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Since the federal Office of Minority Business Enterprise was established by executive order in 1969, most states and municipalities have created agencies to help minority and women business enterprises (MWBEs) compete more successfully for federal, state and local government and commercial contracts. Still, tapping the full potential of diverse business communities remains a challenge for builders and contractors on both public- and private-sector construction projects. The hurdles include outreach, resources, technical capabilities, limited qualified suppliers and a lack of awareness and communication. 

COVID-19 only exacerbated these challenges. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, companies owned by minorities are feeling a bigger impact from the pandemic and have heightened concerns about its impact on their businesses. A recent project from Barton Malow Builders—an employee-owned construction management firm that established an award-winning business diversity program more than 30 years ago—offers a blueprint for successfully involving minority-, women-owned and other disadvantaged business enterprises in construction projects. 

A Case Study in Orlando

Camping World Stadium is an iconic landmark in Orlando, Florida, and a key component of the city’s sports tourism strategy. Originally built in 1936 as part of an employment and infrastructure program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the venue is currently undergoing a $60-million renovation as Orlando vies to be a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Improvements include expanding the north end-zone seating bowl, modernizing restrooms and concession areas, improving club-level seating, adding premium mezzanine clubs and upgrading parking lots and building systems. Barton Malow is serving as construction manager for the improvement project.

In 2008, the City of Orlando established a BLUEPRINT program to connect residents to job opportunities on community venue construction projects such as Camping World Stadium. It identified best practices for MWBE promotion and economic development, including business development assistance, networking, advocacy and financing. With the help of Deloris Batson, president of DBL Management Consultants, and partners JCB Construction, Provisions Construction and Development, C2 Advisors and Collage, Barton Malow is meeting Orlando’s BLUEPRINT goals for Camping World Stadium and helping level the playing field for MWBE participation.

How to Involve MWBEs

Barton Malow has developed a three-pronged approach to involving MWBEs and other DBEs in construction projects.

1. Have a plan. Develop a program that ensures the achievement of full and equitable participation by MWBE firms and promotes MWBE learning and advancement. Monitor project action plans from beginning to end to identify and resolve any declining trends in participation. 

Seek out minority partners and compile a team that has a shared commitment to achieving MWBE participation goals. Require subcontractors and suppliers to submit their plans and project goals for compliance prior to awarding their contract, and institute monthly reporting for them to substantiate their initial plan.

2. Be proactive. Seek out MWBE firms and workers in the local community rather than waiting for them to come to you. In the case of Camping World Stadium, the project is adjacent to Parramore, a historically disenfranchised Black neighborhood that has dealt with several economic and cultural challenges over the years. 

During preconstruction, Barton Malow reached out to religious and other leaders in the Parramore community to help spread the word about the project’s job opportunities and coordinated with the district’s Orlando City Council representative on grassroots initiatives such as going door-to-door to distribute informational flyers. The project’s larger subcontractors were invited to meet with newly identified MWBEs to explore opportunities for local mechanical, plumbing and electrical trade partners. Other community outreach efforts included onsite job fairs for local workers and providing free safety training.

3. Support the success of community MWBE firms. Develop strategies to maximize the success of MWBE participation. Break down bid packages to make them manageable and compatible with the capabilities of known MWBE firms, thus offering direct opportunities for a particular portion of work. With Camping World Stadium, for example, Barton Malow unbundled the cast-in-place demolition portion of the overall demolition package to allow a local MWBE firm to successfully bid on the scope of work.

Provide one-on-one mentoring to help MWBE firms understand the scopes, staff planning, scheduling, budgeting and close-out. Encourage them to contact the project team whenever they need to clarify bid requirements, determine potential prime bidders, seek information about bid schedules or simply answer questions. Consider financial solutions such as bonding flexibility and assisting MWBE firms with bulk material purchases to ensure they have the cash flow needed to be successful. 

Using these strategies, Barton Malow is currently tracking a 27% MWBE participation rate for Camping World Stadium, exceeding the city’s BLUEPRINT goal of 24% minority involvement. Best of all, the project has made a positive impact on the neighboring community.  

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