Turner Construction, CIRAS Cohort is Big Success

Participants who recently completed the first-ever Construction Diversity Accelerator class led by Turner Construction and CIRAS agree: The event was a rousing success.

“It was engaging and well organized,” said Perlla Esturilho from Southeast Constructors, one of 30 people who participated in the five-week course. “It’s hard to do a one-size-fits-all program but they did it.”

The class, which drew participants from 20 companies, was designed to enhance the ability of Underrepresented Business Enterprises (UBEs) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) to compete for contracting opportunities. Turner Construction, the largest domestic contractor in the U.S., has offered the hands-on course in other parts of the country but this was the first time it was offered in Iowa.

“For Turner, the goal was to increase the participation of underrepresented contractors on their projects,” said Mary Zimmerman, CIRAS DBE support services program manager. “For us, it was a chance to introduce companies to some of our services but most of all to bolster their confidence to pursue projects they may never have otherwise considered.”

The class, taught by Turner staff and select industry partners, covered topics ranging including estimating, bidding, procurement, scheduling, safety, and sustainability. Participants also had opportunities to interact with Turner representatives.

The cohort attended class in-person in early 2023. Attendees were recognized at the completion of the course for their dedication and achievement

“It was interesting to hear from a sizeable general contractor, to know more about how they do business, and what they expect,” said Vaughn Miller, Advanced Traffic Control, Inc. “I believe what I learned will be a great asset to our company, and I look forward to using what I learned to enter a new market.”

Another highlight for participants was the opportunity to share experiences with other UBE/DBEs.

“Hearing stories of where they started, their challenges, and where they are now was helpful,” said Rene Martinez, 3M Contracting.

Instructors were equally enthusiastic about the program.

“I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this course,” said Travis Dolphin of Turner Construction, who led a session on lean principles. “A highlight of my experience was the look of genuine understanding and realization when participants grasped the ideas of lean. I hope we get a chance to do it again to reach even more individuals.”

At the end of the final class, participants invited company or family members to watch them receive their UBE award and join them in a celebration of their achievements.

For more information, contact Mary Zimmerman at maryz@iastate.edu or 515-450-1278.