Denver International Airport creates opportunities for historically underutilised businesses

The Equity in Infrastructure Project has recently launched to improve public contracting practices by creating opportunities for historically underutilised businesses and reducing the racial wealth gap.

EIP creates opportunities for Historically Underutilised Businesses

The Equity in Infrastructure Project (EIP) has launched to improve public contracting practices by creating more opportunities for historically underutilised businesses (HUBs) to build generational wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap by creating more prime, joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for these firms.

Through its Pledge, EIP works to secure commitments from public agencies to increase the number, size and scope of contracts going to HUBs by facilitating access and reducing barriers to compete for business.

EIP defines HUBs as including firms formally designated as DBEs, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE), Small Business Enterprises (SBE), as well as any other business classification used locally in the U.S. intended to boost the participation of otherwise underutilised firms, which can vary by state, region, and municipality.

EIP was founded by Denver International Airport (DEN) CEO Phillip A. Washington, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari and others in anticipation of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and to answer President Biden’s call to leverage infrastructure spending to build wealth in underserved communities. EIP receives generous support from Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, Social Impact Fund, HNTB and The James Irvine Foundation.

EIP launches with the following First Mover signers of its Pledge:

  • Chicago Transit Authority – Dorval R. Carter, Jr., President
  • Denver International Airport – Phillip A. Washington, CEO
  • Port of Long Beach – Mario Cordero, Executive Director
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – Adel H. Hagekhalil, General
  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) – Leslie S.
    Richards, General Manager and CEO.

The Pledge was finalised after the above five leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. in December 2021 alongside senior leaders from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, including representatives from USDOT, the Environmental Protection Agency, HNTB, AECOM, The James Irvine Foundation, members of Congress and others to lay the groundwork for this initiative. While EIP is acting independently, this effort seeks to advance the spirit of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and his June 2021 executive order pledging to increase by 2026 the share of federal contracts that go to small and disadvantaged businesses, which new Small Business Administration (SBA) data shows is unacceptably low.

Starting from the baseline of their current actions and initiatives, by December 2025, Pledge signers will work to increase the number, size and percentage of HUBs growing to prime contractors, participating in joint ventures or as equity participants.

They will work toward this effort by:

  • Increasing the number, size and proportion of contracting opportunities going to
  • Increasing the number, size and proportion of contracting opportunities going to
    HUBs as prime contractors
  • Streamlining the administration of contracting with HUBs to centralise
    certification, improve payment time, and standardise transparent data collection
  • Increasing the amount and type of appropriate financing available to HUBs
    aiming to meet infrastructure contracts by working with private and public
    partners, and
  • Expanding the number of signatories to this Pledge.

“This historic infusion in infrastructure funding is much needed, but it’s important that we ensure fair and equitable distribution to underserved and disadvantaged communities and businesses. Through the Equity in Infrastructure Project, we can increase generational wealth and work to correct for the underinvestment that has resulted in diminished opportunities for economic growth in low-income communities and communities of colour,” said Washington.

“Investing in our nation’s infrastructure has been my life’s work and now, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we have an unprecedented opportunity to upgrade our communities and transform people’s lives. To reap the true rewards of the IIJA, we must focus both on what we build and who builds it, and that’s exactly what the Equity in Infrastructure Project does,” commented Congressman Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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