U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta announced the establishment of its first contract award under the mentor-prot¿ program, which is designed to enhance economic opportunities for small, disadvantaged business owners.

"This program demonstrates the Bush Administration's commitment to providing women-owned and minority-owned small businesses every possible opportunity to compete effectively for federal contracts," said Secretary Mineta. "I commend Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn for taking a leadership role in launching the mentor-prot¿ program at the Department of Transportation."

On August 1, 2002, during a forum for small and women-owned businesses, Dorn promised that FTA would provide additional economic opportunities. In less than a year, FTA's mentor-prot¿ initiative was developed and launched.

The first prot¿ firm to be selected is Interactive Elements Incorporated (IEI). IEI is also the first women-owned business in twenty years to receive a Project Management Oversight (PMO) contract with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Minority-owned Delon Hampton and Associates (DHA) has been selected as the mentor firm.

"Nothing compares to having a first-rate mentor who is experienced in the federal contracting marketplace," said Administrator Dorn. Dorn sees the mentor-prot¿ program as a way to cultivate new talent and provide experience to socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

The IEI/DHA alliance will receive one of 17 contracts to monitor over 125 major capital transit investment projects expected to cost more than $87 billion in federal, state and local funds. PMO contractors play a critical role in ensuring that FTA-funded projects progress on time, within budget, and according to agreed upon plans and specifications.

IEI, headquartered in New York City and founded in 1970, has experience in several critical areas, including transit and rail operations, safety reviews, security reviews, construction management and project management oversight. IEI projects have included a comprehensive safety investigation of Metro North and the Long Island Railroad, and an analysis of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail system.

DHA, the mentor firm, is a leading provider of planning, design, engineering, and program and construction management services. It brings over 30 years of experience to the joint venture. DHA is a graduate of the SBA's 8(a) Business Development program, which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market.

The mentor-prot¿ program, overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA), will open doors to new business opportunities for small, disadvantaged businesses. More importantly, it will equip these companies with the necessary tools to compete for federal contracts. Mentors provide technical and management assistance, financial assistance in the form of equity investments and/or loans, subcontract support, and assistance in performing prime contract responsibilities. The program provides an avenue for small, disadvantaged firms to achieve entrepreneurial success and contribute to economic growth.