The Barbour Group, a Maryland-based surety brokerage known for its passionate approach to helping small businesses find bonding solutions, is achieving success with its Surety Bonding Assistance Program for general contracting giant Hensel Phelps Construction.

Hensel Phelps, one of the largest general contractors in the nation, reached out to The Barbour Group for help in developing a pool of qualified (i.e.,bondable) small and minority contractors. According to Charles Eaton, Director of Corporate Diversity and Small Business Liaison Officer at Hensel Phelps, The majority of contracts require participation by small and minority business subcontractors, in order to meet goals on federal and municipal projects. But access to capital is a problem for many small and minority companies, which makes it tougher for them to obtain surety bonds.

The Barbour Group succeeded in obtaining bonding support for $22.3 million in contracts during the program's first year. To date, the program has obtained 22 bonds for 15 firms with an average contract size of $945,700. Every contract valued at $50,000 or more has to have a surety bond; this is the minimum contract size in the HP Bond Assistance Program.

The majority of firms in this program had never had surety bonds before, noted Eaton, usually because they lacked access to capital. Despite this, he said, there have been "zero" failures with the 22 bonds written to date.