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All inclusive

Tri-North increases minority participation

Photos by Tri-North Builders Inc.

Photos by Tri-North Builders Inc.

Tri-North Builders Inc. wasn’t interested in taking the easy route when building a new headquarters for the Urban League of Greater Madison Inc.

Though the city of Madison did not require a minimum level of minority participation, the project’s owners set a goal of 22 percent minority- and women-owned business participation. But Fitchburg-based Tri-North wanted to push it even further.

“Madison doesn’t have mandatory goals in place,” said Holly Hawkins, project manager for Tri-North. “There is a best effort expectation (for including minority contractors) but no requirement. Unlike Milwaukee, there aren’t as many minority contractors available. It added a layer of difficulty.”

The goal of the Urban League is to improve the social and economic conditions of minorities and economically disadvantaged people, so the project team made it a priority to adhere to those principles despite the extra work.

To maximize minority participation on the project, Tri-North began by contacting every minority contractor in the state, Hawkins said, and then asking them not only to bid on the job but to identify what kind of help they might need to be successful.

Bids were analyzed with a weighted system to combine the lowest price with experience, bond rating and MBE/WBE ownership or participation.

“We wanted to make sure it was a good fit,” Hawkins said. “We aren’t in the business of putting people out of business.”

And Tri-North’s extra efforts didn’t stop once contractors were selected. The general contractor worked with some of the smaller firms to guide them through the process and ensure their participation worked for both sides.

For one contractor, Tri-North helped with the estimating process so the contractor had a better handle on production rates and field labor costs. For another, providing equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses, ladders and other tools helped keep costs down, she said.

Hawkins said the result was 29 percent participation from minority- and women-owned businesses. Every person was counted in an effort to meet the goal, she said, from minority suppliers to a minority architect.

The Urban League’s work force development group also participated by installing landscaping and doing construction cleaning.

“Urban League was really ecstatic,” Hawkins said. “It’s what they stand for — reaching out to the neighborhood and to those who need help. It was really an opportunity to showcase what they do.”

Urban League of Greater Madison

Location: Madison

Submitting company: Tri-North Builders Inc., Fitchburg

General Contractor: Tri-North Builders Inc.

Architect: Barrientos Design & Consulting Inc., Milwaukee

Engineers: Barrientos Design & Consulting Inc. (structural), Tri-North Builders Inc.

Owner: Urban League of Greater Madison Inc., Madison

Project size: 31,000 square feet

Project cost: $3.34 million

Start date: April 25, 2009

Completion date: Nov. 1, 2009

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