Skanska USA, a construction and development company, has brought a program designed to assist minority and women-owned businesses to Philadelphia.
The New York based company recently kicked off its construction management building blocks (CMBB) program at Temple University, with more than 60 representatives from minority and women-owned businesses from the region.
“Skanska has a worldwide commitment to diversity and inclusion and our goal is to be reflective in all of the communities where work, so we try to find ways to help create the jobs and opportunities within the communities by assisting some small businesses by reaching out to them,” said Ed Szwarc, executive vice president for Skanska USA’s Pennsylvania and Delaware offices.
“Instead of just doing subcontractor outreach we try to work with them to help them learn what they need to do to take their businesses to the next level and to offer them opportunities to be part of some of the larger construction projects instead of the small localized work where they’ve started their business.”
During a seven-week period, participants will attend free classes at Temple that cover topics including business development, marketing, construction accounting, prefabrication, safety, project labor agreements and environment design.
Upon completion of the program, participants will be prepared for possible contracting opportunities with Skanska and the partnering universities. Last year, the construction company completed similar program with Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“They learn how to be successful on the larger projects and how to gain opportunities with us and also with our competitors and how to network (with) the clientele that they need to start to work with for these new opportunities,” said Szwarc.
James Eley, founder and president of Eley Electrical Contractors, LLC is one of the local business owners who are tapping into Skanska’s program. He was selected to participate in the program through the National Association of Minority Contractors.
He says there are benefits to learning from a large scale company like Skanska.
“Even though we don’t operate on their level there are things that I can take here and there, that they use in everyday business and apply it to my business. It’s always good to be learning something new,” said Eley, whose Philadelphia-based company specializes in commercial electrical contracting.
“What I expected when I went into the program was to tap the brain of a larger organization who has been in the business a long time, who has had some of the pitfalls that they could help me avoid.”
Eley established his Germantown-based company in 1985. Eley says seeking contracting opportunities outside of the city and making direct connections with project owners are critical in his company’s ability to find work. Things have been looking up for Eley Electrical. The company has nettled a contract for a $356,000 job and recently became certified as a minority business enterprise.
“That has helped us quite a bit so now we’re looking to go further,” said Eley.
While this is the first time that Skanska is offering CMBB in Philadelphia, the program was launched five years ago by the company’s Global Diversity Council. According to Szwarc, the program has drawn more than 300 participants since its inception.
According to Skanska officials, 21 percent of its business throughout Greater Philadelphia is with diverse firms, and this percentage represents more than $173 million in active contracts.
Locally, Skanska is currently serving as the building contractor for the $37.4 million addition to the Franklin Institute. The Nicholas and Athena Karbots Pavilion, as the 53,000-square project is known, will include an education-and-conference center, a permanent exhibition and a gallery for changing exhibitions. The company is also in the midst of completing the $260 million expansion project for the Neumours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware.
Skanska USA serves a broad range of industries including healthcare, education, sports, data centers, government, aviation, transportation, power energy, water/wastewater and commercial.
The company is a subsidiary of Skanska, a Sweden-based $18.9 billion global construction, development and engineering company.