The InSight Minute: Strengthening Communities By Making a Bigger Pie
We have a rare and exciting opportunity in our country right now, and we’re struggling a bit with how to write about it. With everything so politicized, sometimes it’s difficult for all of us to see the significant wins even when they’re right in front of us. So, we’re going to just wade in…
There is an opportunity for working people who have started their own businesses to grow those businesses, expand the economy, create wealth, and help build their communities. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), there is a nonpartisan effort within red and blue states to plan how small and large businesses in communities across the country can help improve our nation’s infrastructure and grow their local economies. It’s often portrayed that for the economy to improve for one sector, another sector must be losing, but this is one time because of this previously unanticipated federal investment there is now actually a bigger pie that can benefit everyone!
The Equity in Infrastructure Project has brought together a diverse set of jurisdictions – from Louisiana and Kansas to California and Illinois – to sign a pledge to leverage IIJA funding to create more opportunities for historically disadvantaged construction businesses — with an important emphasis on prime contracting roles.
“We thought that contracting was one of the ways we could use to increase generational wealth in underserved communities,” said Phil Washington, co-chair of the Equity in Infrastructure Project, at a press event on Oct. 11. “These six [DOTs] represent billions of dollars in infrastructure monies, and billions of dollars in terms of the work that they do in their respective states. So, this pledge to significantly increase minority prime contracting is very, very significant.”
Now is a time where our nation’s infrastructure can serve to bring communities together and benefit our largest construction companies and build capacity and economic growth among small, local, and MWDBE firms, subcontractors, and consultants in these communities. It is unusual for this type of opportunity to come along, and it requires a measure of intentionality to ensure that all can benefit and the Equity in Infrastructure Project pledge is one way to do this.
At SkillSmart, we help track, measure, and demonstrate how the benefits of making investments in local workers and firms can benefit communities and we know that what is measured is what matters. So, we’re pleased to see the pledge and look forward to seeing other organizations make similar commitments. And our team will continue working with these and other jurisdictions and general contractors to grow our nation’s infrastructure and communities, while positively affecting economic development.