T.I.E. Summit Promoted Equity in the Infrastructure Bill

When President Joe Biden signed the trillion-dollar Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill into law on Nov. 15, 2021, state and regional governments across the nation jumped into action. They realized the urgency of planning to receive their share of funds to repair crumbling roads and bridges, ports and rails, and energy and water systems. And to address climate adaptation issues as well as to expand broadband and other technology to reach people in every corner of their states. 

By May of 2024, the Biden administration had announced nearly $454 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, including more than 56,000 specific projects and awards, touching more than 4,500 communities in all 50 states, DC, the Tribal nations, and territories. So far, Georgia will receive approximately $4.2 billion for transportation to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, ports, and airports, and roughly $159 million for clean water.  

Civic and community organizations immediately recognized the need to establish partnerships with governments and private sector leaders to ensure equitable distribution of the funds. The bipartisan infrastructure bill would represent the biggest investment in our nation’s infrastructure since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal between 1933 and 1938, to rescue the US from the Great Depression. 

This modern-day “new deal” includes purposeful steps to open contracting and workforce opportunities in a manner that gives historically marginalized groups a fair chance to participate and to benefit from projects that improve their neighborhoods. 

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in the deployment of Infrastructure funding. Most recently, this goal was advanced at a two-day gathering – the Transportation, Infrastructure and Equity Summit. The T.I.E. Summit attracted more than 300 Atlanta area SMWEs (Small Minority and Women-Owned Enterprises), government contractors, sub-contractors, and those who are looking to expand their careers. Participants were able to meet and learn from experts at the highest levels in government and the private sector who will play a role in how the Infrastructure Bill is executed in Georgia.   

“We are convinced that we can ensure fairness in contracting systems, and prepare a workforce equipped to help Georgia succeed in this vast undertaking, if we join together – community and civic organizations with the public and private sectors – for the common good,” said Nancy Flake Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, who conceived the idea of the summit. “Such partnerships have worked well in Georgia before and are doing so across the nation.” 

Delta Airlines – Atlanta’s top employer, nationally recognized for its commitment to equity and diversity – sponsored the event at Atlanta Piedmont Technical College Dekalb Conference Center. Angela Benjamin, General Manager, Equity Outreach Strategies of Delta Air Lines, brought greetings both days. Congressman Hank Johnson delivered the opening remarks on day one, underscoring the importance of partnerships between the assembled government leaders, business owners, and aspiring professionals ready to offer their talents. 

Entrepreneurs attending the summit said they left with a higher understanding of the projects that Georgia has prioritized as well as the requirements for being involved in lucrative contracts. They also noted that they appreciate the willingness of top officials at the Summit to establish training programs and to open doors of opportunity. 

“I believe the market will respond positively if we establish a sustainable and robust transportation and infrastructure sector. We are committed to ensuring this progress is achieved fairly and equitably,” said G-DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry. 

Other major speakers and panelists included: 

  • Rodney K. Strong, Esq., C.E.O. of Griffin & Strong, P.C. 
  • Dr. Yvette G. Taylor, Regional Administrator – Federal Transit Administration 
  • Meg Pirkle, Chief Engineer – Georgia Department of Transportation  
  • Walter Vinson, Assistant GM & Business Diversity, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport 
  • Valerie S. Nesbitt, Assistant Vice President – Norfolk Southern 
  • Richard Hicks, CEO & President – inspiredu 
  • Melinda Little, Vice President of Government & External Affairs – Comcast 
  • Oneisha Freeman, Manager of Digital Connectivity – Georgia Technology Authority 
  • Venessa Harrison, President – AT&T Southeast Coastal States 
  • Bentina Terry, President and CEO – Southern Linc and Southern Telecom, Inc. 
  • Daniel Blackman, CEO – RENAISSANCE94 and former Regional Administrator – United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
  • Karen R. Owens, Sr. Policy Advisor – US Department of Commerce – CHIPS for America 
  • James Mosely, Management & Program Analyst, Minority Business & Workforce Div. Office of Energy Justice and Equity – US Department of Energy 
  • Dr. Shelley Francis, Co-founder & Managing Partner – EVNoire (Virtual) 
  • Joel Alvarado, Vice President for Strategy and Engagement – Partnership for Southern Equity 
  • Ernest Ellis, President, CEO: FS 360, LLC, President, National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) – Greater Atlanta chapter 
  • Michelle Butler, Esq. – Director/Chief Procurement Officer, DeKalb County  
  • Lourdes Zapata, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, State of New York – Metropolitan Transit Authority 
  • Carol J. Rogers, Chief Procurement Officer — Clayton County 
  • Sarah-Elizabeth Langford, Executive Director – Development Authority of Fulton County 
  • Michelle Burris, Fellow, Cohort Manager – The Industry and Inclusion Team, The Century Foundation 
  • Ronald S. Skeete, MSEd, VP of Business Development – OneTen 
  • Anna Roach, Executive Director – Atlanta Regional Commission 
  • Chairwoman LaChandra B. Burks, Henry County Board of Commissioners 
  • Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners 
  • Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, Cobb County Board of Commissioners 
  • Irene Marion, Director of the Departmental Office of Civil Rights – US Department of Transportation 
  • Mona Harty, Vice President – Global Cleanliness – Delta Air Lines 
  • George Guillaume, VP – Supply Chain Management – Delta Air Lines 
  • Brian Wright, VP– Delta Connection Operations – Delta Air Lines 
  • Tracy Mosley, President and CEO – Urban League of the River Valley 
  • Dr. George White, Professor – Georgia Tech University 
  • General Andy Helms, Executive Vice President – United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley 
  • Kimberly King, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity – Georgia Department of Transportation (GA DOT) 
  • Yulonda Beauford, President – Atlanta Technical College 
  • Charmaine Davis, Regional Administrator – US Department of Labor (US DOL) 
  • Kenneth Bryant II, Human Resources Director – Alstom 
  • Melvin Coleman, President – Atlanta Black Chambers 
  • Jennifer Allen, Managing Director – CBRE 
  • Chris Clay, Loan Officer – Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) 

 

The Urban League will host additional, smaller events and sessions in the months ahead. Please visit ulgatl.org often for notices of upcoming opportunities. 

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