Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will hold a roundtable hearing tonight, Tuesday, August 21, 2012, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Rayburn House Office Building Room 2167, featuring D.C. residents and small businesses working on federal construction sites in the District of Columbia. The hearing will examine the rate of hiring of D.C. residents and the use of D.C. small businesses on stimulus-funded federal construction projects underway in the District, which received more stimulus construction funds than any other U.S. city because of the large number of federal buildings in the nation's capital in need of rehabilitation.
Tonight's hearing will feature federal projects underway in downtown D.C., where contractors are hiring more workers as the pace of these projects picks up, as well as the construction of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The first panel of witnesses will be D.C. residents representing various trades who work on federal construction projects in the city. They will be asked about their experiences getting work on these federal construction projects, the work they are currently doing on those sites, and other questions that can help guide other residents looking for similar work, and the Congresswoman as she monitors the hiring of residents.
The second panel will focus on the federal projects themselves, and will include Shapour Ebadi, General Services Administration (GSA) Deputy Regional Commissioner in the National Capital Region; Ron Eisenberg, Senior Vice President at Whiting-Turner, the general contractor at the GSA Headquarters building construction, and Adrienne Smoot, President of AV Smoot, the D.C. subcontractor for historic restoration work at the Hoover and Lafayette buildings.
The third panel will examine the work underway at the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture and will include Derek Ross, Chief of Construction for the Smithsonian Institution; Mark Cain, President and CEO of Smoot Construction Company, representing the general contractor on the project; and Rose Shelton, President of Shelton Federal, a D.C. subcontractor on the project.
"Tonight's roundtable hearing will give us a comprehensive look at the hiring of D.C. residents and the use of D.C. small businesses on federal construction projects throughout the city. The goals are to diagnose problems, eliminate barriers that may exist, and increase outreach across the city," Norton said. "We are interested in finding ways to get our residents and small businesses hired, rather than criticism that is not remedy-oriented. It is unacceptable for D.C. residents and small businesses to be sitting on the sidelines as federal dollars meant to provide jobs flow to construction projects in their home town. The benchmarks from the ongoing Ward 8 Department of Homeland Security project at St. Elizabeths demonstrate that there are plenty of D.C. residents with the skills to be journeymen or apprentices for the work now underway across the city, and a number of D.C. small businesses that are well-qualified to serve as subcontractors on those projects."
Norton held hearings on federal construction when she chaired the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the GSA, and has held similar roundtable hearings as ranking member of that subcommittee, that focused on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters construction, the largest federal construction project in the country. With construction of the first building in that complex, the Coast Guard headquarters, nearly complete, and the project slowed due to a slowdown in appropriations, tonight's hearing will focus on other federal projects in the city, which Norton said, taken together, are just as important as the planned mammoth DHS complex.
As a former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Norton helped develop state-of-the-art techniques approved by federal courts to increase the hiring of minorities and women by businesses.
Federal construction contracts cannot require contractors to hire particular groups or hire from a particular geographic area, but the federal government encourages the aggressive local outreach that Norton has been doing, and GSA takes into account the level at which each company has engaged the local community when that firm competes for future federal construction contracts.