Award-Winning Diversity in LIRR Expansion

William & Prospective MWBEsWilliam Miller, left, joins local MWBEs at the LIRR Expansion Project’s Community Information Center to discuss the project.

We spend a lot of time on AModernLI announcing and discussing the transformational projects and innovative construction techniques that are modernizing Long Island’s transportation system, but what about the exceptional people who make it all happen? We recently caught up with William Miller who is the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises/Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (MWBE/SDVOB) Coordinator for 3rd Track Constructors (3TC), the design-builder for the LIRR Expansion Project, to learn more about 3TC’s diversity program.

AModernLI (AMLI): MWBE/SDVOB is a lot to digest. What does it stand for and what does it mean?

William Miller (WM): Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises/Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses, or MWBEs and SDVOBs for short. These are New York State programs that encourage companies owned by minorities, women, and service-disabled military veterans to get certified with the state and participate in contracting, professional services and supplier opportunities. Programs like these empower smaller companies to bid on multi-billion-dollar projects, like Third Track, to assist large contractors with attaining their small business diversity goals.

William at Ascend Long IslandAscend Long Island invited William Miller, right, to their Procurement Conference in September of 2019 and met with local small businesses.

AMLI: Where do you fit into this?

WM: As the MWBE/SDVOB Coordinator for 3TC, I wear many different hats. Specifically, I provide oversight for 3TC’s diversity program, while also planning and attending outreach events for prospective MWBE/SDVOBs interested in joining our team. Although my job mostly includes diversity outreach, it’s just as important for me to understand this project’s different disciplines and needs like manufacturing, marketing, or safety services to name a few. Contract compliance is the other big piece of 3TC’s diversity program. This is the solicitation, award, and monitoring of payments to MWBE/SDVOB firms performing at all tiers of the project.

AMLI: Why is that?

WM: To bring MWBE/SDVOBs into our team, I have to understand the needs of our project to match up these prospective businesses with the ongoing scope of work. On a design-build project, the procurement of materials, subcontractors, and subconsultants is phased out over the first few years of the project until the final design is completed, and all opportunities are brought out.

AMLI: I imagine you would also need knowledge of the different MWBE/SDVOBs out there?

WM: Exactly. It’s a two-way street. I understand what our disciplines are and their needs, but I also need to know what businesses and specialties are out there, so we can hire the best talent for this project. The goal is always to maximize the participation of MWBE/SDVOB firms while simultaneously recruiting the best companies to ensure the project remains on time and within budget.

AMLI: Fascinating. It’s a part of the project we don’t normally get a glimpse of.

WM: Absolutely! Compliance is not one of the areas of a mega-project that can be measured in linear feet or by the ton, but it is equally important to the project’s long-term success.

AMLI: You mentioned these programs are state-mandated. What exactly is the state’s role in all this?

WM: New York requires that state contracts over a $100,000 value meet specific participation goals. Currently, 3TC must create a team consisting of at least 15 percent MBEs, 15 percent WBEs and 6 percent SDVOBs. That said, these percentages are dynamic: the state continues to ramp up these numbers to ensure greater participation in contracts from MWBE/SDVOBs over time.

AMLI: How do you meet these goals?

WM: We conduct lots of outreach to prospective companies to solicit the skillsets needed to work on the project. Both New York State and New York City host countless events for MWBE/SDVOBs seeking opportunities that we sponsor or participate as a vendor. 3TC also hosts collaborative and independent outreach events with MTA, so that we can meet with interested folks directly. The beauty of design-build is that contracting opportunities are consistently presented throughout the life of the project, so we’re constantly out in the community engaging with MWBE/SDVOB firms and building those relationships.

AMLI: Your outreach has been so successful, we hear you’ve been honored with an award.

WM: The National Association for Minority Contracts–Tri-State Chapter honored me and 3TC as their Diversity Champion Award at the annual Unity in Diversity Gala. The award recognizes individuals, companies or projects that have made a strong push towards increasing diversity opportunities, so it’s a big honor for 3TC and the LIRR Expansion Project to be recognized in this way!

About LIRR Expansion

The construction of a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville will reduce train congestion and delays and enable true bi-directional service during peak hours with a more reliable rail network. This transformative work includes several related projects, including the construction of parking garages, improved accessibility, retaining walls, improvements to rail bridges and the removal of eight street-level grade crossings. Construction is being managed to minimize the impact on daily routines, with extensive mitigation and public outreach efforts in local communities. For more information, please visit the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville project page on AModernLI.com.