With construction projects expected to increase in the post-pandemic world, some minority contractors say two of the area’s largest participation programs may be doing more harm than good to companies and workers from underrepresented groups.
However, union officials and other construction industry insiders say mandates are the best way to ensure the inclusion of people from these groups.
The programs in question are the City of Milwaukee’s Residential Preference Program (RPP) and Milwaukee County’s Target Business Enterprise (TBE) policy, which set geographic or participation goals for members of underrepresented groups who are working on publicly supported projects.
Milwaukee’s program requires that certain percentages of workers on city-backed projects be residents who are unemployed or underemployed. The idea is that because of the city’s diversity, most of those who benefit will be from underrepresented groups.
The county’s program, meanwhile, requires a rough average of 21% participation from a minority- or women-owned business on any construction project that is not transportation-related.
The effectiveness of both programs may come under scrutiny as the city completes a study of its bid-awarding process for all city contracts — including construction — to determine if it is producing inequitable outcomes.