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Business leaders eye contract, job opportunities from $25B in transportation projects

Monday, April 17, 2023 by Chad Swiatecki

With $25 billion in road, rail and airport infrastructure projects on tap for Austin over the next decade-plus, business leaders are starting to shape how the regional economy and its workforce can get the most benefit from the far-reaching changes in local transportation.

The demands and opportunities for Austin businesses of all sizes, and the need to provide thousands of construction and other workers for years at a time, were among the central topics of last week’s Regional Mobility Summit hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Greg Canally, executive director of Austin Transit Partnership, said his organization is already working with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and other local resources that are in place to train area residents. He said ATP and other transit groups, such as the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, realize they need to work together to reduce the risk of cannibalizing each other in their search for needed workers.

“We want to make sure that we are all leveraging the abilities of the work that we have from a training perspective that’s already in place. Where do we need to amplify that? Where can we invest more in that so that we not only are we ready, but the airport is ready and the TxDOT stuff is ready,” he said. “We can join forces, and that’s really where we are headed, because it’s a long haul of construction we’re in for. We know the firms that are going to come in are going to be accessing our local talent. We want to make sure our local talent is ready.”

ATP leaders have also been in introductory talks with dozens of local businesses that can take part in the contracting that’s expected to begin by the end of the year.

“We have spent probably the last nine or 10 months having kind of informal meetings with a lot of folks in industry … and having meetings with folks in our peer agencies as well,” said Casey Burack, executive vice president of business and legal affairs for ATP.

During the summit, it was explained that the ongoing public feedback period for the possible configurations of the downtown Blue Line light rail closes early next month. ATP is expected to make recommendation on which rail route to construct by the end of May, and present that option to City Council for approval in June.

If approved, that would allow for the comprehensive environmental impact study to begin as a precursor to engineering, architecture and other contracting opportunities.

Businesses interested in competing for contract opportunities related to Project Connect – including fields outside of construction and engineering, such as public engagement – can attend the transit industry expo that ATP has announced for May 25 at Distribution Hall, 1500 E. Fourth St.

Manan Garg, ATP’s vice president of project delivery and construction, said a call for industry feedback that opened in March and concluded earlier this month provided an early look at how much interest there was from local businesses, with more than 60 inquiries made.

“We want to make sure that they get involved early on, so they can have conversations among themselves to get them enough time to formulate those partnerships,” he said, noting that initial contracts could be bundled and available for proposal submissions by the end of the year. “Those relationships are going to be very vital for success … so we want to make sure everybody is coming to the table understanding the importance of this project.”

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