Metro Birmingham trade group helping minority contractors

Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 7:00 AM

 By Roy L. Williams — The Birmingham News The Birmingham News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A trade group representing some of the Birmingham area’s largest construction companies has started a mentoring program that aims to help groom more successful minority contractors.

The Associated Builders & Contractors of Alabama’s minority mentoring/protege program kicked off last Friday when the first class of 12 participants was announced in the Birmingham office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell was the speaker and applauded the trade group and its members “for seeing the need for such training to assist in the growth and prosperity of minority contractors in Birmingham.”

L’Tryce Slade, owner of Slade L.E.T. Planning, one of the participants, said she believes the program has the potential to catapult her firm to the next level.

“When I received my call from the ABC, they said that I sounded like I won the lottery,” Slade said. “Well to me, it was like winning the lottery. My business has needed this type of exposure for a long time. You can work as hard as you can, but sometimes you need a little guidance to help get your company to the next level.”

ABC is offering this program with Brasfield & Gorrie, Robins & Morton, Gary C. Wyatt Inc., Hoar Construction, Southern Co., B.L. Harbert International, Caddell Construction, Sellers Richardson Holman & West, and Tate & Associates.

Slade and the other participants will get six months of mentoring. They are: C Development, C&J Electrical, Championship Enterprise, Freeman Electrical, Harris Insulation, Karma Construction, King Enterprises, New Hera Construction Services, Inc., NJB Electric, and Underground Utility Services.

Jimmy Shaw, senior program manager of Robins & Morton, said the company saw value in working with the trade group to develop what’s called the ABC Emerging Contractor Program. Through its affiliation with ABC and the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority, another agency that helps minority firms bid on projects, the program strives to assist start-up or relatively young companies with best practice instruction, Shaw said.

The goal, he said, is to help small contractors “emerge” as mature businesses able to meet the demands and requirements of the contracting world.

“Robins & Morton knows the importance of giving back to the local business community, and is committed to being a partner and an adviser to those business owners who have a desire to improve their operations and grow their business,” Shaw said.

Slade said she hopes the program will create relationships that can in turn stimulate small business growth in the region.

“As a result of the investment by larger construction firms, we will have firms build relationships with those who believe we are more than qualified,” Slade said. “It would be wonderful to see when more project opportunities comes up, instead of clients asking large businesses to team with small firms, the large and small businesses will approach the client with an existing teaming relationship.”

Slade founded her firm that provides environmental construction services in Birmingham in 2006. She worked as a city land planner and consultant in her native North Carolina before moving to Birmingham.

Jay Reed, president of Associated Builders & Contractors, said his association was a perfect fit for the program because it represents some of the most advanced contractors in Alabama.

“The business practices they go through day to day are the very traits, characteristics and values the minority contractors identified as needs in the preplanning sessions of this curriculum,” Reed said.

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