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Old Dominion University's Business Gateway Center wants to be the first in the mid-Atlantic to open an office that would be dedicated solely to matching women- and minority-owned businesses with lucrative U.S. Department of Transportation contracts.

The center has submitted plans to the department and the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to secure a grant worth up to $140,000 per year that would be used to open the office, which would be called the Small Business Transportation Resource Center, said Jerry Robertson, associate vice president and executive director of the Gateway center.

This would be the first such center in the mid-Atlantic and would work with companies in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Women- and minority-owned small businesses face challenges that their larger counterparts don't when it comes to obtaining transportation department contracts for various work, whether it's laying asphalt or installing lights, Robertson said.

"They don't necessarily have the bonding they need," he said. "They don't have the recourses to do the financials. There could be a lot of reasons that they are a little bit challenging to get in to the transportation arena. So the Department of Transportation set up these resource centers to help them get themselves qualified."

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Published on: March 1, 2013