Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's News Stories for Women and Minority Owned Contractors

City's New Program Aims to Help Minority, Women-Owned Businesses-Norwalk, CT
By Nicole Rivard
Posted: 01/02/2009 04:54:17 PM EST

As a small business owner in Norwalk for the past couple of years, Ernie Dumas admits he's struggled from time to time in terms of growing his business. But the owner of Ernie's Handyman Services was excited Monday morning about a new construction management training program the city is offering to help small minority-owned businesses like his as well as women-owned businesses.

Norwalk Common Council President Rev. Phyllis Bolden called the program excellent for women and minority business because it will allow them to become more confident and go toward the bidding process so they can secure a part of what is going on in terms of construction in Norwalk.

The cost of the program has not been determined. For information, call Sally Johnson at 854-7810, ext. 46778.

Economic stimulus could lift up some minorities-Minneapolis, Minn.
by Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
December 29, 2008

There are very large numbers being tossed around to describe the size of the stimulus package under construction in Washington, D.C.

They range from $600 to $850 billion. That amount of money could create millions of jobs.
A new Minnesota coalition wants to make sure minorities and women are included in the hiring. One of the architects of the effort is a veteran organizer and north Minneapolis educator.

Many assume some federal stimulus money will be funneled through state agencies including state transportation departments for roads and bridges.

King, who is CEO and president of Summit Academy OIC, a north Minneapolis vocational training center, wants to make sure the Minnesota Department of Transportation meets federal and state rules for hiring.

The rule requires states receiving federal dollars and the contractors they do business with to make a good faith effort to direct 10 percent of the money to women and minority owned businesses.

MnDOT in recent years has fallen far short of the goal. The agency is attempting to improve its performance. MnDOT set a 15 percent goal for this fiscal year.

The HIRE MN goal for the agency, Louis King says, is 25 percent.

Oregon must invest in a diverse work force
by Annette Talbott, Guest opinion
Tuesday December 23, 2008, 5:48 PM

Hope is on the way. We are seemingly poised to make large public investments in renewable energy, roads and ports and other infrastructure to create jobs to stimulate the economy. As part of that stimulus strategy, the challenge is to lift all boats in the process, including those of women and minorities.

President John F. Kennedy once said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Well, we're still fighting against the tide with women and people of color disproportionately sinking into poverty. Yet public investments will most likely be targeted largely to construction, an industry that doesn't have a very diverse workforce. So let's make investments and commitments to lift all boats by adopting a diversity initiative.

Oregon's past construction investments demonstrate why we need such an initiative. Five years into a billion-dollar public construction program, diversity outcomes for contracting, the workforce and for training are all in need of significant improvement.

In construction contracting, a recent report demonstrates that a substantial disparity exists in prime contracting for minority- and women-owned firms, as well as in subcontracting for African and Asian Americans in Portland. We must improve.

In jobs and workforce training, women and minorities are underrepresented in construction jobs and as apprentices on public works programs, compared to their numbers in registered apprenticeship programs or those in the general population.

True, there are public construction projects in which diversity results were impressive -- TriMet's Interstate Max light rail, King County and the Port of Seattle, for example. But we should focus on improving results, which means not affixing blame and not making excuses.

Oregon's commitment to improving diversity should involve serious financial investments in increasing opportunities for women and minorities in: 1) public contracting and public investments; 2) good-paying trade jobs; and 3) apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, the pathway to construction. Those experienced in preparing women and minorities for construction should be integrally involved in designing these programs.

A diversity initiative must involve: 1) investing in improved outcomes for training women and minorities for jobs, including input from communities where the projects are developed; 2) using contracting methods that allow for more inclusiveness and firm diversity targets; 3) wisely directing the use of apprentices and training dollars with firm training and diversity targets; and 4) requiring monthly diversity performance reports and improvement plans. Finally, when bids or proposals by prime contractors on public jobs are evaluated, look at their past record in contracting with or hiring minorities and training workers using apprentices. Evaluate this record just like their safety record.

Washington state has taken positive steps by requiring apprentices on many public projects, supporting apprenticeship goals on renewable energy projects and establishing a Green Jobs program with funded training for green jobs, including women and minorities and disadvantaged populations.

Oregon's goal should be to create opportunity for all, require responsibility from all, and build a sense of community for all.

Annette Talbott is president of Talbott Consulting and previously was Oregon's deputy labor commissioner and a gubernatorial workforce policy coordinator.


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