LOS ANGELES — Twelve years ago, entrepreneur Kenneth Wells never imagined he would be in the business of solar.
“You can see from the back of it. We connect these into each other along the line,” he said as he stood on the roof of a building, pointing to a large panel.
What You Need To Know
- In June, voters passed an amendment to the LA City Charter that gives local businesses preference when bidding for contract work
- By giving preference to local business within the city, it could boost economic growth and generate more tax revenue for the city
- Currently, only 7% of local businesses landed city contracts and only one-quarter of 1% of contracting dollars went to businesses in the city, according to data from Council member Paul Koretz and the Bureau of Contract Administration
- Before the amendment passed, the LA City Charter only required the city to award contracts to bidders with the lowest prices, while businesses in LA County and California may be prioritized
He is the founder and CEO of O&M Solar Services and he is currently working on a four-month contract to install solar panels on a commercial building. Even though he has been doing this type of work for over a decade, he is still amazed at how his life turned out because, as a teen growing up in Compton, he was arrested for carjacking and spent six years in prison.
“Fifteen-and-a-half to 21 and you put them away from society. What do you expect that person to go in there and learn and come back with?” he said.
After he got out, Wells learned a trade — installing solar panels. After working his way up at a large company, he branched out on his own four years ago.
It has not been easy because to land big solar projects that can help him hire more people and grow his business, he needs to establish a track record.
He is working on installing 730 solar panels.
“I think going forward, this is going to allow me to have a portfolio that demonstrates, hey, we can do these large projects,” he said.
Experience like this can put Wells in the running to competitively bid for projects with cities like Los Angeles.
In June, voters passed an amendment to the LA City Charter that gives local businesses a preference when bidding for contract work, which could help generate more tax dollars, create more jobs and incentivize companies to stay in the city.
Only 7% of local businesses landed city contracts and only one-quarter of 1% of contracting dollars went to businesses in the city, according to data from Council member Paul Koretz and the Bureau of Contract Administration.
Miranda Rodriguez, deputy director for Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles, a nonprofit that supports community development, said city contracts can range from $10,000 to several million dollars.
“For a lot of small businesses, a contract is a huge win for them. They are able to maybe move their independent contractor, 1099 workers to full-time employment. Maybe they’re able to add new members to their team,” she said.
Rodriguez also said applying for a bid is an extremely daunting process and the change to LA City Charter could motivate small business owners to at least go through the process.
For small business owners like Wells, the measure is one way to help him grow his business and also work towards his goal of hiring and inspiring workers from disadvantaged communities, such as himself.
“I try to be present. I try to show up every day and do the best work that I can,” he said.