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About 80 industry executives, suppliers and stakeholders joined ABC members for the second annual Diversity & Inclusion Summit in Washington, D.C., on June 22.The half-day program included sessions on creating value for Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), the benefits of developing joint ventures with MBE partners and the cultural advantages of promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry and in the community.

From left to right: ABC President and CEO Michael Bellaman; Michael Russell, H.J. Russell Co.; Eric Krueger, Balfour Beatty; Chrystal Stowe, Smoot Construction Co.; Linda Graves, Gilbane Building Co.; Amber Peebles, Athena Corp.; Brad Lewis, Hensel Phelps

ABC Diversity Committee Chair Lenee Koch, executive vice president of LEI Companies Inc., opened the summit and introduced ABC President and CEO Mike Bellaman, who presented the results of the 2016 Safety Performance Report on best practices for construction safety programs. 

The second session, “Secrets for Creating Value for MBE Companies,” featured MBE executives Kirby Wu, president of Wu and Associates Inc.; Lenee Koch; Larry Lopez, president of Green JobWorks; and Tish Barker, president of Haley-Greer Inc.; discussing the importance of creating a productive, safe and culturally diverse workplace. The panelists told personal stories of how they moved from failure to success by learning from past business ventures and creating personalized best practices for project management and staff and supplier recruitment. 

In “Winning Work: Project Joint Venture Strategies with MBE Partners,” panelists shared expertise on how to become an attractive joint venture partner. Moderated by Bellaman, speakers included Brad Lewis, director of supplier diversity of the Mid Atlantic District of Hensel Phelps; Amber Peebles, president of Athena Corp.; Michael Russell, CEO of H.J. Russell Co.; Eric Krueger, senior vice president for the Central Region for Balfour Beatty; Chrystal Stowe, director of business development of Smoot Construction Co.; and Linda Graves, director of diversity for Gilbane Building Co. 

Strategies for developing strong and long-lasting partnerships include:

Understand a company’s worth prior to creating a new partnership.

Don’t accept the first offer too quickly. Take time to research companies that have similar company goals. 

Miscommunication within a joint venture may be a sign that the partnership will be short-lived. 

Shying away from partnerships with private developers may do more harm than good in the long run.

Establishing effective governance practices and understanding the strengths of both parties will help create a respected, successful partnership.

The final panel, “How the Big League Succeeds with Supplier Diversity,” moderated by Michele Howell, vice president business development of Aon, featured  Shannon Brown, senior vice president of human resources for FedEx; Gerrod Desselle, director of real estate construction for Walmart; Luwanda Jenkins, vice president of community relations & diversity for the Cordish Companies; and Ellen Rowan, program manager at Aon Risk Services. They discussed how supplier diversity fits in to their corporate strategies and creates a positive impact in the construction industry and in the community.
The summit continued with an inside look at the $6 billion in projects taking place at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Frank Rucker, P.E., assistant general manager of planning and development at the airport, displayed construction plans for more parking, cargo expansion and renovated support facilities expected to be completed in 2030. 

Bellaman concluded the Diversity & Inclusion Summit by expressing his excitement about the industry’s embrace of initiatives to expand diversity and inclusiveness in the construction industry and reiterated ABC’s commitment to this goal.