DRWC talks projects, launches effort to hire more women and minority-owned businesses

If you want to ensure that your organization supports women and minority-owned businesses, you sometimes have to be very creative, said Beverly Woods, deputy director of the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition’s Division of Economic Opportunity.

Her non-profit organization won a $70,000 contract to create an economic opportunity plan for the Central Delaware Master Plan, which the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. oversees. But the work that began with her presentation to the DRWC board Friday is aimed at making certain the waterfront corporation itself is hiring a good number of women and minority contractors.  GPUAC is doing this work for free.

Woods has begun reviewing the DRWC’s RFPs and other documents to see what they buy and what kind of work they hire people to do, and if there are contractors or suppliers that are owned by women or minorities.

Depending on the task or item at hand, it’s easy to get a significant number of women- or minority-owned businesses responding to a bid. This was the case when she was working with the city’s former Neighborhood Transformation Initiative program, and buildings needed to be demolished.

But other times, she said, there just are not that many certified people who own the type of business needed to complete a job.  That’s when the creativity comes in, Woods said. Perhaps the job needs a certain type of supplies that can be purchased from a business owned by a woman or minority, she said. Or perhaps the contractor needs subcontractors in a field with many such owners.

In a different segment of its meeting, the DRWC board was talking about the Philadelphia Belle, a paddle wheel river cruising vessel that is expected to arrive in Philadelphia this summer. It will then need to have its interior remodeled before it begins taking passengers on the river in late fall or winter. The DRWC won’t own the boat, but the owner will be a tenant of theirs.

“As they were talking about that, I was excitedly writing things down,” Woods said. Not only is there work to be done to ready the boat, but it will have a crew of about 200.

DRWC staff is compiling numbers to show “where we are now,” said Donn Scott, DRWC Chairman. That will help set goals for the future, he said.  Woods will present a plan to the DRWC at the next meeting of the full board, in October.

The DRWC also passed a $6.9 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011 (PlanPhilly will be writing more on the budget soon), but it spent most of the meeting talking about projects on the capital side:

There’s already $1.78 million earmarked to improve the DRWC’s marina. This includes dredging the area to take the water depth from three to eight feet. That should mean bigger boats, more boats and larger slip fees, said DRWC President Tom Corcoran.

In coming months, the board may be asked to approve spending about $1 million for a new roof on their 50,000-square-foot Pier 9.

Board members said they did not want to spend the money unless it was certain the pier has a useful future under the still-in-development Master Plan.

Master Plan Manager Sarah Thorp said it certainly will. That’s already been talked about as a way to complement the Race Street Pier project, she said. Race Street Pier – the pier that will come to new life next spring as a park – will draw people who will want to use things like cafes, and the less-glamorous-but-important restrooms. Perhaps with private development, perhaps through the DRWC, or a mix, Thorp said, these things would fit nicely in Pier 9, which is Race Street Pier’s neighbor.

Speaking of Race Street Pier, work so far is on-time and on-budget, said DRWC Vice President Joe Forkin.

And a fund-raising effort for big trees that will line the park, led by board member Avi Eden, is underway. The project’s budget called for 37, four-inch caliper, 14-16 foot trees, which would have cost $2,500 each. But when DRWC found out they could get trees with trunks twice as wide and 20- to 22-feet tall, they decided to go for it.

DRWC’s executive committee already fronted the money at an earlier meeting, but the board is looking for 37 donors to give $2,500 each so that nothing has to be cut elsewhere in the project’s budget, Corcoran said.  A board in front of each tree will be etched with donor names or the names of people who the tree honors or memorializes. Learn more.

Eden said the trees will help make the park seem more finished and established from the beginning, and their shade will be wonderful. But what makes them extra special, he said, is that they are extras from the crop that was grown for the 9-11 Memorial at the World Trade Center.

Watch the rest of the meeting here:

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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