By Erin L. Branham, National Director, Brand and Communications, Balfour Beatty
Construction firm Balfour Beatty is proving that one company and one vision of bringing greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) of veterans to the construction industry can change our communities—one mission at a time.
On the $38 million Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty’s mission encompassed far more than delivering 62,000 square feet of state-of-the-art educational space within an accelerated five-month schedule. Balfour Beatty awarded nearly 13 percent, or $5,000,000, in contracts to the growing San Diego Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) community, more than doubling the school district’s 6 percent project participation goal.
Partnering to Achieve Mutual Success
To achieve such a dynamic DVBE participation on the Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty leveraged a multi-phase strategy that began with developing targeted bid packages during preconstruction.
On all projects, the company invests time ensuring DVBEs understand the full scope, which in turn positions them to create best-value bids. On many occasions, DVBEs contract as second-tier trade partners, so it is critical to establish clear participation goals for the entire supply chain.
Over the last five years, Balfour Beatty has partnered with DVBE IO Environmental on five projects, developing a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
“Operationally, we’ve had a fantastic experience working Balfour Beatty’s estimating and project management teams,” says Mike Bilodeau, president of IO Environmental, who served in the Coast Guard and was also an environmental specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “As a DVBE partner for Balfour Beatty on San Diego Unified School District projects, we feel like we’re actually part of a team instead of just another subcontractor. They have been incredibly supportive of our small business needs, especially with new contracting mechanisms that require complex paperwork.”
As the former owner of a tilt-up concrete company, senior vice president and one of Balfour Beatty’s California education market leads, Tim Berry recognizes the unique challenges small businesses face. Across the industry, contractors operate on consistently thin margins. For small businesses, many of which are family-owned operating on low reserves, maintaining a consistent cash flow can be just as critical to success as profit. Balfour Beatty minimizes risk by promptly processing change orders and assisting with the submission of accurate and timely pay applications.
“Getting to know Balfour Beatty’s systems and procedures has really helped us become more efficient—not only for production but also for our end customers,” says Dan Parker, U.S. Air Force veteran and operations manager, IO Environmental.
As an owner that places tremendous value on the inclusion of emerging business enterprises (EBE), the San Diego Unified School District has repeatedly entrusted its capital construction projects to Balfour Beatty—a people-first contractor that shares its commitment to creating workplaces in which diverse backgrounds, perspectives and talents contribute to shared success. Over the past five years, Balfour Beatty has completed five projects for the school district and currently has six under construction.
Across all projects, San Diego Unified School District’s mandatory EBE participation goal is 50 percent, which includes 5 percent for DVBEs—statistics that vastly exceed that of most public and private owners. But Balfour Beatty’s San Diego-based Minority Business Development Specialist Annie Del Rio predicts that such goals will become standard in the future, thanks to expanding DE&I workforce initiatives.
“I believe we’re ahead of the curve,” praises Del Rio of Balfour Beatty’s DE&I efforts. “In working with the federal government, we are challenged to target nearly 70 percent participation.”
Advancing the Cause of Veteran Inclusion
Across its U.S. operations, Balfour Beatty has taken actionable steps to advance the inclusion of veterans. From visiting military bases to collaborating with the Veterans Administration Transition Assistance Program and recruitment firms that specialize in placing veterans, Balfour Beatty recognizes the critical role veterans will play in shaping the future of an industry facing an unprecedented labor shortage.
“Our industry is starving for leaders,” says Jordan Webster, U.S. Army combat medic veteran and Balfour Beatty’s Dallas-based safety health & environment director. “The military provides a continuous source of disciplined, committed professionals with the ability to quickly adapt and perform at high levels in the positions we need to fill.”
In California, Balfour Beatty’s outreach efforts are also focused on removing barriers some firms face to procuring work, including achieving state certification as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or DVBE and meeting prequalification standards.
The construction company’s momentum within the DVBE community reflects the company’s passionate and sustained commitment to expanding DE&I efforts. As contractors reimagine partnership models with project stakeholders and their communities, Balfour Beatty will continue to ensure the industry provides equal opportunities for every person who desires to play a role in building its bright future.