Building together for a better Fort Worth.
That’s the idea behind a partnership between the City of Fort Worth and the integrated architecture and construction firm The Beck Group. The two are launching a new construction program for Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) called The Beck School of Construction Fort Worth.
The effort follows a recent city staff report noting that firms working for the city appear to have problems identifying firms owned by minorities or women (so-called MWBEs) that are qualified by the North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency to bid on city contracts for construction supplies and services.
The report said that minority- and women-owned businesses were receiving less than half ($36.7 million) of planned commitments of $71.2 million.
The new program features a series of eight training sessions to help such firms increase their knowledge of the construction industry and to be competitive in bidding on projects with the City of Fort Worth and its six-county marketplace (Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Johnson, Parker and Wise), The Beck Group, and other public and private organizations.
“We have a shortage of minority-owned businesses who have the capacity or the experience to bid on our construction projects,” said Robert Sturns, the city’s economic development director. “There’s an immediate need for a specialized construction training program, so we approached Scot Bennett of Beck Fort Worth about developing a program together. Without hesitation, he said yes.”
Beck is the prime contractor leading construction on Dickies Arena, which includes a successful outreach effort that resulted in more than $58.6 million in contracted MWBE participation to date.
Bennett, regional director for Beck, said his company was excited when Sturns and Gwen Wilson from the city’s Office of Business Diversity approached him in 2018 with the idea.
“The idea made perfect sense, and the Beck team and I were excited to help make this vision a reality,” he said. “We worked closely with Robert … and others at the City of Fort Worth to exceed minority participation on Dickies Arena, so we are excited for the opportunity to continue our partnership and build from this positive momentum.”
Bennett said the opportunity is there to do more than design and construct buildings.
“We have the opportunity to build the people and companies within Fort Worth and the surrounding communities,” he said.
“The partnership between The Beck Group and the city is a good thing because both have challenges in finding minority-owned businesses in the construction industry that are ready, willing and able to bid on projects,” Sturns said. “Many MBEs don’t have bonding capacity or resources to accept work on multiple projects, and there are those MBEs who lack the experience and knowledge to grow their business.”
As part of the Dickies Arena outreach, the city’s Economic Development Department partnered with Beck, the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council, Events Facilities Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association, the Black Contractors Association and several clergy members to achieve a high level of participation from minority businesses.
In light of a recent report to the city council about MBE commitments and actual work they were able to do, Sturns said, “MBEs will be more informed about the construction industry, the city’s and The Beck Group’s requirements, when bidding on projects. The training should help the city see an increase in its utilization of M/WBEs and help The Beck Group and other city contractors with meeting their MBE goals.”
Sturns said the city has a goal of 25 percent MWBE participation on city projects. He said the Beck School is one step toward increasing those firms that are ready, willing and able to do business with the city.
“We believe this program will lead to successful, long-term business relationships within the industry,” Bennett said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price concurred.
“Through the rapid growth we are experiencing in Fort Worth, we recognized the opportunity for minority-owned businesses to play a larger role in construction projects. The building of Dickies Arena highlighted the partnerships and synergy between the city, MBEs and Beck, and we knew we had to build on that success,” she said. “As we outlined a Fort Worth-tailored construction program, Beck Fort Worth was a natural partner in creating a specialized training curriculum. We look forward to welcoming our first class at The Beck School of Construction Fort Worth and building our city together.”