The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has set up a specific department to drive diversity and inclusion among its project teams, helping to ensure that historically underrepresented businesses and people in the Tollway’s geographic and industry markets have greater opportunities to participate at all levels and during all phases of capital construction.
While the Tollway adopted its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program in 2005, the agency created a new Department of Diversity and Strategic Development in 2012 at the outset of the sweeping, 15-year, $14 billion “Move Illinois” capital program. This was set to achieve greater participation by small, diverse, women and veteran-owned businesses and individuals. Since then, hundreds of diverse workers have been trained and hired for “Move Illinois” projects. Additionally, hundreds of businesses have received tailored training, tutelage and new prime- and subcontracting opportunities under various agency and department initiatives.
HNTB began working closely with the Diversity department in 2016, assisting that team in their ongoing efforts to design, develop and deliver on their mission to increase the pipeline of diverse businesses and individuals in the transportation field. Creating a distinct department to ensure diversity remained an integral part of the Tollway’s capital program was a bold move that demonstrated the Tollway’s commitment.
In 2018 the program was expanded to encourage additional mentoring opportunities between construction contractors, addressing a critical need for the department’s long-term mission of additional inclusion in heavy highway construction. Construction contractors that participate are offered credits they can redeem to lower their total bid amount when bidding on Tollway work, while professional services protégé firms expand their technical capabilities and develop skills needed to work with the Tollway.
To date, nearly 120 small business construction contracts have been awarded, worth more than $140 million; 40 construction contractors and subcontractors have received Tollway bid credit certificates, and more than 500 individual workers have been employed, and have earned a total of more than $30.5 million in wages.