Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, opens its new international terminal today. It’s a gorgeous building featuring sweeping skyline views, works from acclaimed artists, and a $1.4 billion price tag.
It’s a good thing for our city and for Atlanta based Delta Airlines, but it’s a bitter pill for us. You see, our facility is 15 miles from the jobsite and we lost to a subcontractor that is 797 miles away from the airport. That’s not really the issue though (even though it hardly seems very “green” that the raw material was produced in Eastman, GA, shipped halfway across America, fabricated, and then shipped back to Georgia). We win jobs in far off places and we lose close to home sometimes. It all evens out. What frustrates us is that prices were comparable, but the decision to use the rival company was based in large part on the fact that they are female owned.
During the pre-bid meeting, a quote from a representative of the consortium of general contractors on the project really resonated with us. He said, “If this project finishes on time and under budget, it will be a failure if the participation goal is not met.”
Hey, I’m a white male in America. I realize that I have it great and that I do not have any earthly idea of what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin or my gender. Our nation has an ugly past and I am always amazed when I see old photos of how things were before the civil rights movement. I recognize that a large segment of our society has way more obstacles than I do. I get it.
What I don’t get is spending more tax payer money than is required in order to satisfy politically correct set asides. Like nearly every large US city, Atlanta has a massive budget shortfall and is looking everywhere for ways to trim costs. Let’s conservatively assume that the $1.4 billion cost included a 5% premium for set asides. $70 million would pay for a lot of teachers or infrastructure improvements. Atlanta Public Schools announced this week a plan to cut 475 positions in their 2012-2013 budget. Metro Atlanta highways are so traffic choked that officials this week implemented a plan to use the emergency shoulder of a major North/South artery as a traffic lane during rush hour. Yes, you read that correctly.
How can I say with certainty that costs were higher from the winning subcontractors than they could have been? I know for a fact that our bid included extra money to use some minority owned suppliers. I also know that when we bid another, more recent Atlanta Airport renovation, we were approached by a female who would essentially be a paper pusher and route our contract through her company for a 3% fee. This practice is surely common across various trades on the job.
The bottom line is that Atlanta is in a budget crunch, but paid more than necessary for the terminal. That is hard to fathom.
Thanks for reading.
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