Thursday, October 9, 2003

Ballpark passed inclusion goal



By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] From left: Eric Schreiner, contract manager for Hunt Construction; LeVon Thompson Jr., chief operating officer of Foxx Construction, and Darraugh Butler, owner of Butler Management, made up the winning team that scored a big hit by exceeding its minority subcontractors goal in building Great American Ball Park.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
The Great American Ball Park produced a winning team in its first season despite the Cincinnati Reds' lackluster performance. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say a winning team produced the ballpark.

A collaborative effort of the Hunt Construction Group, Foxx Construction and D. Butler Management Consulting scored big on inclusiveness, exceeding the goals set by Hamilton County for minority and other small-business participation on the project.

"We were the construction management team," said Darraugh Butler, president of D. Butler Management Consulting, whose firm helps large companies hook up with small, minority and woman-owned companies to achieve diversity goals. "We exceeded (the county's) goal of 15 percent small business enterprise - or SBE - participation. We achieved 37 percent on the $21.4 million Reds ballpark project, 60 percent on the $12.9 million East Parking Garages and 60 percent on the $17.1 million site improvements."

Since construction on the Hall of Fame is still in process, figures are not available for that project.

The term "small business enterprise" is gender- and race-neutral, Butler said. It is applied to businesses that have a net worth of $750,000 or less, which includes many minority- and women-owned companies. Typically, SBEs have limited opportunity to participate in large-scale construction projects, unless someone goes to bat for them, ensuring their access to necessary strategies, information and contacts, Butler said.

Hunt Construction Group, the primary construction manager on the ballpark and related projects, has an excellent record of inclusion, Butler said. From the beginning of the four-phase ballpark project, the company worked with Foxx and D. Butler - both minority-owned businesses in Cincinnati- in seamless fashion. About 10 Foxx employees and two Butler employees blended with more than 30 Hunt employees.

"They provided office space and equipment for us so that we didn't have to purchase anything," Butler said. "We got pagers and cell phones. We were included in all staff meetings and planning sessions."

Said LeVon Thompson, COO of Foxx Construction: "We wanted to ensure smooth points of interface between contractors. There are no territorial disputes. The three of us have common objectives and common operational principles. The customer oftentimes doesn't recognize the difference between talking to Eric (Schreiner) or myself."

"They were part of our team," said Eric Schreiner, a contract manager for Hunt. "Foxx assisted with administration of the project, while Butler administered the small business program."

To overcome barriers to SBE participation, the team implemented specific strategies. A few highlights:

• A comprehensive communications program notified SBEs of meetings and application deadlines online, by letter and by phone. Information was provided as early as possible. When interested businesses couldn't attend informational meetings before the bid-letting process, they got copies of the minutes.

• The construction management team broke down bid packages into narrower scopes of work that small enterprises could undertake; this was especially true in electrical and painting areas, Butler said.

• Participation goals were raised on bid packages for which more SBEs were available to become subcontractors.

• A library was established so that SBEs could borrow project drawings and other documents to review. There was a planning room on the construction site, where engineers were available to answer questions.

• The team worked closely with small-business resource agencies and advocates, such as the African-American Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League, to disseminate information to their membership.

• The team monitored the payment process to make sure that subcontractors' applications for payment were correct and timely and that contractors paid their subcontractors on time.

"We're here first and foremost to service the county and make sure that they get what they paid for," Thompson said. "Enhancing inclusiveness is also a priority for us."

Schreiner said the team's attitude contributed to success.

"We were committed to making sure that at the end of the project, the community was in better shape than at the beginning. We made sure that failure was not an option."

The team is poised to repeat its performance when it manages construction of the Cincinnati Convention Center expansion and renovation, which carries a $100 million price tag. The three players hope they can involve even more small companies.

"What this experience does for an SBE is to provide revenue, and in some cases provide opportunities to broaden their level of expertise," Butler said. "These projects also provide them visibility. We're getting to the point now where big construction companies are beginning to call us."

E-mail jcallison@zoomtown.com



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