The Port of Miami has a new tunnel and road-link developed through a $900m public private partnership project. A 7,000 strong workforce built this vital piece of infrastructure, drawn together from the Miami Dade County area through an initiative launched to ensure local people benefit most from the investment.
> 6,728 local jobs created
> 83% of workforce from the Miami community
> 466 local businesses and Vendors worked on the Miami Tunnel
> More than $34 million spent on local minority contractors
> “Miami Chamber Social Responsibility” Award” for community outreach and diversity
> Girl Scouts STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program
> Senior High School Engineering Summer Internship Program
> “Global Climate Action Award”: 1st Transportation Infrastructure project in Florida to address sea level rise
The 2,7 million residents of Miami-Dade County in the US State of Florida have the number 305 as their telephone dialling zip-code. So Operation 305 was the name given to an important recruitment and local procurement drive established with the aim of providing employment to as many locals as possible as the Miami Access Tunnel (MAT) project got under way.
This is a $900m infrastructure development, featuring a new twin-bore road tunnel between Miami’s MacArthur Causeway Bridge and the city’s port infrastructure on Dodge Island. But MAT now represents more than just a large-scale and complex engineering project. From the outset, it grew to become a major boost to the local economy and communities of Miami-Dade County.
“We wanted to make this a project all about local people, partly by ensuring a lot of the investment was spent on them as the supply chain and workforce,” says Chris Hodgkins, Chief Executive Officer for the project company MAT Concessionaire LLP.“We came to view MAT as akin to a three-legged stool; whereby two of the legs were the technical challenges of the design and construction of the new infrastructure. The third equally important leg, was the outreach and communications effort.”
MAT Concessionaire is a special purpose vehicle formed by partners Meridiam and Bouygues Civil Works Florida (BCWF sold their interest at the end of the construction). Towards the end of 2009, project sponsors the State of Florida, Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, awarded a 35-year concession to MAT Concessionaire, handing it responsibility for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the MAT tunnel and its connecting roads.
This came at a difficult time for the city and surrounding area, as Chris explains:
“The construction project started proper in 2010. The global financial crisis that followed 2008 was biting hard. Unemployment was running high and public feeling towards the County authorities was at a low point after public money had been used to build a new stadium for the Miami Marlins baseball team. The MAT project was facing a 68% public unfavourable rating,” says Chris.
With all this in mind, Operation 305 was launched as a project-wide initiative, by Chris and his team from the offices of MAT Concessionaire, but in partnership with other cities and county organisations, with the local office of LiUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) for example.
“We wanted to hire locally, to provide jobs for as many people in the County as possible,” Chris says.
Another crucial goal was set, to create a diverse workforce with a demographic by racial background that mirrors that of the County – approximately 51% hispanic, 22% african-american and 11% white caucasian.
This would be done through recruitment efforts targeting individual job seekers:
“We held around 20 separate job fairs with municipal, city, county and state authorities and communicated job opportunities through organisations including Veterans for America,” Chris says.
“We needed all the different specialist skills of a major construction project.
Applicants that came to us were pre-screened by their zip-code and then sent on to our contractors for them to consider. They could say yes or no to each applicant, for bona fide reasons, but on the whole, we were getting enquiries from good people, some of them with experience and skills already highly suitable. We were able to work with LiUNA and other local unions as well, to recruit and place these specialist and skilled workers in the right places.”
The principal contractor Bouygues was fully signed up and committed to the initiative, Chris says. A total of around 900 construction workers would be employed directly, many as new hires.
“We told all of our contractors, we want you to do as we do. We set out a mission statement to employ and spend locally and we measured everyone’s actions,” he adds.
Contractors were incentivised with their performance gauged partly against how they took up the ethos of Operation 305, which was also developed as an initiative targeting local vendors and suppliers. A project procurement framework set out the terms for local businesses to get involved and a partnership with the Miami-Dade County Small Business Development Office was forged to help local SMEs and small companies from disadvantaged communities to get on-board.
Many of the opportunities on offer were advertised at a Vendor and Supplier Expo held in Miami in December 2010, including subcontracts for a variety of electrical, mechanical, safety equipment and other specialist construction work. In total, 831 different companies would work on the project. More than half, 465, were Miami-Dade businesses. Around $325m of the MAT construction investment was spent through them, providing a significant uplift to the local economy as well as a lot of new jobs.