Connecting Community: Truly Completing the Vision of Denver International Airport

DIA Diversity Program

Building a better airport requires, first, building a better community. CIG helped to expand perspectives and scope for the City of Denver, DEN and prime contractors beyond the concrete, glass and steel structure taking shape adjacent to the airport terminal and into the community at large.

CIG planned and executed a Diversity Program concurrently with broader communication efforts about the HTC Program. The end goal? HTC prime contractors would not only meet, but exceed, percentages established for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE) contributing to the completion of the project.

CIG facilitated DEN’s and prime contractors’ collaboration with M/WBEs, providing essential training for every step of their journey.

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During the first two years of the program, the Program Management Team hosted multiple large-scale events, designed to establish two-way communication, and provided the business community and stakeholders with project updates and information about associated contracting opportunities. Each event attracted an average of 200-250 attendees, and were structured to provide an introduction to DEN and program leadership, schedule and scope updates, education about the client and program contracting process/requirements, and a forum to network with other interested prime contractors and small firms.

The Prepare for Takeoff workshop series was designed to assist firms in gaining a better understanding of DEN and program business requirements, long perceived as a barrier to entry for small and diverse businesses. The theme played on the aviation theme of the overall HTC Program and alluded to common desires among M/WBEs that work on the program could launch their business to new heights. Workshops covered a wide range of topics, enabling participants to learn more about hard skills, like responding to RFPs, and soft skills, such as networking. Participants appreciated the inviting format and peer-to-peer networking, but most of all, access to information they could leverage as a competitive advantage.

Close coordination with the prime contractors working on the HTC Program was critically important, given these companies were ultimately subcontracting work to the M/WBE firms. CIG coordinated regular conversations with the HTC prime contractors, DEN leadership and the City of Denver to keep everyone aligned on the goals and requirements of the Program, coordinate and streamline outreach efforts, and address and solve issues as they arose.

CIG produced a weekly newsblast to a growing database of interested local and diverse firms, providing regular updates on project progress, opportunities and events. As of June 2015, the newsblast distribution list included more than 1,000 contacts. Denver’s Division of Small Business Opportunity elected to maintain the publication as an ongoing service to the community.

A first in the Denver-metro community, the Diversity Program team, coordinated by CIG, invited representatives from the business community to serve on the selection committees for each of the professional services and construction manager/general contractor procurements. These volunteers ensured that M/WBE participation on each proposal was weighted appropriately, bringing a new level of community involvement, transparency and legitimacy to the process.

CIG learned from a survey of M/WBE firms early on that they needed the most support with business development, organization, operations and technical assistance, and set out to plan and produce more than 400 educational sessions and content targeting these areas. Throughout the program, CIG continued to gather participants’ feedback via surveys, phone calls and emails to make sure the program was addressing their needs.

The Diversity Program succeeded, tallying 120 contracts for as many separate M/WBE firms, 30 percent of which were receiving their first DEN contract.

The CIG-supported HTC Diversity Program helped to prove and extend the City of Denver’s commitment to inclusiveness. Through an integrated combination of outreach, education and opportunity, the DEN Hotel & Transit Center project has created business-building opportunities for 120 M/WBEs to earn more than $150 million over the past five years. By establishing mutually beneficial relationships between minority-owned firms looking to succeed with an iconic, high-profile project and a coalition of community organizations that can support this success, the DEN HTC Diversity Program established a model for future implementation and growth under the leadership of the Denver Office of Economic Development and DEN.