NEWS | September 17, 2018

Joining Forces to Build a More Diverse, Inclusive Community

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. As the adage suggests, we can make greater progress by joining forces than we can by working in silos. This summer, we took another step toward realizing our vision of a more diverse and inclusive community.

Several elected officials — including James Mitchell and Larken Egleston from Charlotte City Council, and Pat Cotham from Mecklenburg County Commission — and more than 50 local minority, women and small business enterprises (MWSBE) joined us at Carole Hoefner Center to learn about the potential opportunities to work together on upcoming Crescent development projects in Charlotte.


An Intentional Focus on Diversity and Inclusion

To increase our community engagement, develop our workforce and enhance our business inclusion outreach, we have partnered with Lil Associates II, Inc., a Charlotte-based diversity consulting firm. As part of this initiative, we will expand on diversity and inclusion commitments made in 2017 for The River District, a 1,400-acre landmark mixed-use community, to include minority inclusion programs for all Charlotte projects. The first case study beyond The River District is Ally Charlotte Center in Uptown Charlotte.

As a Charlotte-based developer, we are prioritizing these initiatives to address imbalance and create more opportunities by including at least 10 percent MWSBEs for both public and private projects in our community. “Progress is made by joining hands, while keeping a foot firmly planted on the ground,” said Brian Leary, president of commercial/mixed-use. “I believe we all have a responsibility to make a difference in this place we call home.” 

Luckily, Brasfield & Gorrie, the general contractor for Ally Charlotte Center, agrees. Through a series of Crescent-hosted networking events that began in 2017, over 44 small and minority businesses were connected with Brasfield & Gorrie for subcontracting opportunities. Through this, many small firms have gained access to career fairs, contractor outreach sessions, bidder webinars and more.

By participating in Brasfield's pre-qualification process and completing our MWSBE Program Survey, these small businesses are able to get into the large firm’s network. This access allows them to be among the first to know whenever Brasfield & Gorrie needs a subcontractor, from painting and masonry work to hauling and roofing. As a result, several MWSBEs, such as Buffkin Trucking, The Huffstetler Group, Mid Atlantic Erosion Control and nearly 10 others, have already signed on as subcontractors for Ally Charlotte Center. Our team, along with the team at Brasfield & Gorrie, is dedicated to making these partnerships a model for future projects. 

“For us, it’s all about finding ways to facilitate conversations so that people can not only work with us on these projects, but also partner together in the future or on other projects,” said Elizabeth McMillan, director of development. “Through our events, we’re developing a platform to make introductions and foster collaboration, which ultimately increases access to opportunities for MWSBEs to grow.”


A Diverse and Inclusive Workforce Benefits Everyone Involved

MWSBE firms aren’t the only ones with something to gain by partnering with large firms like Brasfield & Gorrie and Crescent. Companies with higher levels of gender, ethnic and racial diversity are 15 percent more likely to experience above average financial returns and a spike in competitive advantage. Including MWSBEs in the scope of our work provides more jobs, promotes economic growth of our firm and our city, diversifies our economy and helps us reach our goals.

In our industry, MWSBEs often have trouble finding their place at the table and knowing when projects have needs they can fill. “Focusing on our purpose to build community and better people’s lives, we are committed to exploring ways to make sure more people have the opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the rapid development that is reshaping Charlotte,” said Todd Mansfield, Crescent’s president and CEO.

Undoubtedly, there is a wide gap in the representation of minorities, women and small businesses in the development industry. “The issue is compounded when our guys tend to hire the same firms over and over again,” McMillan said. “It’s our responsibility to make our internal team aware of best practices, and the necessity for an emphasis on education is apparent. It’s time to think about the process differently and, in turn, level the playing field.

 “By simply offering up the opportunity, we can help MWSBEs learn and grow their companies, since more business begets more business. A foot in the door leads to more jobs, a more educated workforce and greater development of the people in our community who need help the most.”

We are actively striving to be more inclusive and find ways to communicate our organizational commitment to diversity. “The key to accountability is communication,” said Stephane Berwald, senior associate – diversity specialist at Lil Associates II, Inc. “It’s about changing the culture of how we do business in Charlotte. Crescent Communities is equipped to offer a creative solution for that.”