Minority hiring figures vary for Boston contractors

Martin Desmarais | 2/5/2014, 11:27 a.m.
An examination of the numbers, shows that much of the work done in Boston still falls short of the expectations ...
A worker last week at the The Quincy Heights project on Quincy Street in Dorchester loading new boards in through a window. The project has found good success in hitting the targeted numbers for using Boston resident, minority and female workers on the project.

There is close to $80 million in work involved in the projects, which call for the renovation of an existing housing development into new housing, new housing from the ground up and the development of the Pearl Small Business Food Production Center, which will help startups and small food businesses get off the ground. The Quincy Heights housing will be built in two phases and will result in over 120 affordable housing units. The project is backed in part by a $20.5 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods grant, which is targeted to re-develop distressed housing into affordable housing.

According to Jeanne DuBois, executive director of Dorchester Bay EDC, they set even higher standards than the Boston Residents Job Policy for the work going on along Quincy Street. The goal for the projects workers is for 51 percent Boston residents, 51 percent minorities and 15 percent women.

DuBois said that the aim was to try and be a showcase for success in diversity in the workforce, which is why the target numbers were made even higher than the Boston Residents Job Policy suggests or the minimum suggested from organizations such as the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association, which sets the line at 30 percent minorities and 10 percent women.

“We are glad for this to be a pilot or test case,” DuBois said. “We want to be held accountable for those goals.”

Partners on the projects — at least four different organizations — have been tracking the numbers and coming out with a report every two weeks to make sure the projects hit the target when all the work is done toward the end of 2014, which is the current estimated finish date on the work.

The most recent report shows 57 percent Boston residents, 67 percent minorities and 8 percent female workers on the housing renovation project of Quincy Heights; 48 percent Boston residents, 60 percent minorities and 8 percent females on the new housing; and 57 percent Boston residents, 63 percent minorities and 12 percent females on the Pearl center project.

While the projects have soared in the amount of minority workers and toed just above the line with Boston residents, they have also shown the challenge of finding female workers to hit the numbers.

But DuBois is still very encouraged and says their constant attention has been paying off and will continue to pay off and she is confident that, when all is said and done, the projects will be able to hit the higher standards that have been set out.

“They key to the success was the willingness to create a new normal and say we were going to do better,” DuBois said.

John Mahony, project manager for Quincy Heights, said he is constantly making an effort to work with contractors and subcontractors to lay out what is expected in employee numbers and making sure, even on a daily basis, they are hitting them — and being quick to point out when they are not.