Equity | April 25, 2023
A group of six people with hard hats on are working together at a construction site.
General | May 3, 2022
Easy Multiplier Effect for Economic Justice Philanthropy
Omaha is a town that loves to build!
There is an amazing strength when you look at the University of Nebraska’s state of the art buildings like the Davis Global Health Center or the new Munroe Meyer campus. Prior to the pandemic, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce reported nearly $40,000,000,000 (BILLION, with a B) in construction in a single year. However, after looking into those numbers, small or emerging businesses (read woman or minority owned) contracted less than 1% of that activity.
Many programs have been devised by the city and state to address this glaring inequity in construction. Solutions range from entrepreneurial programs, educational programs, guidelines mimicking federal requirements, and yet, it appears there are a number of ways to get around actually hiring firms led by women and minorities.
The Weitz Family Foundation does mostly operating grants and capacity building grants. Only a few of our grants go to capital projects. However, we realized that if just the amount of money we spend in a year on capital projects (in 2022 it was $3M) was used to hire small and emerging businesses, we might be able to move the needle on this metric. We added a line in our grant agreement requiring 10% of the budget for the capital project we are funding OR the full amount of our grant dollars must be spent with small and emerging businesses.
Of course, this has created some additional issues, and agencies have had to reach out for assistance to find and vet these firms. Organizations have to come to grips with the idea that it might take a little longer and cost a little more, because new agencies don’t have the same scale other firms do. But what does it mean to have philanthropic dollars supporting women and firms led by people of color? It means regardless of all the great equity work that will happen INSIDE the building, the philanthropic dollars are ALL READY creating a more equitable Omaha.
With the new federal recovery money, there will be a lot of opportunity to build and create jobs for everyone, but specifically, it is meant to be for those who were disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. If you need help finding small and emerging business that can do your project, contact REACH at www.OmahaChamber.org/Reach.
Let’s commit to hiring equity!