Increasingly, local, state, and federal projects and private projects have significant minority participation goals to create business opportunities for disadvantaged enterprises. But opportunity is more than just the job. Project owners expect more sustainable minority enterprises to emerge from their projects, ready to succeed even more on their next assignment. That’s why mentor/protégé programs are such an effective tool to deliver more enduring value in projects with minority goals.

Emblematic of the reliance on mentor/protégé programs was the award-winning Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in Downtown St. Louis. Completed in 2014, the project earned the 2013 American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Value Engineering Award and was also spotlighted in American DBE Magazine in an article entitled “Mississippi River’s New Gateway to Inclusion.” The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) made developing sustainable minority contractors a priority and selected PayneCrest to mentor BRK Electric on the project.

BRK has a well-respected proficiency in electrical contracting, but had never encountered a project with the complexities of the Musial Bridge. It required orchestrating work with two states, two power companies, different bridge and approach construction management and five railroad companies, not to mention managing the inherent hazards of bridge work.

But with challenge came the opportunity to leverage PayneCrest’s best practices to help BRK advance its skills through Alternative Technical Concepts on the design/bid/build project. The innovative approach delivered reduced cost, time, and hazards in the bridge’s construction and resulted in:

  • Designing and installing the first-ever application of a cable tray system on a Missouri bridge, saving the project more than a $1 million. Cable tray was safer to install, made maintenance easier and safer while accommodating the contraction and expansion of the bridge.
  • Completing all electrical work without a loss time injury in 20,000 manhours worked.
  • Overcoming limited access due to levees, flood walls, and the fluctuating river by carefully coordinating work and material staging.
  • Utilizing a mobile hydra platform for cable pulling beneath the bridge.
  • Effectively managing fluctuating manpower of two IBEW unions in two states while complying with portability rules.
  • Meticulous bookkeeping for a two-state taxpayer funded project.

In the end, the electric work achieved 50% minority and 10% women participation, exceeding its 25% and 7% goals respectively. Randy Hitt, MODOT project director for the Musial Bridge, remarked that “because of PayneCrest’s dedication to mentoring BRK, St. Louis has minority electrical contractor steeped in ‘best practices’ in the industry and more fully capable of executing highly complex transportation projects.”

Minority participation goals are more than just a number. It should also deliver the enduring value possible with an effective mentor protégé program that helps disadvantage firms develop untapped skills to increase their capabilities and improve performance on their next project.

January 21, 2015