From all of us at the Equity In Infrastructure Project, we hope you had a happy, productive and safe New Year. Looking ahead in 2024, we resolve to work even more urgently–because the times demand it.
Last fall, a federal lawsuit was filed specifically targeting federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, and the Supreme Court's decision last summer against affirmative action in university admissions has the potential to extend into other spaces, including public contracting. EIP, however, works through voluntary commitments by public and private sector CEOs. In any adverse legal outcome, EIP can and will continue to make progress through our coalition of the willing.
While some spent last year seeking to roll back the clock, our coalition of Pledge Signers grew to 56, including 19 state-level DOTs, some of the busiest airports in the world, and the nation’s largest port complex, largest municipal utility, and largest supplier of drinking water.
Through EIP, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) signed a first-of-kind MOU to recognize each others' certified SBEs, serving as a model to prompt broader reciprocity and even a national certification database. The Port of Long Beach broke new ground by hiring its first Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Procurement, which is a model for how agencies can extend DEI principles beyond internal processes and hiring and into procurement, where the bulk of agency resources are spent. And the Denver International Airport has crafted and is generously sharing with its peers a compilation of best practices that other entities may adopt or adapt for themselves.
Additionally, our California Plan, a coalition of the dozen signatories in the state led by CA Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin, kicks off with its first in-person organizing meeting on January 22.
Everything accomplished in 2023 would not be possible without your support, and without the work of our small but mighty team, which this year included two teams of talented interns from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). We previously introduced you to Charles Rackley and Victoria Dada, who supported EIP during the first half of the year. During the latter half of 2023, we were honored to work with Janna Thomas and Myrakal Washington, who attend Prairie View A&M University and Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University, respectively.
Their work included extensive research, including surveying Community Benefits Agreements to identify best practices to help others implement such agreements to create generational wealth, and assessing the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act’s (IIJA) impact on sustainable infrastructure development.
Janna, a Management Information Systems major, said she was drawn to work with EIP because its “focus on increasing contracting opportunities for historically underutilized businesses resonated with my commitment to addressing systemic disparities through a combination of technology and policy initiatives,” and said she believes that “diversity fosters innovation and helps address the unique challenges faced by different communities.”
Myrakal is a political science major who said that “distinct and diverse viewpoints enrich the discipline by challenging existing narratives and broadening the scope of research.” Through her work with EIP, she hopes “to have had a helping hand in developing sustainable efforts that not only meet immediate infrastructure needs, but also contribute to the long-term well-being of underserved communities and the environment.”
We are grateful for Janna and Myrakal’s help, and look forward to sharing their projects with you soon.
EIP IN THE NEWS
- THE BOND BUYER: Equity in Infrastructure Project Gets Pledges From 56 Public Agencies, Private Builders
- ENR: California Infrastructure Leaders Commit to Build Opportunities for Minority Firms
- METRO MAGAZINE: L.A. Metro, AECOM, Lochner, Trades Sign Equity Pledge
- FOX LA: In Depth-Contractors and Shop Local