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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Applications for Columbia University and NYC Dept. of Small Business Services Construction Certificate/Mentorship Program Now Being Accepted

Partnership between Columbia and the city provides assistance and access to university contracting opportunities for minority-, women- and locally owned firms

Providing job training for New Yorkers and helping place them in jobs is a central part of the City’s Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan

NEW YORK, June 4, 2009 — Columbia University, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Small Business Services, is now accepting applications to its certificate/mentorship program for minority-, women- and locally owned (MWL) construction-related businesses.

MWL businesses accepted into this initiative participate in a two-year mentorship program  providing both classroom instruction and hands-on business management experience. The program, designed for firms with annual gross sales of no more than $1 million, helps to create new opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses in the area. After successful completion of the academic program, businesses will receive a Columbia University certificate.

Eighteen of the firms that participated in the pilot program’s first year remain active and nine have received more than $5 million in contracts from Columbia. The second year of the MWL mentorship program will build on the experiences of the first-year effort.

“We are actively adapting our program to adjust to both the challenges and opportunities faced by the MWL construction community,” said Joe Ienuso, Columbia’s executive vice president for facilities. “The ultimate goal is to strengthen and better prepare firms to compete for jobs across New York City and at Columbia.”

The academic portion of the mentorship program is modeled on the NYC Department of Small Business Services first-year curriculum. It is designed and administered by the graduate program in construction administration at Columbia’s School of Continuing Education.

Applications for the 2009-2010 academic year will be accepted until Monday, July 6. Firms accepted into the program will be notified no later than Friday, August 14, and must commit to actively participating in the program, which begins in September.

“Businesses accepted into the certificate/mentorship program must be committed to a rigorous course of study,” said Peter Awn, acting dean of the School of Continuing Education. “This is a wonderful, unprecedented opportunity worth tens of thousands of dollars to participants and will be offered free to minority-, women- and locally owned construction firms that are accepted into the program.”

In addition to the academic component, participating firms will benefit from networking opportunities with project managers who solicit bids. After six months of participation, firms will have the opportunity to be part of a bidding process limited to only other certificate/mentorship program participants. Firms that are accepted into the program will also have access to free technical assistance.

“Our partnership with Columbia University is helping our city’s minority and women-owned firms succeed,” said Robert W. Walsh, the commissioner of city’s Department of Small Business Services. “We want to help these small businesses every step of the way. We encourage them to take advantage of additional services through NYC Business Solutions, including assistance with legal matters, navigating government, financing, hiring, employee training, access to incentives, and more.”

To be accepted into the program, firms must be engaged in a construction-related trade, be certified as owned by a minority, women or local resident, or make a commitment to get certified with the Department of Small Business Services. They must also agree to attend all classes in the academic program.

“Our goal is to create opportunity for the minority, women and local business community with a focus on local firms,” said La-Verna J. Fountain, Columbia’s associate vice president for construction business services and the program’s administrator. “We will help open the doors and then the firms must compete and succeed with the added skills and opportunities we help provide. We know they have the drive to expand their businesses and create local jobs and the good news is that this certificate/mentorship program helps them do exactly that.”

To learn more and obtain an application, visit the Columbia University Facilities web site at, call 212-854-3649 or e-mail

About Columbia University
A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships help define the university’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

About the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan
The Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan is a comprehensive strategy to bring New York City through the current economic downturn as fast as possible. It focuses on three major areas: creating jobs for New Yorkers today, implementing a long-term vision for growing the city's economy, and building affordable, attractive neighborhoods in every borough. Taken together, the initiatives that the City has launched to achieve these goals will generate thousands of jobs and put New York City on a path to economic recovery and growth.

About The Department of Small Business Services
The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) makes it easier for businesses in New York City to form, do business, and grow by providing direct assistance to business owners, fostering neighborhood development in commercial districts, and linking employers to a skilled and qualified workforce. NYC Workforce1 Career Centers offer services to meet the needs of all jobseekers, including one-on-one job and career counseling, technical and educational services, workshops, and referrals to training providers. For more information on all of SBS’ services go to

  Media contact: Laura Postiglione (SBS) 212-5136318
Victoria Benítez, 212-854-6732,
Dan Held, 212-854-8374,

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