Community-based partnership offers infrastructure solutions through stormwater management
By Keisha Brown
Green infrastructure practices continue to be leveraged across the country as a mechanism for managing stormwater runoff to reduce pollution and impairments to local waterways. As jurisdictions and municipal leaders seek solutions to operate and maintain aging and outdated infrastructure, local and regional subcontractors are expanding their technical knowledge and capabilities into stormwater and green infrastructure programs to gain the training, skills, and tools they require to grow and expand their businesses. The backlog of much needed municipal stormwater infrastructure retrofits to improve local water quality and regional flooding have become a growth opportunity for local small and disadvantaged businesses. This challenge has allowed local firms to gain an advantage in diversifying and growing their businesses in what has traditionally been a high barrier to entry for government projects.
The Clean Water Partnership (CWP), a community-based partnership between Prince George’s County and Corvias, has created a model that overcomes these barriers by investing in training and mentoring for local small businesses and infrastructure professionals while bringing improvements to stormwater management initiatives on the ground. Starting in 2015, Prince George’s County was a leader in pursuing the Community Based Public Private Partnership model developed by the EPA’s Region 3. Built into this agreement, Corvias, through the CWP, was required to utilize county-certified small, minority and women-owned businesses for 40 percent of the total project scope. With Corvias, county officials included program goals to support community buy-in along with long-term economic benefits for its nearly 900,000 residents and local small and minority disadvantaged businesses.
So far, the CWP has seen over 100 individual projects completed, which have treated over 2,200 acres of public and private land in the Maryland county, bordering the eastern portion of Washington, D.C. Through local partnerships, CWP has exceeded its goals for county-certified small, minority and women-owned businesses by 47 percent. Through its Contractor Development and Mentor Protégé Program, the CWP has trained and mentored over 25 local firms on the technical skills and business practices that better position them for bid and award of contracts as part of this effort. In total, CWP has contracted with over 70 companies that have contributed to the significant improvements to green infrastructure in the county.
And of the nearly $142 million awarded through the CWP for green infrastructure contracts, approximately 76 percent have gone to county-based businesses and nearly $18 million has been awarded to smaller firms pursuing the mentorship program. Through the Mentor Protege Program, the CWP is retooling small businesses to provide coaching, training, access to bidding opportunities, operating capital, bonding, certification and other supportive efforts to empower local infrastructure managers.
But the program has offered some real-life experiences too. Through a pilot project exercise, each cohort, now in its fourth iteration, is afforded the opportunity to compete against one another for a CWP project – offering valuable lessons about the procurement and construction lifecycle.
From the outset of this 30-year partnership, Prince George’s County officials and Corvias knew they needed to invest in the community and created a local economy to support the program’s ambitious goals. Now in its sixth year, the partnership has created a green economy that never existed before in the county – or in the state for that matter. By establishing this local capacity for stormwater infrastructure projects, local businesses have been able to work in the very same county and region they call home, in addition to neighboring municipalities. This is an innovative solution that can be replicated to help our country’s infrastructure problems today for tomorrow.
Keisha Brown is the Corvias Partnership Liaison. To learn more, visit www.corvias.com.