The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) was awarded a Diversity Inclusion Organizational Excellence Award for their leadership with the use of minority and women owned business enterprises (MWBE) and use of women and minorities in the trades. For the construction of the Mississippi River Bridge, MODOT conducted community roundtables and developed strategies for both work force and supplier diversity. These included prompt payment of contractors, breaking out bid packages, and mentoring. MODOT provides resources for development of women and minority business enterprises through business coaching programs, the Business Assistance Center and needs assessment. The agency hosts early pre-bid meetings and mixers and provides compliance specialists to facilitate networking for inclusion of women and minority business participation on projects.
A Diversity Inclusion Organizational Excellence Award was also presented to Stifel Bank & Trust for their leadership efforts with affordable financing of construction for minority owned firms. Stifel is providing financial resources for the fund and contributing other resources including time, contacts and management level support for the creation and management of the Contractor Loan Fund.
The Minority and Woman Business Enterprise of the Year Award was presented to Simms Building Group, a minority owned general contractor that has gone beyond good faith efforts to maximize use of women and minority owned firms. Examples of their efforts include the Sara Redevelopment project on which Simms celebrated 56% minority business participation and 8% women owned firms. For the Cortex streetscape improvements, Simms garnered 59% minority business participation and 83% from woman owned firms. To achieve these results, Simms successfully used business assistance resources, such as those provided by the Minority Business Council and the St. Louis DBE office. Simms provided early notice of bid opportunities to facilitate inclusion, broke out subcontracts into economically viable units which small women and minority owned firms could handle.
The Diversity Inclusion Champion awards were presented to Beth Baron of the Missouri Women in Trades (MOWIT), Dennis Lower of CORTEX and Ron Unterreiner of Rhodey Construction.
Beth Barton is a carpenter and project superintendent at Tarlton Corp. She’s a member of the Carpenters union with 11 years working as a carpenter. She also serves as President of the nonprofit Missouri Women in Trades (MOWIT). Barton has been instrumental in programs such as Girl Scout Badge Days and round up days, teaching construction skills and confidence. She has also been an instructor in the Tools for Success construction camp, a Ranken Technical College summer adventure camp for middle school girls. Barton has mentored a female carpenter apprentice for 6 months and inspired a documentary film, titled “Hard Hatted Women” on the challenges faced by women who want to work in the trades.
Dennis Lower heads up the CORTEX development as President and CEO of the district board. He leads efforts to develop and implement programs to boost the inclusion of women and minorities in the $100 million current construction in the district as well as future developments. His leadership includes partnering with St. Louis City, banks, contractors, owners and community organizations for development of the $10 million Contractor Loan Fund. This fund will help women and minority owned firms finance construction through establishment of banking relationships, secure lines of credit, and provide assistance in business management as firms graduate into more stable and self-sustaining business enterprises. He uses CORTEX to incorporate diversity inclusion goals on projects that meet or exceed those required by the city and requires regular public reporting of performance toward achieving goals to identify opportunities for improvement. Results include exceeding goals for women and minority business participation and workforce on the CORTEX Commons and Streetscape project. CORTEX is also substantially meeting or exceeding goals for the 10 construction projects completed or currently underway.
Ron Unterreiner is Vice President at Rhodey Construction and has provided leadership to establish the PEOPLE organization. Thru PEOPLE, he gathers minority and majority contractors, as well as Owners, into working relationships that can lead to profitable work and improving communities. PEOPLE has successfully introduced multiple teaming relationships and opened doors for minority owned firms to stand on the same stage as majority contractors in competition for work. Among Ron Unterreiner’s other accomplishments, he leads or actively participates in several industry groups to promote inclusion, including the Associated General Contractors Diversity Committee, a task force to build capacity, Chair of the Construction Careers Center Board and member of the Regional Union Construction Center Advisory Board.
Best practices in the construction industry were also recognized by the St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers (SLCCC) during the annual awards.
The St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers (SLCCC) is the owner organization representing major buyers of construction. SLCCC serves as the owners’ voice for design and construction to champion the promotion of project delivery best practices through education, information dissemination and collaboration.