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POWERBREAKFAST SPEAKER—African American Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams and Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Katherine Kelleman. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Katherine Kelleman ran a little late for her remarks to the African American Chamber of Commerce’s November Powerbreakfast meeting, Nov. 16, but it was fortuitous because it allowed her Director of Purchasing, Anthony Trona, to give members a brief rundown of the ways small businesses can do business with the authority.

The two primary points he stressed were for business owners to get on the authority’s email list so they are notified when bids go out in their areas of expertise. Those packages also contain a related calendar—he said attending the pre-bid meeting is important because all the potential prime contractors are there—and they need minority subcontractors to meet the Authority’s MWDBE requirements.

“That way you can meet all the players and they can meet you,” he told the audience. “And not all of these jobs are huge, so there’s nothing to stop you from bidding for those packages as a prime if you want.”

Kelleman had by then arrived and took to the podium, thanking everyone for their patience.

“Since I’ve been here, I been out in the community a lot, speaking about service,” she said. “I thought today, I talk about some of the things we’re doing internally to improve things—unless you want me to talk about bus routes.”

The biggest changes will come via personnel. That was evidenced by Inez Colon, a 15-year veteran of the personnel department, who was just recently promoted to chief human resources officer—and she will be overseeing some significant changes in hiring policy.

“We get thousands of applications for jobs. In the past part of narrowing that number down to a number you can interview was to take any with a felony conviction and toss them out,” she said. “Beginning in January, the Port Authority will ban the box. So you embezzled a bunch of money? Well, maybe there’s no spot for you in finance, but you can probably drive a bus.”

Also in January, Kelleman said the authority will no longer ask applicants their salary history.

“You’ve done your homework, you know what the salary range for the position is. What you made before doesn’t matter,” she said.

She’s also looking at increasing salaries for people who haven’t seen a bump in pay since the service reduction in 2007 even though ridership has recovered.

Finally, she said, the authority will have a new COO in January—that’s another part of the personnel changes.

“The C-suite needs to be a little more reflective of the community the authority serves,” she said.

And as far as serving the community goes—Deborah Skillings, the lone person who’s done community outreach for the authority, across its entire footprint for years, is getting an assistant.

“We aren’t working on all these service improvements for the guy in the tie who might use us a couple times a week. We’re doing this for the single mom who uses us to get to work and get her kids from school.”

 

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