André Baugh is the diversity coordinator for the Sellwood Bridge Project. Baugh will oversee Multnomah County’s diversity plan, which outlines how the project will address diversity and equity in the bridge’s workforce and contracting. The plan was proposed by the general contractor, Slayden/Sundt, and approved by the county.
What are the diversity oversight program goals for the Sellwood Bridge Project?
The first is that 20 percent of the contracted dollars will go to businesses owned by minorities and women or emerging small businesses. The second goal the county has on this project is workforce development. As part of its workforce development, it requires that 20 percent of the workforce will be apprentices on contracts $100,000 and above. It’s a training mechanism for people who want to get into the construction industry. The third is asking, “What does that workforce look like?” The county wants to have a workforce that represents the surrounding area. It has set a 14 percent target for female participation for the overall workforce and 20 percent minority participation. Again, it’s to bring minorities and women into the workforce to give them an opportunity for living and family wages.
Which groups does this program target?
The diversity plan targets four different types of groups: disadvantaged business enterprises, which is a federal designation; and minorities, women and emerging small businesses.
Why is it important to make this effort to reach out to these types of firms and their employees?
The county is looking for an avenue to increase their capability and capacity for them to grow, and, honestly, to hire more people. The county is very interested in promoting small businesses, minority businesses, women businesses and disadvantaged businesses as a way to increase prosperity in the county and surrounding areas. There’s recognition nationally, on a federal government level, that these programs help minority and women communities who have faced obstacles throughout our history. This is a way to help them be more competitive in the market so that they get more experience, more opportunity to work. Multnomah County wants to support local small businesses and workers on this project. The diversity plan is one mechanism to make sure this happens.
How will smaller companies, which may not have as many resources, qualify and compete for contracts?
We are going to look at contracts of different bid package sizes up to $500,000. A sidewalk package that may be $1 million may be broken into smaller packages. It may give a contractor at a smaller company who can do a $75,000 job or one who can do $300,000 a chance to work. There’s going to be a lot of subcontractors. Those are all opportunities to mentor, assist and make those contractors successful, and to provide some knowledge transfer of how they do business.
What opportunities will be available to these small businesses that are hired for the Sellwood Bridge Project?
There is support and technical assistance available. On the workforce side, they can get some help around workforce, business practices and they can potentially also enter into a mentorship program. No matter what, they are supported by the contractor who has the technical assistance and outreach available. It’s an opportunity to get experience on a bridge project. This is a great opportunity to work with a recognized bridge builder in Oregon, Slayden/Sundt, to gain some experience. As part of the Slayden/Sundt plan, it is willing to invest time in personnel and transfer knowledge of how to work on a big project. The county does have other bridges that it has to maintain, and many of the skills will be transferrable to those projects, as well as other local highway projects.
How will the county keep tabs on whether it’s meeting its diversity oversight program goals?
Part of my role will be to review the progress on the goals that we’ve talked about. We’ve created an online database for the community that will detail progress on each of these goals. We’re looking at upcoming bids that may be coming out, and if for some reason there’s a goal that is not being met, we look at what corrective action we’re taking so that we’re compliant.
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