February 21, 2007

Cordish Gains on Minority Hiring

Downtown redevelopment contractor surpasses its affirmative action goals for professional services.

The Cordish Co. reported progress Tuesday in achieving goals set by the city for minority- and women-owned business participation in building the Power & Light District project.

Zed Smith, Cordish director of asset management, said the firm has surpassed its combined affirmative action goals for the professional services or soft-cost portion of the downtown development.

With 84 percent of the professional services completed, 12 percent has been done by minority-owned businesses and 12 percent by women-owned businesses.

The professional service goal set by the City Human Relations Department for the $850 million downtown redevelopment project was 13 percent for minority business enterprises (MBE) and 8 percent for women business enterprises (WBE) for a combined total of 21 percent MBE/WBE.

Smith expected the professional services participation will be even better by the time the project is completed, anticipating a 13 percent MBE and 19 perc! ent WBE, for a combined participation total of 32 percent.

"These are preliminary numbers, and we expect them to be stronger," Smith told an audience of minority- and women-owned business leaders at the Cordish showroom and offices in the Town Pavilion office tower. The event doubled as a news conference.

The Power & Light project is lagging on reaching its targets on the construction side, but Smith anticipated that will be remedied soon. The bulk of the Power & Light entertainment district is expected to be completed by October at the same time the Sprint Center is scheduled to open.

At this point, with 54 percent of the construction under contract, 14 percent has gone to minority-owned businesses and 3 percent to women-owned. The MBE/WBE participation goal set by the city is 15 percent MBE and 7 percent WBE.

Smith said Cordish has divided the contracts for the professional and construction work into smaller contracts to allow smaller busin! esses to be able to bid. The primary contractors for the project are J .E. Dunn Construction Co., Walton Construction and Turner Construction.

All three construction companies have programs to help minorities and women open their own businesses.

Cordish also is asking its tenants in the Power & Light District to voluntarily pursue the same MBE/WBE goals when they contract for finishing work. The firm will provide information on qualified minority- and women-owned businesses, and provide opportunities for those businesses to meet tenants.

"We need your help," Smith told the audience. "We need you to be aggressive and assertive in reaching out to tenant contracts. ...We think we ve laid out an achievable game plan.

"Meeting numbers is a nonissue. We want to push beyond the numbers to create economic development and prosperity for all races."

Cordish, which will own and operate the entertainment district, plans to hire about 200 people for a variety of operational jobs at the project. While there are no city goals! for hiring minorities and women, Smith expected that a substantial number of employees would come from those groups.

"Meeting numbers is a nonissue. We want to push beyond the numbers to create economic development and prosperity for all races."

-- Zed Smith, Cordish Co. director of asset management

To reach Kevin Collison, call (816) 234-4289 or send e-mail to kcollison@kcstar.com.

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