Small businesses prepare for High Speed Rail jobs

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- With High Speed Rail back on track to start ground breaking next summer, minority businesses are preparing to get in on some of lucrative contracts with the statewide project.

"We want to make sure that our community gets their share of the jobs," said Ali Morris, president of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce.

KCBCC hosted a workshop at the Bakersfield Senior Citizens Center
where the High Speed Rail Authority provided information to small business owners on how to qualify for securing a contract with the project.

"There will be a lot of opportunities, we anticipate creating over 20 thousand jobs over the entire span of the project," said Diana Gomez, Central Regional Director of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

After suffering some setbacks, High Speed Rail appears to be back on track. The project is being backed by federal funding, and with the re-election of President Barack Obama, that federal support is expected to continue. The project is also endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown, who was also re-elected this November. And a federal judge
recently ruled in favor of High Speed Rail in a suit by Central Valley farmers who had tried to stop the project.

Kern County Supervisors and the Bakersfield City Council haven't exactly been receptive to High Speed Rail. Both bodies have gone on record opposing the project for a number of reasons.

"I'm not sure why they are opposed to it," said Morris. "It's going to go forward either way," he said.

Small business owner Eugene Frye was among those attending the workshop. He's hoping to land a lucrative contract with High Speed Rail.

"It would mean I could hire more guys to help in the community," said Frye, who owns a plumbing company.

Gomez said the goal is award 30 percent of contracts to small business owners, including 10 percent to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and 3 percent do Disabled Veterans Business Enterprises.