What does inclusion look like?

The new BART headquarters is now being built in downtown Oakland – made by the people and for the people. Several Oakland-grown Black contractors are on the project, including Red Dipper Electric and Metro Contract Group. This means money is circulating in the community for the community for Black workers, like those pictured here working on the BART HQ, and Black-owned companies. Turner Construction Co., who was awarded the bid, committed to achieving a 10 percent goal for Black and African American-owned businesses and is making good on that promise. – Photo: Big Mouth Productions

by Bianca Johnson, Community and Citizenship Director, Turner Construction Co.

The structural inequalities in public and private institutions have exacerbated the American crisis in healthcare, income distribution, food insecurity and homelessness, just to name a few.

Oakland citizens are becoming more actively engaged in construction projects being proposed in their community, which impact their quality of life and contribute to the public good.

One such construction project is the new Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Headquarters to be located in downtown Oakland. Taking steps toward greater operational efficiency, BART is in the process of a $58 million renovation of an existing building that will become their new home in the summer of 2021.

“This is a historic opportunity for small businesses to be part of a construction project that reaffirms our organization’s connection with the East Bay,” stated Maceo Wiggins, director of the BART Office of Civil Rights. 

“We’ve been headquartered in Oakland for many years and with the acquisition of this new building we’re going to remain headquartered in Oakland, and we’re making sure small businesses are a key part of this project,”

BART and the HQ project participants solicited proposals from three different general contractors. Turner Construction Co., a global building contractor with a 50-year presence in the Bay Area, was awarded a contract to design and build the project in less than a year. They met all technical requirements and proposed a diverse project team, but this was not enough – specifically with respect to local Black and African American businesses and contractors.

BART ensured community engagement and Turner Construction worked collaboratively with the African American Chambers to increase minority participation.

After engaging a number of business associations and trade groups representing Black and African American business owners and BART leadership, Turner Construction Co. committed to achieving a 10 percent goal for Black and African American-owned businesses. 

Merrill Bowers, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction, stated: “We are dedicated to our community and all communities that BART serves. Proposition 209 certainly does not limit the outreach and engagement efforts of Turner, nor does the lack of state or city mandated goals for the project limit us from establishing and meeting our own.”

He further stated that because the project delivery method is “design-build,” Turner has more flexibility to open up opportunities for smaller contractors.

This inclusion represents an enormous opportunity for the Oakland-based, Black-owned construction firms and the Black workers they employ. Ensuring a diverse workforce behind this publicly funded project represents a win-win for all the parties involved and demonstrates that inclusion, diversity and equity are elements that enhance the quality of life in our communities.

Red Dipper Electric, a DBE, MBE, LBE, SLEB, LIABE and SBE, was one of the local Black-owned contractors selected for the project. Doug Parrish, CEO of Red Dipper Electric, recognized the importance of these inclusion efforts and how it will positively impact more than just his firm. 

Black photographers document Black workers! – Photo: Big Mouth Productions

“We are elated to be included on a project that will have an enormous impact in Oakland by bringing jobs and contracts,” said Parrish. “BART ensured community engagement and Turner Construction worked collaboratively with the African American Chambers to increase minority participation, which will certainly improve the health and welfare of this community.”

Another Black-owned contractor on the project is Metro Contract Group, a DBE, MBE and SBE full-service contract furniture dealership based in Oakland. Dwight Jackson, president and CEO of Metro Contract Group, reflects on his experience.

“It’s our pleasure to work with BART and Turner Construction on this important and exciting project for our local region. We look forward to working with Turner and contributing to the future of our local transit district. We also appreciate Turner Construction and BART’s outreach and inclusion to small, diverse vendors – initiatives that Metro supports.”

Furthermore, three of these Black-owned firms on the BART HQ project have also enrolled and successfully graduated from the spring 2021 Turner School of Construction Management Program (TSCM). The TSCM program is a free, seven-week program, designed to prepare diverse, women-owned, veteran, disabled, LGBTQ and small business contractors for future business opportunities. 

This program, delivered by Turner Construction management staff, is designed to help firms improve their economic viability by enhancing managerial, technical and administrative skills while promoting dialogue, access and connection. TSCM, generously sponsored by Union Bank, will be offered again in the fall of 2021.

To learn more about Turner’s UBE initiatives or to prequalify, please contact Bianca Johnson, community and citizenship director, at bfjohnson@tcco.com.

About the photographer: Big Mouth Productions is a Black woman-owned business based in San Francisco and Oakland founded by Karwanna Dyson. What started as just a dream has now evolved into a small business where you can get video production, photography, graphic and web design services, specializing in construction photography. Karwanna is a first-generation college graduate in her family and has achieved great milestones as an independent business owner, wife and mother. Learn more at bigmouthproductions.pixieset.com and get in touch by email info@bigmouthproductionssf.com or phone 888-694-6446, ext. 3.