BuildNOLA Advances Minority Businesses, Workers in New Orleans


In less than two years, BuildNOLA – a city program that prepares local small and disadvantaged New Orleans contractors to bid competitively for public- and private-sector projects – is already improving the landscape for local African-American-owned companies and local workers.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (left) with contractor Otis Tucker, a BuildNOLA graduate.

Network for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ashleigh Gardere assembled a team to implement Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Economic Opportunity Strategy -- a comprehensive effort to connect disadvantaged job seekers and businesses to new opportunities through partnerships with local training providers, social service agencies and community advocates. The city ultimately hired ECC as consultants to adapt ECC’s economic inclusion programs, including the E- Contractor Academy, to NOLA.

At the time that ECC was hired, Gardere commented: “As we have implemented the mayor’s Economic Opportunity Strategy, we have leveraged our partnership with Emerald Cities, to establish strong local policies, monitoring and compliance systems and partnerships with numerous labor, workforce and business development organizations to implement a comprehensive and integrated approach to the city’s overall strategy and goals.”

The eight-week BuildNOLA program takes place in a classroom setting and is free of charge to participants. BuildNOLA instructors use real bid specifications from public and private agencies as the foundation of each training module, and participating contractors and professional services firms acquire the skills needed to win public and private contracts.

BuildNOLA offers both opportunity-specific training and ongoing technical assistance on basic skills such as estimating, scheduling, project management, safety, change order management and invoicing.

More Than $5 Million and Counting
Since its September 2015 launch, BuildNOLA graduates have won 54 contracts worth a total of more than $5.3 million, with 74 percent awarded to African American-owned firms and nearly a third to firms owned by African American women. The successful bidders have hired 81 new workers, giving priority to New Orleans residents – in some cases from the very neighborhoods where the projects are taking place.

For their part, several recent BuildNOLA graduates interviewed by Emerald Cities give rave reviews to the program and the knowledge of the subject matter experts who lead the training. They uniformly attest that BuildNOLA has helped them grow their businesses while also bringing new job opportunities and career paths to their communities.

The contractors are:

  • Marlene Wade of HAS Construction, who, as a first-time public contract bidder, was awarded eight contracts and hired four new employees. She has since competed successfully for several additional public and private contracts. 

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