By Katy St. Clair
Oaklanders love Oakland and have demonstrated this love to Oakland’s schools by passing bond measures to fund modernization and new construction.
Recently, Measure J passed with 80 percent of the vote, designating $475 million dollars to modernize school facilities.
Well, now Oakland residents have something else to be happy about. Over half of the businesses hired to update and modernize schools for the District are Oakland-based.
The district put “Oakland first” and adopted a “local business utilization” plan in order to maximize community involvement and growth. So far, the results have been good news for schools, small businesses, and the local economy.
“Partnering with local businesses in Oakland is key to building a stronger district and a stronger community,” said Dr. Devin Dillon, Interim Superintendent of Oakland Schools.
“Working together creates opportunity for our diverse populations to unite and benefit each other,” she said. “It also supports our District-wide shared value of cultural responsiveness.”
When the Board of Education passed its first Local Business Policy, after receiving local control back from the state, only 6 percent of the businesses being utilized were local.
Luckily the district had some help to boost that percentage. It partnered with an Oakland-based management firm with an emphasis on building local connections and community. 360 Total Concept is an Oakland-based business headed by Oakland native Shonda Scott.
On this project, Scott helped facilitate Oakland’s plan of “local business utilization,” or “LBU.”
“We have the best interests of the community and the district in mind,” said Scott. “We provide independent support for the programs to help the District meet and exceed its local utilization requirements.”
In order to count as a local business with the district or City of Oakland, a business must first be certified. 360, in partnership with the district and city, tackled this by hosting workshops to guide owners through the process of certification and which documents and requirements were needed.
This advocacy also helped Oakland overall by adding more taxable revenue.
“Prior to local business policy, 94 percent of the businesses doing business with district were from outside of Oakland,” Scott said. “That means all that local voter money was not being recycled back into the community.”
To rectify this, the School Board increased the local business requirement on the district’s Capital Program to a minimum of 50 percent. Now, with the help of 360, the district’s Capital program is exceeding 50 percent LBU, with up to 70 percent on some projects.
“That’s money going back into Oakland and strengthening the community,” Scott said.
This LBU program in Oakland schools has been so successful that a study by the Canadian “Democracy Collaborative” designated it in its “best practices” recommendation for communities seeking similar synergy.
The study found that approaches like the one Oakland Unified is taking helps not only local businesses but also stimulates the local economy.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Scott said.