AGC of California Partners With LGBTQ+ Group to Boost Diversity

This article originally appeared in ENR-California

The Associated General Contractors of California has entered into a first-of-its kind partnership with LGBTQ+ advocacy group BuildOUT California to strengthen the construction industry through diversity and inclusion, both on the jobsite and in the office, throughout California.

The program focuses on promoting LGBTQ+ businesses as part of AGC’s broader effort to boost involvement of SBE/DBE-owned firms on projects. But the partnership also focuses on helping LGBTQ+-owned businesses “build their businesses and be stronger contractors and subcontractors,” says Peter Tateishi, AGC of California CEO.

The partnership is one component of AGC of California’s long-term goals to address diversity and inclusion and social equity issues that hinders recruitment to the industry. “If you are a minority or LGBTQ+ and you don’t feel that you are represented or welcome, then you’re not going to pursue” a career in construction, Tateishi says, “no matter how much money we tell them they can make.”

The partnership with BuildOUT helps “answer that long-term question of how do we continue to develop the pipeline of the future workforce within the construction industry,” he adds.

The program will help AGC members and LGBTQ+ owned/certified firms and allies “work together to actively promote construction careers to the diverse youth of California and promote a zero-tolerance environment for discriminatory incidents on job sites across all industry workplaces,” according to a joint statement.

“We can’t underestimate the challenges for construction contractors to get certified and be out there saying that they’re LGBTQ+-owned,” says Paul Pendergast, president and founder of BuildOUT California. “There is a lot of fear in the marketplace that—even for a place as progressive as California or the West Coast—contractors specifically are really hesitant to step out. And one of the things that we are trying to do is build the business case for why it is good to step forward and self-identify.”

Nick Colina, administrator of operations at Anco Iron & Construction in San Francisco, says that while he is usually “a little more private with that side of my life,” it’s important to show that “diversity on construction sites brings value and we can be owners. So that’s why it’s important for me to be visible within the construction industry so that gays and lesbians that are coming up after me can say ‘hey, I could be an owner one day too.’”

Colina is part of the next generation that will eventually take over ownership of the steel supplier, and Colina intends to pursue LGBTQ+ certification as well when that happens. Anco, already certified as an MBE, SBE and DBE, performed steel fabrication via a multi-million-dollar contract for the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Charles Jordy, CEO of Denver-based Jordy Construction, says “We are looking to grow our footprint in California specifically because of this progress being made in terms of opening up real opportunities for LGBTQ+ contractors, architects and engineers.” The contracting firm is LGBTQ+ owned and certified through the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Tateishi says AGC of California will develop technical assistance curriculum, mentorship programs and training throughout 2021 to develop a pipeline of pre-qualified small businesses that are ready to bid on projects of all sizes throughout the state.

“Competitive bidding is tough at best, so we need to make sure that we really focus on pre-award and post-award technical assistance so that {LGBTQ+-certified firms] can win the work and then successfully deliver on the contract that they win,” says Pendergast.

The program isn’t intended to create an unfair advantage for certain business, Tateishi stresses. “They’re not looking for a handout because they check a box, they want to win the work because they know they’re qualified and will do the best work.”

He adds: “Our opportunity in this program is to enhance and support the growth of small businesses. When we provide this kind of technical assistance, training and mentorship, we’re saying to all of them, ‘there is no cement ceiling for you.’”

BuildOUT California was formed in mid-2020 to support the sustainable growth of LGBTQ+-owned construction and real estate development businesses. Group founders include employees of Turner, Gilbane Building Co., Kitchell and Jacobs.

BuildOUT, which is unrelated to the New York City-based LGBTQ+-advocacy group Build Out Alliance, also has a partnership with the Northern California chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). The association also works on opportunities with Caltrans, BART and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which have all codified LGBT business participation in their procurement programs, Pendergast says.