Illinois Tollway introduces Emerging Technology Program for DBEs to Diversity Advisory Council
Always looking to adopt new technologies available in the transportation industry, the Illinois Tollway is increasingly turning to cutting-edge tools such as 3D modeling, intelligent transportation systems in planning, designing and building roads and bridges.
So, when Executive Director Cassaundra Rouse and new Board Chairman Arnie Rivera met with the Tollway’s Diversity Advisory Council, they embraced the opportunity to seek input on ways to prepare small, diverse and veteran-owned firms to obtain training of new technologies to remain competitive.
The Diversity Advisory Council includes representatives from nearly 30 advocacy organizations with a history of assisting small, diverse and veteran-owned business, as well as individuals seeking workforce assistance and training.
“We know that diversity can lead to innovation and fresh perspectives on ways of doing business,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Cassaundra Rouse. “We developed an Emerging Technology Program to help entrepreneurs develop the technology skills they need to grow and succeed, but we are always open for suggestions from our industry partners on how we can make our programs better.”
The initiative creates opportunities for disadvantaged business enterprise firms to receiving expert training and mentoring in the use and implementation of the latest construction equipment and technology and dovetails the Tollway’s Partnering for Growth Program.
Members of the Diversity Advisory Council were quick to embrace the program, including representatives from the Elite Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Network and the Federation of Women Contractors. They expressed their eagerness for the Tollway to explore other leading-edge technologies and innovations.
The Emerging Technology Program creates two paths for small and diverse firms to access training and mentoring.
First, the Tollway partners with larger construction firms and equipment manufacturers to provide virtual and hands-on training sessions with equipment such as automated machine guidance using 3D modeling for earthwork, grading and installation of closed-circuit TV cameras.
The Tollway bolsters this training by advertising several contracts exclusively for small businesses featuring this technology and including incentives to offset the cost of renting or purchasing new equipment and software.
Next, the Tollway connects large and small contractors to work together on training and use of new technology and equipment. These short-term relationships – typically 12 months or less – are not tied to any specific contract, but allow small and diverse contractors to access training and equipment owned by larger firms so they can stay current with industry trends and remain competitive on future contracting opportunities.
In 2023, the Tollway plans to offer one or two more small business contracts for 3D grading improvements and is exploring other potential contract and training opportunities it can offer through the Emerging Technology Program.
See the Tollway’s website for more details.