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Midfield, stadium projects boon to minorities: In most cases, participation goals were met, exceeded

July 7, 2008

Between construction of the Indianapolis Airport's midfield terminal and Lucas Oil Stadium, John Thompson's companies have won $11.5 million in work.

His plumbing and electrical supply distributorships, as well as his consulting and engineering firms, all at the corner of 22nd Street and College Avenue, collectively have grown annual revenue to $50 million.

Such revenue growth would have been impossible for Thompson and scores of other minority and female business owners if not for projects that require their participation.

"I haven't bought a condo in Florida or the Caribbean," Thompson said, "because I have reinvested the money back into the company."

Indeed, hundreds of minority and women business owners have benefited from the contracting goals established for the $1.1 billion midfield terminal and $715 million stadium projects, both of which are in their final stages. Combined, they are on track to award roughly $367.6 million in contracts to them.

The only downside is that the goal for female participation in the stadium project will not be met. Through June 20, the date of the latest report, women had received 4.1 percent of the total contracts, short of the 5-percent goal.

Lawmakers in 2005 passed legislation directing the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority to grant 15 percent of all contracts in the projects to minorities and 5 percent to women. Minority participation is at 15 percent, boosting combined involvement to 19.1 percent.

Failing to meet expectations does not

result in any penalties, although Wanda

Williams, president of locally based Williams Cylinders & Controls Inc., thinks fines should be imposed.

Williams received a $489,000 contract for plumbing supplies from longtime Indianapolis mechanical contractor Frank E. Irish Co. before it ceased operations May 16. But Williams claimed she otherwise was ignored at the bid meetings she attended.

"It was a waste of time to go to a place and continually go, and nothing happens," she said.

Still, stadium leaders have made great strides in the past two years to recruit minority and women contractors. It and the airport adopted initiatives to attract the companies, but stadium leaders became more serious 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 business 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, engaged organizations that specialize in facilitating minority and female participation. They include the Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council, 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.

"It's just very difficult to find very many women-owned businesses in the construction arena," Wilson said. "It's just very limited."

More than 100 minority and female business owners have received stadium contracts totaling $124.6 million, she said.

Airport authority exceeds goals

Unlike the Stadium Authority, the Indianapolis Airport Authority is not mandated to meet certain goals. But it strives to achieve 9-percent minority and 5-percent female participation on each bid package.

The Airport Authority board committed 16 percent of its budget to minorities and 5.9 percent to women, for total participation of 21.9 percent. Figures through the first quarter of the year, the most recent available, show the authority surpassing its goals.

Through the first three months of the year, they have received $242.8 million in contracts, or 24 percent of the $1 billion in contracts that have been awarded. Broken down, minorities have received 18 percent of the contracts and women 6.2 percent.

With the midfield terminal set to open in October, Gary Gibson, the authority's senior director of administration, is confident the benchmarks will be met, despite minor snags.

"There has been some difficulty that has been experienced by both projects," he said, "because minority and women businesses are often small and have limited capacity, and couldn't work on two big projects at one time."

More than 250 minority and women business owners received contracts with the help of outside consultants working with the authority to recruit them. Structured bid packages, pre-bid meetings and networking sessions helped build participation as well, Gibson said.

Convention center up next

While construction on the midfield terminal and stadium winds down, work on the Indiana Convention Center expansion is just beginning. Demolition of the RCA Dome, where the $275 million structure will be built, began in April and should take about six months.

The expansion is set to open in 2010 and gives the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association 1.2 million square feet with which to work, 65 percent more than it had in the convention center and dome.

Contractors and subcontractors interested in working on the expansion attended a pre-bid event in mid-June to get information on 20 bid packages totaling more than $105 million. A networking session afforded minority and women business owners a chance to interact with prime bidders.

So far, minority contractors have received $17.8 million in contracts, or 16.8 percent of the work, and women $7.8 million, or 7.3 percent.

Although the cost of the expansion is smaller than that of the stadium, the effort will be just as great to attract minorities and women to the project, Wilson of Engaging Solutions said. She's hopeful the percentage of minority and female participation will exceed the amount involved in the construction of the stadium.

"There were so many bells and whistles at the stadium that you didn't have minority- and women-owned businesses in that industry," said Wilson, citing the retractable roof and scoreboard as examples. "We believe the number might be a little higher because you have more businesses doing drywall and ceilings and things that are building-related."

Locally based Ratio Architects Inc. is the designer of the expansion and is assisted by minority firms Blackburn Architects Inc. and Domain Architecture Inc., both in Indianapolis.

Local construction manager Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. has Powers & Sons Construction Co. Inc. and Nubian Construction Group, both of Indianapolis as well, working with it.
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