Brown, city partner to support construction

Contractors network with women-, minority-owned business enterprises to diversify industry

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mayor Jorge Elorza joined contractors to eliminate barriers facing minority- and women-owned business enterprises.

An opportunity fair for minority- and women-owned business enterprises in construction was held Friday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Providence. The fair, hosted by the University’s Office of Government Relations and Community Affairs, aimed to highlight opportunities with general contracting companies for these enterprises.

“We need to start making sure that we’re connecting the job opportunities with the people who are ready, willing and able to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza in his opening remarks.

Barriers such as acquiring insurance or capital prevent minority- and women-owned business enterprises from obtaining work in construction, Elorza told The Herald.

All of the nine general contracting companies in attendance have previously completed construction projects for the University and are looking to subcontract work to these enterprises..

Leveraging people of different backgrounds and skill sets is important in the construction industry, said Kyle Lloyd, a representative for Shawmut, a general contracting company that previously worked on the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center.

Minority- and women-owned business enterprises tend to be small, which makes finding work in the construction field more difficult, Lloyd said.

One of the goals of the opportunity fair was to tackle this difficulty, said Michael Guglielmo, Jr., director of project management for the Department of Facilities Management. By more directly helping minority- and women-owned business enterprises to find work, the University can strengthen its relationship with local people, Guglielmo told The Herald.

In the past, construction involved mostly physical work, which many people stereotypically associated with men, Lloyd said. But now construction also involves much managerial work, he said.

The demographic of the construction industry is changing, said David Barrus, a representative from BOND, a general contractor that worked on Barus and Holley and the Prince Engineering Laboratory. Diversity within the field is on the rise, and the industry is no longer male-dominated, he said.

But Victor Ofokansi, a representative from V and L Construction, Inc., a minority-owned business enterprise, said he thinks diversity in the construction industry is “not up to par.” While “there is a long way to go” in terms of diversity, he said, the next step is to “give (contractors) our numbers, pick up hammers and start working.”