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What does equity in construction mean? Cleveland leaders speak out

"The CUBE feature keynote on the Omni Hotel project demonstrates what is possible when an equitable process is implemented, resulting in a more equitable outcome." - Taurean Spratt

Equity and inclusion in the construction sector is integral to moving Greater Cleveland forward. But what does that mean in practice – and how do we get there?  On Tuesday, April 18, construction ecosystem owners and leaders will gather to share knowledge and best practices for making the regional construction industry more equitable at GCP’s 2023 Construction Utilities Buildings & Equity (CUBE) Symposium. (Register here.)

In advance of the symposium, we asked local leaders to share their thoughts on building a more equitable Cleveland.

Eric Gordon, CEO, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and Co-Chair of the CUBE Initiative

How is CMSD  working to advance equity in the construction field? In Greater Cleveland?

We have DEI goals for our construction projects, based on the work that [GCP’s Vice President, Construction & Inclusive Talent Initiatives] Chris Nance and Mayor Jackson and others worked on several years ago, and they’ve been adopted by our Board. A commission monitors data against those goals – so they’re not just goals on paper, they’re true efforts.

We also train in construction related fields, particularly at our Max S. Hays Center. We have a very robust architecture, construction and engineering program called ACE in multiple schools that is designed to get young minority women, people of color and people living in poverty interested in pathways to the construction field.

In Greater Cleveland, I would say our launch of the PACE program (planning and career exploration) and the formation of the Greater Cleveland Career Consortium with a specific eye on the construction trades as one of the sector partnerships is intended to influence not just the school district, but other school districts that serve minorities and people in poverty to influence the region.

Why is attending CUBE important to CMSD?

If we’re really going to tackle issues of equity in the construction field, then we have to get in a shared room and we have to look at the data and we have to have conversations about where we are, where we want to be, who is getting it right and how do we learn from them – and then what are our action steps.

What do you hope to discuss at CUBE?

Thinking about the last time we were together, I’m hoping to see a different level of action orientation. I think the last conversation, everybody talked and then everybody went back to work.  And I think the way you get to action is that you let people talk, and then let them go back to work. But then when you come back, you start calling on people, asking,  “You said you were going to do this – what’s happening?”

And you start nudging. And so I’m excited to hear from others.

What is one thing those in the Greater Cleveland construction community can do now to build equity?

Well, this is self-serving, but the only new employee base in our community is our kids. So sign up to participate in PACE activities. Start showing kids in meaningful ways that there is a place for them in the construction community when they graduate.

That’s how you get your pipeline. We better get focused on the new adults coming soon. That’s my kids.

Taurean Spratt, Vice President & General Manager, Ohio Region
Turner Construction Company

How is Turner Construction Company working to advance equity in the construction field? In Greater Cleveland?

Turner is well known as a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the country, including the Greater Cleveland area.  Turner has a vision by the year 2030 to have our company reflect the communities in which we live and work, and achieve equitable representation at all levels of our company.  As we grow as a company, we are focused on building a pipeline to build equity for future leaders, and we are committed to intentional recruiting to provide equity throughout our staff.  As it relates to the construction field, the Turner School of Construction Management (TSCM) was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, over fifty years ago and has since spread across the country. TSCM is a comprehensive 12-week construction management program designed to help small and diverse business owners grow.  We also provide mentor/protégé, and joint venture opportunities to help diverse firms scale. 

Why is attending CUBE important to businesses?

In my opinion, attending the CUBE symposium is important because it can help to curate new ideas. The CUBE feature keynote on the Omni Hotel project demonstrates what is possible when an equitable process is implemented, resulting in a more equitable outcome.

What is one thing those in the Greater Cleveland construction community can do now to build equity?

Building equity in the Greater Cleveland construction community will necessitate a new way of looking at things. There is a labor shortage, so we must be creative in recruiting people into the construction industry.  Considering individuals with non-traditional career paths, creating opportunity for construction workers that have predominately worked in residential, exposing children to areas of opportunity in construction at an earlier age and adopting technology.

Sandra Madison, CEO and chairperson of Robert P. Madison International

How is Robert P. Madison International working to advance equity in the construction field? In Greater Cleveland?

To me, it’s important that when I have a project with a client, I always ask,
“do you know of any construction companies in the area?” I always make sure that we list minority and as well as majority firms.

I don’t have to look for minority employees. They usually flock to us. We make sure that we have opportunities for everyone. And when I have to use a vendor, I try to look at a minority vendors –  I try to look at equity in that way. These are just a few ways we expand diversity and equity.

What do you hope to learn at CUBE?

One thing we’re looking at is acquisitions – growth. I’d like to learn from companies at CUBE who have done that already and if they had any lessons learned to share.

What is one thing those in the Greater Cleveland construction community can do now to build equity?

Owning your own property or your own land, especially with development, is so important. Then you yourself work with the developer and have control over what’s out there.

Ariane Kirkpatrick, AKA Team Owner and President

How is AKA working to advance equity in the construction field? In Greater Cleveland?

We are very, very serious. We rate ourselves all the time. We find ways to make sure that we have diverse people who can do what needs to get done.

What do you plan to share at CUBE?

I want to share how we were able to achieve 25% of people working here being women, in a field that is typically 7%.  I’ll talk about my “ three Es”:  Exposure, engagement and empowerment.  If you are not really exposed to these projects, exposed to this career, you just don’t know what you don’t know. And then once we expose, we make sure people are engaged, and then it’s about empowering them to make a difference on their jobs, like using their voice, being part of the team, make sure that they feel included.

What is one thing those in the Greater Cleveland construction community can do now to build equity?

In your own backyard you can be inclusive. If diversity to you is to reach out to a diverse company, something’s wrong. And the reason I say something’s wrong is because you’re not including diversity on your own team working in your office, working in your own space.

Greater Cleveland Partnership’s All In vision for a Great Region on a Great Lake has five key priorities: Dynamic Business, Abundant Talent, Inclusive Opportunity, Appealing Community and Business Confidence. All of our work ties back to these values. This story relates to Dynamic Businesses and Inclusive Opportunity.

Read More

CUBE: Construction, Utility, Building and Equity | Symposium 2023 – Greater Cleveland Partnership

Meet the Black woman-owned construction firm helping the Cleveland Guardians reimagine Progressive Field – Greater Cleveland Partnership

Equity and Inclusion buy-in and regional accountability needed at all levels – Greater Cleveland Partnership

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