When project management firms Browning and Davis and Associates Inc., began looking for contractors for 16 Tech, a business and innovation district downtown, executives wanted at least 27% of contracted businesses to be businesses that are local woman-, minority-, veteran- or disabled-owned, also known as XBEs. Browning and Davis surpassed their goal. Fifty percent of businesses working on phase one of construction are XBEs.
“It clearly demonstrates that there are minority companies that can work on projects of this size,” Rev. David W. Greene Sr., president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, said. “Many organizations within our city will quickly say they couldn’t find anybody, but then how did 16 Tech find them?”
Browning and Davis found so many minority-owned businesses because they created a campaign to inform companies of all sizes about opportunities to bid on contracts. They held community outreach events and advertised in print, radio and television. In addition, leaders from the firms collaborated with local organizations such as Indy Black Chamber, Concerned Clergy, Indiana Construction Round Table and the Office of Minority and Women Business Development to inquire about minority-owned businesses and ensure they weren’t overlooking any group.
That type of outreach was important because every contactor in the area should have a chance to bid on contracts, David McMath, project manager for Browning, said. Plus, keeping money local fuels the economy and local business growth throughout Indianapolis.
“When minorities are involved in these projects, it invests in our community,” Larry Williams, President of Indy Black Chamber, said. “When these smaller businesses get these bigger contracts, then they can come into and hire people from our community. It’s a cycle of growing the minority community.”
Frank Davis, president Circle City Rebar, which did rebar work on the 16 Tech project, believes the benefits for minority-owned businesses can last past the completion contracts. When minority-owned businesses perform well at one phase of a project, it becomes much more likely employers will hire them for future phases.
“The best opportunity you have for jobs is the jobs you are already on,” Davis said. “If you are working on a project and it becomes phase two or a phase three, you are already familiar with the people you are working with. You have already set up the logistics of getting the product to the job site, so you should have a better opportunity the second time around even than the first time.”
In addition to allowing them to hire more locals, money from contracts can also allow minority-owned businesses to benefit the community. Davis said Circle City Rebar donates time and money to a few local nonprofits because they want to help organizations that matter to their employees such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“There are other agencies that service our children and our families that we commit to,” Davis said. “When you invest in minority-owned businesses you are essentially investing in not only the business but our community.”
The building will be finished by May 2020. With the success of phase one, Browning and Davis plan to surpass 27% for future phases of the 16Tech project. McMath described the success in recruiting XBEs as a snowball he wants to keep rolling.
“I think with everybody’s help, we can do this again,” McMath said. “We can set a standard that’s never been seen before in Indianapolis. That’s our goal. Not to build a building but to build relationships.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.