Airport Taking Modernization Program to Neighborhoods

Emphasis on involving businesses owned by minorities, women spurs outreach efforts

By Alyson Walls

Published July 5, 2019

Read Time: 2 mins


While Pittsburgh’s Terminal Modernization Program is bound to attract world attention, the project’s planners want to ensure that construction also represents the region, right down to locally made fixtures and furnishings.

That’s why the Allegheny County Airport Authority aims to award 14 percent of the contracts for the TMP and  multi-modal transportation complex to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBEs.

The DBE program was created by U.S. Congress in 1983 to eliminate discrimination in federally funded projects by promoting the hiring of disadvantaged businesses, including those owned by minorities and women, in all federally assisted contracts.

“One of the main objectives of our DBE program is to identify new DBEs that have not previously worked on an airport job and help them obtain the experience and resources to build the capacity of their business,” said Jenee Oliver, the ACAA’s business and diversity outreach manager.

And Oliver is going right to the source, partnering with local organizations and hosting several networking events in communities throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Attendees talk about business opportunities at the airport’s most recent Industry Day at the Hyatt Regency. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Upcoming outreach events include:

  • Small Business Networking, July 10, Community Empowerment Association in Homewood
  • “Meet the Primes,” July 25, Koppers Building, Downtown
  • Vendor Product Pitch Fair (building materials), Aug. 27, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown

“We are going into the community to raise awareness about the TMP and to identify new minority-owned businesses who want to be involved,” Oliver said.

The authority is also working directly with the African-American Chamber of Commerce. CEO Christina Cassotis spoke to the organization at a breakfast event in June. In a New Pittsburgh Courier article following the event, chamber president and CEO Doris Carson Williams said those efforts make a difference in delivering results for communities.

Engaging locally owned and DBE businesses in the airport project is not “just checking the box,” Cassotis said.

A recent audit of PIT’s DBE program by the Federal Aviation Administration identified best practices that should be shared with other airports. Among them: PIT’s extensive community outreach and opportunities for access.

The authority has a history of reaching out to local communities in preparation for bid releases and requests for proposals. Four Industry Days/Small Business Fairs have been hosted at the airport, and more events are planned in coming months.

“The DBE program at PIT is crucial to creating an airport that is representative of all its city’s people,” Oliver said. “That’s even more important as we build for the future.”



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