By: Bernard Furlow, PhD, Vice President at JE Dunn Houston
The U.S. Census numbers are out, showing what we have already known. Currently the largest and most diverse city in Texas, Houston is expected to continue to see exponential growth over the coming years. And with this growth comes a need for city expansion and a strong network of workers ready to support it. In a city as large and diverse as Houston, we need a workforce reflective of our diverse population to understand the true needs of the city in which we live and work.
At JE Dunn Construction, we’ve been proactively preparing for this growth within our city by investing in our communities, our staff, and the Houston commercial construction ecosystem as a whole.
Historically in the construction industry, finding a large network of minority/women owned business enterprises (MWBEs) can be challenging especially with all the various scopes of work and market sectors. At JE Dunn, we approach every situation based on our guiding principles. One of my favorite guiding principles is “doing the right thing.” Doing the right thing means we owe it to ourselves, our clients, our communities and local MWBEs to intentionally seek out, engage, and mentor these businesses and do our part in changing the commercial construction culture and environment in order to be more diverse and inclusive.
Changing the culture of commercial construction must begin from within the industry. We place a strong emphasis on how we, as a national company, can build up the communities in which we operate while also expanding networks and creating sustainable changes. We have progressively expanded our donation and volunteer efforts with an intentional focus to partner with local MWBEs to build a more comprehensive and inclusive construction network here in Houston.
This effort began with seeking out local MWBEs and inviting key players into our offices or virtual meetings, developing strong relationships, and ultimately providing opportunities to partner with JE Dunn on all project pursuits.
And we’ve already seen firsthand how this approach can have an impact. Earlier this year, JE Dunn was one of only six companies—and the ONLY construction company—in Houston awarded in the Houston Business Journal’s Outstanding Supplier Diversity category for their annual “Diversity in Business Awards.” This is because we take the time to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It’s easy for companies to simply write a check or check a box when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts. For us, is means so much more. It’s about rooting this work into the culture of our company, community, and the industry in which we’re so proud to work. Many underutilized businesses are capable, but not given the fair opportunity to perform due to a variety of roadblocks and hurdles. These challenges prevent businesses from creating jobs, sustainability, planned growth, bonding capacities, development of staffing, and further investing into our communities.
As a vice president in the Houston office of JE Dunn Construction, I will build on our long-standing commitment to helping MWBEs succeed. One way this will be accomplished is through our “Minority Contractor Development” (MCD) program, a free series of classes and activities designed to prepare minority and women contractors for success, help grow their businesses, and launch partnerships with companies that share our values.
We encourage all construction related MWBEs to reach out to JE Dunn’s Houston office to participate in this opportunity to connect on future projects. Our goal is to expand our network and develop our database with great businesses that share the same commonalities that we have as a company—seeking to enrich lives through inspired people and places.
As a national general contractor, we have the ability and the responsibility to positively impact the lives of these business owners and their employees by putting in the extra time and effort to help them succeed. It is not just about building structures, it’s also about building communities.