Infrastructure leaders pledge to assist minority businesses 

From California Black Media

LOS ANGELES — A group of public and private sector executives have pledged their commitment to ensure that Black and other minority business owners receive a fairer shot at obtaining public contracting opportunities on infrastructure projects. 

Called the Equity in Infrastructure Project Pledge, the agreement is part of the project’s launch of its California Plan Initiative which was unveiled during a forum Nov. 20 hosted by Engineering NewsRecord, a publication widely recognized as “the bible of the construction industry.” The forum convened hundreds of infrastructure leaders from across California and the nation. It also marked the second anniversary of President Joe Biden’s signing of the historic federal infrastructure law. 

The leaders announced that California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin will serve as chair of the California Plan initiative. In his remarks before the signing, Omishakin pointed out the need to move from symbolic acts of inclusion to more material efforts for achieving equity. 

“We can’t just put a policy in place as if it’s good to go,” Omishakin said. “We have to take additional steps like the ones we’re taking today to say we’re committed to making sure this $1.2 trillion that’s coming in from President Biden gets to firms that are often are overlooked as a part of the process.

“Governor Newsom has done a similar effort that also ensures the investments that we’re making across California reach communities that have been overlooked for years,” he added. “Every single person deserves the chance to be successful. It’s an honor for us to be a part of the Equity in Infrastructure Project.” 

The Equity in Infrastructure Project says its mission is to build generational wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap by improving public infrastructure contracting practices to create more prime, joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for historically underutilized businesses, according to the group’s website.

The pledge has now been signed by 55 heads of transit authorities, airports, ports, water districts and engineering firms from across the country, and the White House has directly called upon Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grantees to sign the pledge. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell introduced the unanimously approved motion that committed the county to the pledge. 

“We commit to tripling the total number of certified small businesses in L.A. County with a special emphasis on infrastructure servicing small minority businesses,” Mitchell said. “We are establishing a $2 million revolving loan fund to support startup costs as small businesses obtain county contracts and we will create a network of small business advocates with each county department and empower them to advance small business goals and inclusive procurement practices.

“We must ensure that our small and minority firms have the technical assistance they need to access these career-changing government contracts,” she added.

The pledge also was signed by leaders of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and officials from the Los Angeles City Port, Airport, Department of Water and Power and other officials from cities around the region.