fiscal agent, Astra Women’s Business Alliance, the Metropolitan Contractor Improvement Partnership and the Portland Development Commission will use the federal dollars to train, support and link small businesses to other potential team members and to large federal contractors.

“These grant funds represent a vote of confidence from the SBA regarding the work we’re doing and the partnerships we’ve established,” said PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton. “The money will provide a real boost to our efforts to identify and help small businesses partner with larger firms to pursue federal opportunities.”

The goal of the project is for teams of small businesses to either bid on federal contracts or to participate as sub-contractors with prime contractors with federal contracts. The project will make special efforts to promote this opportunity to all women and minority owned businesses in Portland with potential to participate in providing some of the goods or services required on large federal contracts.

“We are honored to be one of the recipients of this grant,” said John W. Haines, executive director of Mercy Corps Northwest. “This collaborative platform with our partners will help small, minority and women-owned businesses pool together resources and work together to successfully compete for larger federal, state and local contracts in Portland and the entire Pacific Northwest region.”

The request for proposals, which was issued in January 2011, is a component of the Small Business Jobs Act. The SBA received more than 300 applications from across the country and funded 11 proposals.

Mercy Corps Northwest will serve as the lead agency for the roll-out of the small business assistance program with ASTRA, MCIP and PDC all providing staffing, services or in-kind support. Committed private sector partners include Skanska Construction, Johnson & Johnson, Howard S. Wright Construction, Boeing and AT&T.


Mercy Corps Northwest (GRANT FISCAL AGENT) 
Mercy Corps Northwest (MCNW) was incorporated in 2001. MCNW is the only domestic program of the international relief agency Mercy Corps. MCNW has received U.S. Treasury designation as a Community Development Financial Institution. MCNW’s mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. MCNW programs help clients achieve: 1) increased business revenue and household income, 2) asset and net worth accumulation, and 3) community integration. MCNW is the largest micro lender in the state of Oregon.

Metropolitan Contractor Improvement Partnership
Founded in 2008, MCIP is a business development, support and training program for disadvantaged and viable construction businesses, emphasizing minority-owned businesses. MCIP works closely with the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon (NAMC-Oregon), in providing links to contracting opportunities.

Astra Women’s Business Alliance
Astra Women’s Business Alliance was founded in 2000. AWBA’s mission is to work proactively and cooperatively toward the elimination of marketplace barriers, such that women-owned businesses receive access to and fair consideration of programs and projects that fund business growth. Astra provides business skills training, team development and linkage to contract opportunities to women owned businesses throughout the northwest.

Portland Development Commission
PDC is the city of Portland’s economic development agency. PDC’s mission is to bring together resources to achieve a diverse, sustainable community with healthy neighborhoods, a vibrant central city, a strong regional economy, and quality jobs and housing for all. PDC provides a continuum of services to support small businesses from intensive business skill development programs for low income microenterprises to support and loans for more established businesses or linkage to venture capital for businesses with high growth potential.

Contacts: Lindsay Murphy, Mercy Corps NW, 503-896-5700 or or Shawn Uhlman, PDC, 503-823-7994 or