Mentoring programs are widely viewed in the construction industry as a win-win situation for both the mentoring organization—whether private sector or government—and the minority- or women-owned enterprise that is mentored. By participating in such programs, the argument goes, mentors create sources for reliable subcontractors. The M/WBEs, meanwhile, benefit from the knowledge and experience of their mentors, which enables them to enhance their ability to compete for contracts. The programs also help to ensure that small construction firms are able to thrive in an industry that is highly competitive.
Mentoring programs vary from organization to organization. For example, some offer bidding opportunities for M/WBEs, as does the New York School Construction Authority’s program (see “Mentoring Minority Businesses”), while others do not. “Our program offers participants the chance to earn as [they] learn,” says Michael Garner, the SCA’s senior director of business development and architect of its Minority Business Development Program.
Some programs provide information on such key issues as bonding, loans and even how to join a union, while others do not. Here’s a look at two mentoring programs.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Mentor/Protégé Program Launched in 2002, the program links minority- or women-owned firms with major prime general contractors who serve as mentors to the M/WBEs for a period of 12 to 24 months. The major prime contractors teach the emerging businesses about the different aspects of the construction industry. In order to become a protégé, says Wil Chabrier, general manager of the Port Authority’s Business and Job Opportunity Office, a company must have passed the Port Authority’s strict vendor certification process and must have completed jobs for the agency. Major New York–area construction companies that participate in the program include Railroad Construction Co. Inc., Turner Construction Co., V.R.H. Construction Corp., Perini Corp., Twin Towers Enterprises Inc., Tully Construction Co. Inc. and Skanska Building USA Inc. Other “primes” in related sectors are Granite Halmar Co. Inc., Kevco Electric Inc., RCC Electric Inc., the Austin Helle Co. Inc. and M.J. Paquet, Inc.
Turner Construction Co.’s Training Program
Turner annually offers a series of free seminars through its Construction Management Training Institute that provide an opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses to further develop and improve their operations while networking with others in the construction industry. Designed exclusively for managers of M/WBEs, the seminars are presented in a classroom setting and cover various aspects of the construction industry—from how to compose an effective business plan to making presentations to potential clients. The seminars are free for participants and are presented primarily by Turner employees, with other industry professionals brought in as needed. Unlike the Port Authority and School Construction Authority programs, Turner requires every subcontractor for the company to be a member of the trade union.
Turner reports that it awarded more than $1 billion worth of construction contracts (more than 2,900 actual contracts) to M/WBEs during 2005, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time.
By Glenn Townes