Rajiv Ali, Principal Engineer,  Rhino One, LLC
Rajiv Ali, Principal Engineer, Rhino One, LLC

“There are two kinds of organizations. Those who simply state they are going to increase the participation of minority-owned, women-owned and small businesses in their mission statement. And those who actively do the outreach needed to engage minority-owned, women-owned and small businesses. Multnomah County is one of those organizations that truly pursues the participation of these businesses that are so critical to our local economy.”

- Rajiv Ali, Principal Engineer, Rhino One, LLC

A key decision that impacted the Sellwood project’s diversity program was the choice of contracting method for construction.  Due to the complexity of the project and the critical need to contain costs, the county selected a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) approach to:

  • Influence pre-construction design and planning efforts
  • Maximize value-engineering cost savings, select the lowest risk options, and expedite the schedule
  • Integrate sustainability into the project
  • Maximize opportunities to involve MWESB businesses throughout the project

In addition to being only the second CM/GC bridge project ever conducted in Oregon, this was the county’s largest construction project to date, in dollar terms.

Building upon the accomplishments of the East County Courthouse project in Gresham, Multnomah County Purchasing developed and implemented a robust subcontracting and economic development plan for the project that exceeded past efforts.

Purchasing collaborated with the Sellwood Project’s engineering services contractor (T.Y. Lin International) and CM/GC contractor (Slayden-Sundt Joint Venture) to integrate a multi-tiered diversity approach into every contracting and workforce aspect of the project. This included the involvement of DBEs as well as MWESBs, collectively referred to as DMWESBs.

Diversity in the design phase

- Vijay Deodhar, CEO, 3D Infusion Inc.
- Vijay Deodhar, CEO, 3D Infusion Inc.

“Unlike the “bridge to nowhere” the Sellwood Bridge Replacement project proved to be a “bridge to prosperity” for us. However, more importantly, it offered us a seat at the table with larger companies. It helped us add jobs, increase our capacity and confidence to pursue similar opportunities outside the Portland area.”

- Vijay Deodhar, CEO, 3D Infusion Inc.

Working with the engineering services contractor T.Y. Lin International, Multnomah County achieved unprecedented DMWESB participation levels during the design phase. Twenty DMWESB sub-consultants were awarded more than $2.1 million—15% of the overall design contract value. Beyond contract awards, County Purchasing collaborated with T.Y. Lin International to establish mentoring and technical assistance efforts, including one-on-one mentoring opportunities and three workshops.

As part of one-on-one mentoring offered to DMWESBs, seven active mentor protégée teams were formed. During monthly meetings, mentors discussed progress made towards advancing business development goals, which included developing marketing plans, making improvements to accounting systems, implementing human resources, conducting strategic planning, and more.

In addition, one-on-one technical mentoring was also conducted with two DMWESBs. Rhino One received technical mentoring in geotechnical design while Mainline Design, Inc., a landscape design firm, received mentoring focused on irrigation design. Both firms identified these technical skills as critical to the growth of their business. By working shoulder to shoulder with T.Y. Lin and their project partner, CH2M Hill, these smaller firms gained unique insights into the design requirements of a major infrastructure project, which will benefit their companies for years to come.

Finally, three additional technical assistance workshops were offered to DMWESBs and local businesses not actively involved in the project. These classes focused on topics related to marketing, ethics, and sustainability. A total of 126 attendees participated in the workshops with over 300 combined hours of training received. Workshop participants valued these classes because they received the training needed to grow and develop their business.

These efforts set a new standard, not only for Multnomah County, but also for the region. Multnomah County is the first public agency in Oregon to establish such efforts for MWESB engineering firms.

Diversity in the construction phase

Karla Niswander, Pacific Mark Apprentice & OTI grad
Karla Niswander, Pacific Mark Apprentice & OTI grad
County Purchasing collaborated with the selected CM/GC, Slayden-Sundt Joint Venture (Slayden-Sundt JV) to establish a robust Subcontracting Plan for the Sellwood project’s construction phase.  The plan included subcontracting opportunities, mentoring, youth development, workforce development, and community engagement. Multnomah County also worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to incorporate their Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program into the project’s overall diversity initiative.

Success in early project phases

The detailed strategy mapped out in the Subcontracting Plan, along with the multi-tiered approach, was key to the early success of DMWESB participation in the project.

Key elements included:

  • Breaking up large bid packages into smaller scopes of work for greater small business opportunity
  • Selecting two DMWESB contractors to mentor in the CM/GC contracting method
  • Targeting local DMWESBs for contract opportunities
  • Incorporating DMWESB participation into the best value scoring criteria for larger scopes of work
  • Providing ongoing technical assistance to DMWESB subcontractors.

Maximizing DMWESB participation throughout contracts of all sizes was a critical component of the Subcontracting Plan.

Once construction began, county staff began holding weekly meetings with Slayden-Sundt JV to track progress towards diversity objectives. More than 879,608 work hours have been performed through May 2017. To date, minority workforce participation has accounted for 29% (252,818 hours) of workforce hours and female participation has accounted for 13% (110,992 hours). Through the end of June 2013, $8,179,454 was awarded to DMWESB subcontractors, accounting for more than 50% of all subcontracting.

Mentoring small general contractors in CM/GC

Mark Mathews, President, Pacificmark Construction
Mark Mathews, President, Pacificmark Construction

“As a small business, we would not have had the chance to grow if Multnomah County hadn’t reached out to us. By reaching out to minority contractors, Multnomah County is building on its effort to reach out to minority communities.”

- Mark Mathews, President, Pacificmark Construction

One unique element to the Sellwood Bridge Subcontracting Plan was Slayden-Sundt JV’s commitment to mentor and develop two smaller DMWESB contractors in the CM/GC approach. The selected mentee contractors were each given responsibility for distinct scopes of work within the larger project and expected to use the same methodology guiding Slayden-Sundt JV’s subcontracting efforts. Slayden-Sundt JV will provide mentorship throughout the project.

Additionally, each of the small CM/GC’s expected to mentored another MWESB during the final year of the project.

This approach is similar to the one-on-one technical mentoring achieved during the design phase of the project. However, the two selected CM/GC mentees participated in all phases of the construction and management of the project related to their Small General Contractor scopes of work.

They gained valuable experience with the CM/GC approach including outreach, contract negotiation, scope of work negotiation, project management, scheduling, and other related disciplines.

The two minority-owned contractors selected for the Small CM/GC program were Pacificmark Construction and McDonald Excavating, Inc. Each went through the same bidding, negotiating, coordinating, scheduling, and project management exercises as Slayden-Sundt JV—only on a smaller scale. Through this process, they gained first-hand knowledge and experience to allow them to pursue CM/GC projects in the future.

Pacificmark Construction has been working closely with Slayden-Sundt JV as a CM/GC. Pacificmark awarded 23 subcontracts for the Sellwood project and has managed all aspects of the project as a CM/GC. Seventeen of the 23 subcontracts were awarded to DMWESBs. This is another illustration of successful collaboration among Multnomah County, Slayden-Sundt JV and Pacificmark to exceed past performance.

By mentoring small CM/GC Minority-owned firms, the Sellwood Bridge Project built the long-term capacity of these firms and coached them to compete as CM/GC contractors in their own right.

Workforce development

Anthony Pike, Apprentice
Anthony Pike, Apprentice
Amy Hamilton, Apprentice,  Pacificmark Construction
Amy Hamilton, Apprentice, Pacificmark Construction
Destiny Wright, Apprentice,  Pacificmark Construction
Destiny Wright, Apprentice, Pacificmark Construction

“It’s a part of history… it’s going to be something I can look back on later. I have a kid coming too; it’ll be something I can tell my kid about.”

- Anthony Pike, Apprentice

“The apprenticeship program has literally changed my life… for the first time in my working career I look forward to coming to work every day.”

- Amy Hamilton, Apprentice, Pacificmark Construction

Read more about Destiny Wright's story.

Goals and strategies designed to strengthen workforce development in the construction industry were also integrated in the Sellwood Bridge Subcontracting Plan. Slayden-Sundt JV implemented a program similar to the county’s Workforce Training and Hiring Program, along with some ODOT requirements. The modified Workforce Training and Hiring Program requirements prioritized the hiring of local trades people to work on the project.

Essential elements of the program included:

  • 20% apprenticeship participation per contractor, per trade, for the general contractor and every subcontractor with a subcontract of $100,000 or greater
  • Female workforce participation goal of 14%
  • Minority workforce participation goal of 20%
  • More than 227,000 work hours have been performed through February 2014. To date, minority workforce participation has accounted for 29% (65,350 hours) of workforce hours. Overall, the project estimates it will have 1.2 million work hours to complete.  

By the time the project is complete, apprentices will have performed thousands of hours of essential training. As the project moves forward, we will continue to report on the number of apprentices who complete their apprenticeship by working on the project and continue on to become journey workers in the construction industry.

Youth development

Providing opportunities for young people was another important component of the project’s Subcontracting Plan. By offering internships on the Sellwood Bridge Project, a number of students were provided the opportunity to learn about bridge construction while earning money and gaining valuable work experience. Other students earned scholarships through a number of local non-profit organizations to further their education.

A total of eight college students earned paid internships over the course of the project. Additionally, 24 scholarships totaling $48,000 were provided to college students through existing community scholarship programs including the African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Asian Reporter Foundation, Native American Chamber of Commerce, The Skanner Foundation, and the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs’ Youth Summit.

While these scholarships and paid internships provide education and training for the students, they also deliver strong benefits to both the project and the community. Interns bring new ideas, unique perspectives and a strong work ethic to the project. In addition, many of the scholarship recipients and interns will one day return to work in our community, serving as the next generation of entrepreneurs, and supporting our local economy.