The State of Minnesota has set ambitious goals for the inclusion of women, ethnic minorities, veterans and lower income residents in large infrastructure developments. They are aimed at ensuring all members of the community have access to procurement opportunities during the design, construction and operation phases.
One government-led program encouraged women and minorities to pursue employment opportunities that were created by the construction of the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. The Stadium is owned and operated by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (the Authority), which was also responsible for its design and build. Completed in 2016, a key objective for the Stadium was to maximise benefits for local communities. Several initiatives that aimed to promote an inclusive agenda were implemented throughout its design, construction and operation. Of note is the Equity Plan which was developed under state mandate to ensure social inclusion.
Initially set up in the design and construction phase and since extended to the operations phase, the Equity Plan includes pragmatic goals to integrate women, minorities and low-income residents into the workforce and to involve women- and minority-owned businesses in design and construction activities. The Equity Plan outlines how to provide employment and equal access to labour market opportunities, and establishes goals for contracts to be awarded to capable, available and willing women- and minority-owned businesses. Veterans and low-income residents were also included in employment initiatives, with much of the engagement led by specialised employment assistance firms.
A robust monitoring approach with a web-based database was established and contractors, subcontractors and vendors were required to submit data in an electronic format. A member of the Authority visited the Stadium’s construction site on a weekly basis to supervise and randomly check on the accuracy of the data provided through the web-based tool. During the construction phase alone, 36% of the jobs were positions held by minorities, 9% by women, and 4% by veterans. In addition, 90% of the construction budget (a total of USD 400 million) was allocated to local businesses, of which 16% were owned by women, 12% were minority-owned and 1% were businesses owned by veterans. This was above the threshold set by the original Equality Plan of 32% minority and 6% women for the workforce and 9% minority owned and 11% women owned business.
Key success factors included strong leadership and a robust governance structure, as well as a collaborative approach and transparent web-based reporting that allowed for continuous monitoring. Identified challenges included the time required to familiarise contractors, subcontractors and vendors with the new approach to monitoring and reporing progress, along with with the need to create a culture supportive of the Equity Plan’s inclusive approach to avoid a return to former practices.
Source: Global Infrastructure Hub