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California, Nevada business group holds high-speed rail summit

Ty Washington | 12/12/2012, 5 p.m.

Veteran's Southwest Industries, in association with the California Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Black Business Council of Nevada hosted the "Victorville XpressWest High Speed Rail Summit" on Monday, Dec. 10, and participants from across the country converged on Victorville, Calif., to be educated about the proposed $9 billion project connecting Las Vegas, Victorville and Palmdale through high speed rail.

Chaired by business community leaders Robert R. Gaines Sr., president and CEO of Veteran's Southwest Industries; Aubry Stone, president and CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce, and M. Ernest Fountain, president and CEO of the Black Business Council of Nevada, the summit's focus allowed Minority Business Enterprises, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Small Business Enterprises, and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses an opportunity to get an early start to support its development.

"It is our obligation to make sure small, minority, and women-owned businesses are at the forefront of this project," said Gaines. "These types of businesses are the lifeblood to our economy. We wanted participants to come away with a better understanding of the XpressWest project and to have the chance to meet with the government agencies that are charged with its success."

Public agency representatives served as panelists from several of the top organizations that are in charge of the XpressWest project. They included Caltrans District 7 Director Michael Miles (Los Angeles County), Caltrans District 8 Director Basem Muallem (San Bernardino County), MTA Executive Officer for Regional Rail Don Sepulveda, SBA Lead Business Opportunity Specialist Karen Burgess, and Executive Director for the California Public Utility Commissioner Paul Clanon.

"Caltrans supports the utilization of Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise in infrastructure projects throughout the state," said District Director Muallem during a panel discussion. "We look forward to working closely with these firms to keep California moving."

The goal of the summit was to maximize and facilitate opportunities for small and disadvantaged business enterprises to participate in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the high-speed rail project as professional service providers, suppliers, contractors, and subcontractors.

Participants were able to listen to topics, including access to capital and bonding, commitment to small-, minority-, women- and disable-run business participation goals, and how participants should register and become certified with public agencies.

"A high-speed rail portal to Las Vegas will open up a broad range of business opportunities in Victorville," stated Robert Lang, Director of Brookings Mountain West and one of the foremost authorities on the XpressWest project. "It will also provide residents of San Bernardino County with excellent access to Las Vegas, including a connection to its international airport."

Several high profile attendees participated. California State senators Steve Knight and Carol Liu, who were both co-chairs of the summit, honored California Public Utility Commissioner Timothy A. Simon, former California Secretary Dale E. Bonner Esq., San Bernardino 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, California State Assemblymember Chris Holden, and National Association of Minority Contractors President Gloria Carney Shealey.

"It's a beautiful feeling to know that you are producing an event that will educate, organize, and inform local, small, minority, and women-owned businesses," said Wendy Gladney, owner of Personal Services Plus, a consulting firm assisting with community relations, strategic alliances and event management. "It's truly an honor and a blessing to make a difference for our business community, in light of this economic downturn."

In this economy, the absence of jobs is the No. 1 conversation on everybody's mind. The XpressWest project will be instrumental to California's economic recovery by:

* Creating over 80,000 direct and indirect construction-related jobs

* Producing an estimated economic output of $7.8 billion

* Saving an estimated 440,000 barrels of oil per year

* XpressWest would result in a net annual energy consumption reduction of an estimated 2.4 million MMBTU(s).