Laying Tracks, Connecting Communities

May 1, 2015

By The Metropolitan Council, Office of Equal Opportunity

 

More than a story about a large public agency successfully engaging Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), people of color, and female workers, the creation of the Green Line is the story of communities that recognized early on the need to work together in a new way.  Building the Green Line was an experience that welcomed participation from everyone who was passionate and embodied the principles of transparency, collaboration, and equity. Working together, the tracks were laid to bridge our communities!

As the project began, we were in the midst of the recession. The Rondo community had a great deal of distrust over potential displacement based on their experience with the 1960s construction of I-94. Many communities were skeptical of the Metropolitan Council’s commitment to be transparent and concerned about our ability to meet project goals.  Many organizations and communities along the line offered both criticism and advice for our proposed plan.  Their requests were straight-forward – they requested commitment to local hiring, inclusion of people of color, and contractor accountability.

Kicking things off with the Great Minds Retreat & Convening, we welcomed their voices, carefully listened to their advice, and partnered with them to face the challenges.  As a result, our partners were active in helping us shape the monitoring systems we would implement. Our community partners were varied and included:  District Councils representatives, local faith-based advocacy groups, unions, people of color, women contractor associations, residents of the corridor, workforce training institutions, and youth advocacy groups.

Working with partners, we developed and implemented a plan that is a replicable model for the region.  This model is comprised of a collection of innovations including: Great Minds Retreat (partner grounding sessions), Pre/Post Contractors Interviews, Contractor Meetings, Annual Contractor Inclusion Summit, the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Affirmative Action (DBE/AA) Joint Oversight Committee, Meet and Greet Events, Youth Engagement, LRTWorks.org, Workforce Utilization Projection Tool/ Hire MN, and Contracting for Success– Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA).

The Metropolitan Council facilitated a process that led many different parties to speak in “one voice” by ensuring that everyone involved was heard and decisions were transparent.  It was vital to build trust, shared values, and equitable participation by regularly convening stakeholders in a forum where there was frank discussion, conflict, collective problem-solving and where everyone was encouraged and allowed to speak.

As a result of the inclusive, collective work done, the Green Line emerged.  The successes were real and resulted in:

  • 135+ DBEs at work on the Green Line
  • $115,000,000 paid to Minnesota based DBEs
  • Creation of over 5,000+ construction jobs in more than 19 trades
  • 12.5% – 20.5% participation by minority workers on the four largest construction contracts
  • 6.5% – 8.2% participation by women construction workers on the four largest construction contracts

The model built by the contributions of all of the partners involved is a blue print for inclusion success of future major transit construction projects in the region.

For the full story, click here.