Minority hiring on track: Stadium, airport projects meeting most goals

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Two of the city’s largest and most visible construction projects so far have committed roughly $300 million in contracts to minority and women business owners-a healthy sum that has the owners meeting most of their obligations.

The $1.1 billion midfield terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport and the $700 million Lucas Oil Stadium are on pace to be finished the second half of 2008.

All told, that’s roughly $1.8 billion in construction contracts that ultimately will be awarded. With 80 percent of the money committed, the projects are heading into the home stretch.

Both are boasting combined participation from minority- and women-owned enterprises above 20 percent, which is particularly important for the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, the owner of the stadium.

The General Assembly in 2005 passed legislation directing the authority to grant 15 percent of all contracts to minorities and 5 percent to women. Through July, minority participation exceeded the goal while involvement from women lagged slightly at 4.3 percent.

There are no penalties for not meeting expectations. Yet Stadium Authority Director John Klipsch remains hopeful the target can be met.

“Although it is not always easy to find minority and women contractors in all the specialties associated with a project of this magnitude, we’re reasonably pleased with our results so far,” he said. “We are meeting and frequently exceeding the goals for minority contract work and are very close to our goal for women contractors.”

Judy Montgomery is among the select number of women who have contracts at both the stadium and midfield terminal. The owner of VTI Contracting Inc. in Shelbyville received $1 million to coat about 1 million square feet of concrete at the stadium and about $200,000 to apply epoxy coatings at the airport.

For Montgomery, diversity programs are integral to the growth of her 22-year-old company. She even has a contract larger than her stadium deal awaiting her at the new Honda plant in Greensburg.

“They have taken us to a level that we never thought we would achieve,” Montgomery said. “I have worked really hard networking with a lot of people and, I will tell you, I have a niche here, and there just aren’t a lot of women contractors out there.”

Are minimums enough?

Conversely, there are no mandated goals to meet at the airport. But the Indianapolis Airport Authority shoots to achieve 9-percent minority and 5-percent female participation on each bid package.

The Airport Authority board has committed 16 percent of its budget to minorities and 5.9 percent for women, for total participation of 21.9 percent. While there always is room for improvement, the board is pleased with the results, said Gary Gibson, airport director of administration.

“From the very beginning, the board of directors of the Indianapolis Airport Authority bought into the idea that this project should not happen without great participation from minority and women businesses,” Gibson said. “It’s been a top-down initiative that we really haven’t had too much trouble getting people to buy into.”

Even so, Reggie Henderson, executive director of the Indiana Business Diversity Council, wonders whether involvement at both projects could be higher.

It’s encouraging when goals are met, he said, but far too often there’s no ambition to embrace the true spirit of diversity and reach beyond the limits.

“To just hit goals all the time, that’s like saying I need a 2.0 [grade point average] just to stay in college,” Henderson said. “You met the bare minimum requirements, but are you really setting the world on fire? No, you’re just average.”

Organizations recruited

Still, stadium leaders have made great strides in the past 18 months to recruit minority and women contractors. It and the airport board have initiatives in place to attract the companies, but stadium leaders became more serious last spring after continually failing to meet the goals.

In April 2006, for instance, minority businesses had landed 12.6 percent of construction contracts, while women-owned businesses had won just 3.6 percent.

The Stadium Authority hired locally based consulting firm Engaging Solutions LLC to help project manager Hunt Construction Group recruit more minority- and women-owned companies.

Debra Wilson, a managing principal of the women-owned consultancy, since has been engaging organizations that specialize in facilitating minority and female participation. They include Henderson’s IBDC, the Indiana Department of Administration’s Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Division and the Indiana chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

E-mails are blasted to those organizations and other entities every time a bid package is announced to help spread the word, said Wilson, who personally speaks to the associations as well.

The airport’s initiatives include encouraging minorities and women to participate in all its pre-bid meetings, where they can introduce themselves to make it easier for prime contractors to forge relationships.

Cassie Stockamp, past president of the local NAWBO chapter and operator of local construction manager Perita Services LLC, is satisfied with the progress.

“The management in both instances has been working very hard,” she said. “I have to give them credit for that. I think, overall, there has really been a good effort made.”

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