Originally posted on jsonline June 2, 2022

Federal infrastructure bill presents opportunities for minority businesses if there’s a commitment from general contractors

Ricardo Torres
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Work continues on the manufacturing facility that’s connected by a walkway to Komatsu Mining Corp.’s new Harbor District corporate campus on East Greenfield Avenue in Milwaukee in December 2021.
The $550 billion federal infrastructure bill, signed into law last November, has the potential to provide significant boosts in business for minority contractors – but it will take persistence.

Ugo Nwagbaraocha is president and owner of Diamond Disc International, a wholesale construction, tooling and equipment. He is also president of the Wisconsin chapter of National Association of Minority Contractors.

“If we truly want this infrastructure bill to impact not only ethnic diverse businesses but also the communities, the underserved, underrepresented communities which we’re most often a part of, then we have to be more intentional and meaningful in making sure that there are provisions that encourage and motivate (general contractors) to use ethnic diverse businesses,” Nwagbaraocha said.

$70 million to DBE firms from Komatsu

One recent project that can show the potential a single, large project can have on minority contractors is the Komatsu Mining Harbor District project at 401 E. Greenfield Ave. 

Hunzinger Construction Company is the construction manager of the $285 million project and helped funnel $70 million to diverse firms working on the project and exceeded its goal of having 25% of the subcontractors working on the project from minority firms.

“That doesn’t happen by sitting back in the chair and saying ‘This is tough. We can’t do it,’ and making excuses. You have to work at it proactively,” said Joan Zepecki, director of corporate affairs, and equity and inclusion coordinator for Hunzinger Construction Company.

Zepecki said Hunzinger 38% of the subcontractors on the Komastu project were disadvantaged business enterprises.

“There are some very, very good diverse firms that we work with, that we would work with whether there were requirements or goals or not,” Zepecki said.

“They’re just part of our subcontractor stable… Hunzinger, as a company, has had direct subcontracts with minority firms over those years that total over $550 million.”