The state of North Carolina sets a goal of having at least 10 percent participation of minority- and women-owned businesses on all construction projects.
In Charlotte, minorities have made up the majority of its 752,000 population since 2011, and women account for more than half. And there, Balfour Beatty Construction is part of a construction team that this month was selected to build a 146,000-square-foot, 400-bed freshman residential hall, which that team will start in December on the South Village area of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s campus.
The team has established a goal of 25 percent minority- and woman-owned business participation in total for this $27 million project, going far beyond the state’s 10 percent goal.
Calvin Stevens, Balfour Beatty’s Southeast region director of diversity, who also is director of business development in North Carolina, tells Multifamily Executive that a market’s demographic profile typically determines the diversity of a project’s subcontractors and suppliers.
He points to another student housing project at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.—whose population is less diverse or concentrated than Charlotte’s—where Balfour Beatty and its construction partners met its diversity goal of 14 percent. Balfour Beatty is also part of construction team—which includes C2 Contractors (a leading minority-owned business) and D.H. Griffin Construction—that set a 30 percent minority and women participation goal for a 175,000-square-foot Student Union on the campus of North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University in Raleigh. That project is scheduled to start next February.
All told, Balfour Beatty’s student housing projects in Carolina have averaged nearly 28 percent minority- and women-owned business participation. That includes the Centennial Student Center its construction team is building for North Carolina State, a six-building, 1,150-bed complex that includes a 20,000-square-foot, 400-seat dining facility.
Being able to show a diverse supply chain and workforce is a prerequisite for multifamily builders nationwide to bid on certain projects, particularly those with government purse strings. But promoting diversity can also be a marketing weapon. The multifamily builder/developer Bozzuto Group, for one, makes the point on its website that one-quarter of its portfolio has utilized companies certified as a Local, Small, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Minority Business Enterprise, or Women’s Business Enterprise.
In markets across the country, demographics are the starting point for setting diversity goals on construction projects. However, achieving targets varies widely in by state and municipality. For example, Bloomberg recently reported that 92 percent of the $2.1 billion in construction contracts awarded by the city of Los Angeles in 2012 went to companies owned by white men, who account for 14 percent of that city’s population. Another 8 percent went to minority- and women-owned firms, well under the city’s stated goal of 22 percent and significantly below the 71 percent of L.A.’s population that minorities represent.
It’s not like minority- or women-owned construction related businesses aren’t out there, either. Stevens says that Balfour Beatty—which ranked 9th in total housing units started on the MFE Top 50 list for 2012—has never missed one of its participation targets, and has always been able to find suitable partners.
In the case of the residence hall at UNC-Charlotte, Balfour Beatty is working with Metcon, Inc., a Pembroke, N.C.-based commercial builder that is Native-American owned. In 2011, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency awarded Metcon its National Minority Construction Firm of the Year.
A bonus for Balfour Beatty, says Stevens, is that Metcon has experience building with the wall and floor systems that this project’s architects and designers favor. “This is a technical and strategic partnership,” says Stevens. MFE was unable to contact Aaron Thomas, Metcon’s president, for comment. But in a prepared statement, Thomas said his team “brings together the right combination of talent, purpose and alignment to deliver outstanding results for UNC Charlotte.”
This is Balfour Beatty’s second go-round on this campus. It was also involved in the construction of the university’s Student Union, which includes dining, retail and entertainment services. The residence hall is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2015. Balfour Beatty did not disclose the cost of this project.
Stevens says that Balfour Beatty’s diversity efforts extend to its internal operations. (Its U.S. division is based in Dallas and is active in 43 states. In five states—North Carolina, California, Tennessee, Texas and Florida—it is currently building student housing.) The company regularly recruits at women- and minority-oriented colleges, and is striving to increase the number of managers in both groups through executive training programs and individual mentoring.
John Caulfield is senior editor with MFE’s sister publication BUILDER.