Minority Contractors Vie for Jail Construction Projects

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Plans to build a new jail in Winnebago County are moving forward, and local companies are working to secure contracts for the construction.

Wednesday afternoon minority business owners learned more about how they can get a piece of the one hundred million dollar project.

A stagnant economy has area contractors lining up for a shot at building the new Winnebago County Justice Center. A project that will pour millions into the local economy over the next few years.

As the lengthy bidding and planning process begins, involving minority-owned businesses in the jail construction is a priority for many.

"The days are over where everyone else has an advantage and we feel like we're being left out once again. We're not asking to be handed anything, we're just asking to make the playing field even," said Robert King, Rockford Minority Business Council Chairman.

Most area minority owned businesses are smaller firms and experts say while business owners know their trades, they often need help with the business aspects.

"When you're building hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in work, it doesn't take a very big mistake to put you out of business," said John Fridh, president of Fridh & Sons.

A joint venture of Fridh and Alberici, two construction companies, is setting up a training program called Alberici University. The program is designed to guide business owners through the bidding process with classes on insurance, securing capital and bonding

"I'm sure there are a lot of things that I don't know and I'm very interested in learning if I can," said James Douglas, owner of Metropolitan Janitorial Services.

The seminar will be offered free to interested businesses but that only if Fridh Alberici is named the construction management firm for the jail construction. The county will decide that next week.

The five year-old Alberici University has held programs in other states.