- Clark Construction Group has launched a small business initiative designed to expand opportunities for disadvantaged construction firms, even on projects where inclusion goals are not mandated.
- The SDBE15 program is designed to foster greater participation by small, disadvantaged-, minority- and women-owned businesses on Clark's construction projects nationwide, according to a press release.
- Through the program, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company has committed to achieve at least 15% small or disadvantaged business participation on all jobs — even those that don't include small business requirements. This approach includes subcontracts at all tiers to promote opportunities for the greatest number of firms, the release said.
The SDBE15 program is designed to expand and strengthen Clark's existing network and foster long-term relationships with a range of diverse business partners, and is projected to generate approximately $250 million for small and disadvantaged businesses annually.
Other large construction firms have announced similar diversity-focused initiatives in recent months. For instance, AECOM's "Sustainable Legacies" program, launched in April, includes goals toward developing project teams that reflect the clients and communities it serves and partnering with small and medium enterprises to generate social value through positive community investments.
To define a subcontractor's eligibility, Clark will utilize existing federal, state or local government certifications. The company's construction projects with previously stated small business participation goals that exceed 15% will not be subject to this new standard. Clark's project teams will work in conjunction with the company's dedicated Subcontractor Development Group, as well as estimating and purchasing teams, to develop in-depth subcontracting plans for these small businesses that extend from the pursuit phase through project delivery.
The SDBE15 program is part of Clark's holistic approach to developing and mentoring small and disadvantaged business enterprises, and complements the company's established Strategic Partnership Program, an intensive executive MBA-style development course targeted to small business owners and leaders. The skills- and capacity-building program, which is now entering its 15th year, has more than 1,250 graduates and is offered in eight markets across the country.
Clark has long provided opportunities for disadvantaged contractors to work on major projects. On the $1.5 billion Kansas City Airport's new terminal project (pictured above) last year, Clark-owned developer Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate and its design-build partner, Clark | Weitz | Clarkson, provided a range of support to more than 100 minority- and women-owned contractors.
With the goal of 20% MBE participation and 15% WBE participation, the team employed a variety of programs to remove barriers that typically impact these types of businesses from securing contracts to work on projects of this magnitude, Geoff Stricker, Edgemoor senior managing director, told Construction Dive.
The project team set up a "Pay Without Delay" program to ensure those firms are paid within 14 days for their completed work.
The Edgemoor team's initiative also offered mentoring and workforce training programs and arranged for low-interest loans to help small firms acquire equipment and working capital.
"We really try to address all the issues that affect men and women who want to work in construction, both from a personal standpoint and a business aspect," said Stricker. "We realize that with large contracts like these, minority- and women-owned businesses and other small businesses can take on a great scope of work if given the opportunity."