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Posted: July 01, 2012

Diversity Corporation of the Year finalists 2012

Tom Gleason

Forest City/Mortenson Construction

Stapleton’s transformation from airport to mixed-use neighborhood has been nothing short of dramatic. "It’s one of the largest infill developments in the nation," says Tom Gleason, vice president of public relations at Forest City Stapleton.

As master developer at Stapleton, Cleveland-based Forest City has a corporate directive for a diverse roster of contractors and suppliers, he adds. "We have as a company always believed in diversity," says Gleason. "Here in Denver, we’re striving to meet the expectations of the community to create a full range of opportunities for companies across the spectrum."

Denver-based Mortenson Construction, the Park Creek Metro District’s construction manager under Forest City, helps with that mission. "I’ve been here 11 years," says Kerry O’Connell, Mortenson’s senior project manager at Stapleton. "We’ve been working with a lot of the same minority contractors for all 11 years."

O’Connell says hiring diverse contractors isn’t easy in civil construction, because of its capital-intensive nature, but Mortenson brings in minority-owned businesses to work in infrastructure projects ranging from turn lanes and concrete projects to fencing and street-sweeping. "We generally get 20 to 25 percent minority participation," says O’Connell, noting that businesses with diverse ownership are currently in high demand at such civic projects as FasTracks and the Union Station redevelopment."It’s a pretty good number considering you don’t have a lot of big players."

Last year, O’Connell ran an eight-night class covering project-estimating skills for a student body of more than 20 contractors, most of them minorities, culminating in "Bid Day" for a new left turn lane on Central Park Avenue. The winner actually won the contract for the project. "It was pretty good," says O’Connell. "We still work with six or seven of them."

Other educational initiatives have focused on junior high and high school students: Mortenson provided teachers for civil engineering classes organized by the Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists.

Mortenson also recruits local minority students from Montbello High School. One of them, Mercy Wright, now works in the office for Mortenson after the company helped pay for her tuition for college. "When we first met her, she had never seen a construction site," says O’Connell. "We made her into a surveyor. That was over seven years ago. She’s been working for us ever since."

– Eric Peterson

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