Over the past few days, MACDC had two important meetings focused on how we can better leverage our real estate construction projects to create more economic opportunity for the people in our communities.
On Friday, September 22, MACDC members met with leaders from the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association (MMCA) to plan the launch of the “Boston Pilot Program Phase 2”, a multi-year effort to expand opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses on CDC sponsored real estate projects. Phase 2 will build on the success of Phase 1 when six CDCs undertook 12 projects that collectively spent more than $54 million on MBEs and $11 million on WBEs, representing 36 percent and 7 percent of the total development costs. Phase 2 will grow the program to 10 CDCs, 29 projects and total development costs of $634 million. The goal of the program is for CDC projects to utilize MBEs for 30% or more of the project and WBEs for 10% or more of the project, including both hard and soft costs. At the meeting, we talked about strategies for identifying new M/WBEs that could work on CDC projects and holding general contractors accountable for meeting goals. One area where everyone agreed more work was needed was on soft costs (i.e. professional services) where CDCs have a much harder time meeting their M/WBE participation goals.
The following Monday, a group of Boston CDCs met with the new leadership of the New England Regional Council of Carpenter’s to talk about how CDCs can work with the union on their projects. While many CDCs do hire union carpenters on some of their projects, the union has for years advocated that CDCs should do so more often. At the same time, CDCs are under intense budget pressures and often can’t afford to pay union rates. The Union Leaders shared some of their new strategies for being more competitive and we talked about how to establish good lines of communication. The conversation also focused on how we can ensure that all contractors on CDC projects are in full compliance with employment and worker safety laws given the fact that the Attorney General recently reported that the construction industry is the worst industry in the state with respect to wage law compliance. We also heard about efforts by the Union to continue diversifying their workforce and discussed ways that CDCs could help in those efforts.
The conversations underscored the opportunities and challenges associated with leveraging our construction projects for opportunity. We have multiple goals – hiring MBEs and WBEs; achieving high percentage of work hours for local residents and people of color; paying a livable wage and partnering with unions when possible – all while making sure the projects come in on budget and on time. It’s not easy! But these meetings and these partnerships are a key part of our approach to maximizing the positive impact of these projects. No doubt the conversations and work will continue.