Paving The Way: A Future Of Equity In Louisville’s Construction Projects

Jan 30, 2023

Introduction:

As the buzzing sounds of construction sites continue to echo through the streets of Louisville, the reality of minority inclusion—or lack thereof—in these major projects has become a topic of critical importance. The recent segment of ‘Russell on the Move!’ on December 21, 2023 has shed light on this pressing issue. Hosts Kevin Fields, Sr. and Herbert Johnson adeptly steered a discussion with guests Carl Brazley and Vincel Anthony of 7PM Group, LLC that explored the crucial need for intentionality and accountability in minority inclusion within Louisville’s burgeoning construction industry. In the heart of Louisville, a clarion call for equity and intentional minority inclusion in construction projects resonates strongly on a topic that holds the key to catalyzing sustainable change in the realm of construction management and supplier development within Louisville’s Black community. This blog post encapsulates the key themes of that insightful conversation and what it portends for the future of equity in construction projects in Louisville and beyond.

Critical Importance of 7PM Group:

The co-founders of the 7PM Group, named poignantly after the biblical symbol of perfection, speak to the significance of their personal and professional commitments to corporate business endeavors. They emphasized their commitment to pressing Kentucky to exemplify inclusivity and to valiantly guard against Louisville’s “brain drain” by cherishing the local capacities of minority contractors. The rich industry insights of Anthony and Brazley help to paint a vivid picture of the economic landscape’s exclusive tendencies. As expert project managers and business intellectuals, our guests seek to deconstruct the complexities faced by minority contractors in securing their share of lucrative multi-billion dollar construction projects. Clients of 7PM Group are steered towards the ever-urgent need for intentional spending within the African American business sector.

Economics of Minority Contractor Participation:

The discussion underscores the reality that, despite set goals for minority and women-owned business participation—15% and 8-10% respectively—the actual figures are falling woefully short. It points to the lack of intentionality and commitment at various levels, from the city government to corporate entities, as the root cause of this disparity. The discussion stresses the importance of African American businesses being prepared for and insisting upon “fair-share” inclusion in the economic of major construction projects, while the community as a whole holds projects accountable for minority participation when opportunities arise.

Best Practice in Contractor/Supplier Diversity, Equity & Inclusion:

The Norton West Louisville Hospital project is hailed as a beacon of hope, exemplifying what can be achieved when project owners, like Norton Healthcare, make a conscious effort to ensure minority participation in their endeavors. Other projects, including the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex and the KFC YUM! Center, we also touted and DEI success stories, as a result of their achieving higher levels of minority-owned and women-owned business participation. In each of these projects, the respective owners made minority participation a requirement and put operating measures in place to make sure this objective was achieved.

Policy & Advocacy:

Shifting focus to policy, the discussion addressed the gaps between aspiration, accountability and action, highlighting the importance Louisville Metro Governments’s role in enacting and enforcing policies that could potentially establish unambiguous expectations and standards for minority inclusion in contracting. This narrative is one of accountability, intentionality, and civic empowerment. The 7PM duo emphasized the urgency of establishing clear policies and enforcement mechanisms. This is not only to guarantee fair participation but also to maintain Louisville’s reputation as an evolving, inclusive city. In this vein, Mayor Craig Greenberg’s role was highlighted, with expectations for him to embrace initiatives to raise the standards for minority participation in contracting. The call also extends to government and corporation levels, demanding advocacy initiatives that carry weight and drive real change.

Future Outlook:

As we step into 2024, the conversations around policy and sustainable practices for inclusion continue to gain momentum. With major projects like Churchill Downs expansion, Waterfront Park Phase IV, Reimagine 9th Street, and the Baptist East expansion on the horizon, it is imperative that a pledge to not only dream of a more inclusive future but to actively build the road toward it. Not to be overlooked, and certainly not unmentioned by the ‘Russell on the Move!’ experts, is the grassroots impact of such initiatives.  The question remains: how do we ensure that these discussions translate into concrete actions that leave a lasting impact? Accountability starts with conversation, but it must evolve into concerted, concrete strategies that all stakeholders adopt—from community leaders to business owners, and from policy-makers to the workers laying the foundations of our city’s infrastructure. A future of equity in Louisville’s construction projects is within reach if we recognize the power inherent in each decision we make, in each policy we advocate for, and in each contract we award.

Conclusion:

The message of this podcast is clear: the road to equity is one we must pave together, with persistence, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to the principle that a community’s prosperity is measured by the inclusivity of its economic practices. Louisville is carving out its path toward a future where opportunity isn’t just a possibility—it’s a given, and the sound of construction will become a harmony of progress for all. Kevin Fields, Sr., navigated the dialogue towards the crux of minority inclusion, shedding light on the disparity between goals and reality. With aspiring percentages set for minority and women-owned businesses, the journey towards actualizing the goals of 15% and 8-10% participation, respectively, is fraught with hurdles. However, the local projects that have emerged as an exemplar are those with that have owner’s who insist upon and enforce the achievement of minority participation goals. A concern remains that this is the exception rather than the rule withing the local contruction project managment industry which too often results in many large projects falling short of intentional inclusivity.This episode underscored the potency of policy and advocacy as vehicles to drive and entrench minority participation. Emphasis was place on the endurance of inclusion policies that straddle successive governmental administrations and the pressing need for those holding the reins – the project owners – to practice integrity in enforcing such policies, in both public and private sectors. The podcasts gives perspectives on the importance of intentional outreach and engagement efforts on the part of project leaders to promote contracting and workforce participation opportunities that can beneft the Black community, as foundational elements to uplift minority businesses.The episode’s curtain drew to a close with calls for donations to honor 75 years of impactful service by the Louisville Central Community Centers. The 75-year Aniversary challenge launched by the Louisville Central Community Centers is a testament to the enduring spirit of advocacy in the community.


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