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Industry executives, suppliers and stakeholders joined ABC members for the third annual ABC Diversity & Inclusion Summit in Washington, D.C., on June 19-20.

The program was headlined by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson and included sessions on diversity and inclusion success stories, the Tuskegee University architecture and construction science program and the impact of ABC’s Safety Training Evaluation Process (STEP) on MBE companies.

Secretary Carson delivered an address to summit attendees on the value that contractors can bring to furthering HUD’s mission to make home ownership a reality for all Americans in a time when that dream has become an economic glass ceiling for many families. “ABC is such an important part of what makes America work,” Carson remarked. “My biggest expectation is that they [contractors] will get heavily engaged with Section 3…recognizing that everyone in this country is going to be part of the engine, or part of the load.” 

On June 19, keynote speaker Nancy Giordano, futurist, strategist and founder/CEO of Play Big, Inc., Austin, Texas, kicked off the summit with “The Case for Disruptive Thinking,” encouraging leaders to be more experimental in the ways they create value for society. Jobs of the future must incorporate technology, flexibility and creative thinking to attract diverse talent and stay ahead of rapidly changing workplace models. “We can't be trying to fit [potential employees] into a structure from the 1980s and 1990s that isn’t necessarily working now,” she said.

Giordano engaged in a Q&A with Larry Lopez, chair of ABC’s Diversity Committee and founder of Baltimore-based Green JobWorks, who led a networking session for audience members to meet with employers including Balfour Beatty, Clark Construction, Hitt Contracting, Hensel Phelps and Turner Construction. 

Joanne Brooks, vice president & counsel, Surety and Fidelity Association of America, moderated “Diversity Success Stories,” a session during which panelists shared insights on challenges they overcame as well as best practices for MBE companies. Speakers included Brooke Wenger, director of business development of Warehaus, York, Pa.; James Keaney, Jr., president of Diversity Construction Group, Cheshire, Conn.; and Patricia Bonilla, president of Lunacon Construction Group, Miami.

A panel of representatives from ABC’s strategic partners, including Autodesk, CNA, Dexter + Chaney, The Contractors Plan, Tradesmen International and United Rentals, discussed how they can help ABC member companies win and deliver construction projects safely, ethically and profitably. 

Additionally, speaker Erick W. Harris Esq., of the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees, discussed the rich history of Tuskegee University and its Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science program, paying particular attention to the quality graduates of that program who are ready to enter the workforce. 

Finally, in “ABC Safety Academy,” ABC President and CEO Mike Bellaman led a discussion with Diane Koester-Byron, president of I.E.-Pacific, Inc., Excondido, Calif.; and Kirby Wu, president of Wu & Associates Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., on how ABC’s STEP program helped them transform their company cultures, deploy industry best practices and achieve world-class results. Koester-Byron and Wu agreed that achieving STEP Diamond and Platinum status, respectively, has helped to make each of their companies safer, more competitive and more profitable. 

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.