Equity in Infrastructure Project launches to drive federal infrastructure funds to historically underutilized businesses

April 28, 2022
CTA, Denver International Airport, Port of Long Beach, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and SEPTA are the first to sign the equity pledge.

The Equity in Infrastructure Project (EIP) launched April 26 with a pledge to create more prime, joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs). 

The project aims to improve public contracting practices by creating more opportunities for HUBs to build generational wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap. 

Through its pledge, EIP works to secure commitments from public agencies to increase the number, size and scope of contracts going to HUBs by facilitating access and reducing barriers to compete for business. 

EIP defines HUBs as including firms formally designated as DBEs, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE), Small Business Enterprises (SBE), as well as any other business classification used locally in the United States intended to boost the participation of otherwise underutilized firms, which can vary by state, region and municipality. 

EIP was founded by Denver International Airport CEO Phillip A. Washington, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari and others in anticipation of the federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and to answer President Joe Biden’s call to leverage infrastructure spending to build wealth in underserved communities. EIP receives support from social and environmental entrepreneurs, social impact fund, HNTB and The James Irvine Foundation. 

“This historic infusion in infrastructure funding is much needed, but it’s important that we ensure fair and equitable distribution to underserved and disadvantaged communities and businesses. Through the Equity in Infrastructure Project, we can increase generational wealth and work to correct for the underinvestment that has resulted in diminished opportunities for economic growth in low-income communities and communities of color,” said Washington.  

EIP launches with the following first mover signers of its pledge: 

  • Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) – Dorval R. Carter, Jr., President 
  • Denver International Airport – Phillip A. Washington, CEO Port of Long Beach – Mario Cordero, Executive
  • Director Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – Adel H. Hagekhalil, General Manager Southeastern
  • Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) – Leslie S. Richards, General Manager and CEO 

The pledge was finalized after the above five leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., in December 2021 alongside senior leaders from the public, private and philanthropic sectors, including representatives from U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, HNTB, AECOM, The James Irvine Foundation, members of Congress and others to lay the groundwork for this initiative.  

“The Port of Long Beach is committed to equity and inclusion,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “Our mission in part is to provide economic opportunities to the people of this region and beyond. That’s why we’re among the first organizations in the U.S. to join the Equity in Infrastructure Pledge. Through the pledge, we stand together with partner agencies to ensure that all qualified individuals and companies have their chance to join us in our work.” 

While EIP is acting independently, this effort seeks to advance the spirit of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and his June 2021 executive order pledging to increase by 2026 the share of federal contracts that go to small and disadvantaged businesses, which new Small Business Administration (SBA) data shows is low. 

“To bring greater economic equality to our communities we must remove the structural inequities that have made it difficult for small and minority-owned businesses to compete. That is our commitment today,” said Metropolitan Water District General Manager Adel H. Hagekhalil.  

Starting from the baseline of their current actions and initiatives, by December 2025, pledge signers will work to increase the number, size and percentage of HUBs growing to prime contractors, participating in joint ventures or as equity participants. 

They will work toward this effort by: 

  • Increasing the number, size and proportion of contracting opportunities going to HUBs. 
  • Increasing the number, size and proportion of contracting opportunities going to HUBs as prime contractors. 
  • Streamlining the administration of contracting with HUBs to centralize certification, improve payment time and standardize transparent data collection. Increasing the amount and type of appropriate financing available to HUBs aiming to meet infrastructure contracts by working with private and public partners. 
  • Expanding the number of signatories to this pledge. 

“At CTA, we understand that every dollar we spend, every investment we make and every decision we execute impacts our customers and the communities we serve,” said Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “It’s important that we all govern ourselves accordingly when providing job and contracting opportunities to ensure an equitable process.” 

SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie Richards added, “Who we contract with has always mattered in our efforts to advance equity. At this moment, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create generational wealth for small, minority and women-owned firms in the infrastructure space. SEPTA is not only committed, we’re excited to take this pledge.”