NJEDA, Rutgers to study disparity with goal of ensuring diversity, inclusion on contracts awarded for NJ Wind Port

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority announced on Tuesday it has partnered with Rutgers University to study disparities in historic contracting practices.

The goal of the study is to determine whether such disparities exist, which could provide legal basis to require remedial measures in the contracts it intends to award in relation to the New Jersey Wind Port.

“The New Jersey Wind Port will not only protect our environment by growing our green energy sector, but will also benefit New Jersey businesses and workers by creating thousands of jobs and attracting millions of dollars of investment to the state,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said. “Ensuring that the opportunities this project creates are distributed equitably is crucial to achieving our goal of building a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy. The disparity study we are conducting with Rutgers will be a vital tool for us as we continue our efforts to set a new standard for diversity and inclusion during construction of the Wind Port and once the project becomes operational.”

The study will look for inequalities in the number of qualified businesses — specifically minority-, women-, veteran- and/or LGBTQ-owned, or MWVLOBs — that are ready, willing and able to contract with the EDA to help develop the Wind Port and compare that with the number of vendors and contractors that have historically received similar contracts. It will also look for barriers to participation that MWVLOB experience broadly. The study will identify systemic challenges that have existed historically so the NJEDA can actively address these challenges and ensure they don’t impact contracting for the project.

“Projects on the scale of the New Jersey Wind Port present crucial opportunities for businesses to grow and gain experience working on government contracts. Unfortunately, in the past, minority-, women-, and LGBTQ-owned businesses have been excluded from these opportunities, both intentionally and by simple oversight,” Michelle Bodden, chief diversity and inclusion officer, NJEDA, said. “This disparity study is an important step in the right direction that will not only help ensure the opportunities the Wind Port creates are available to all interested and qualified firms, but will also pave the way for more inclusive and diverse hiring in future projects.”

The wind port will be located on the eastern shore of the Delaware River in Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County. It has the potential to provide up to 1,500 manufacturing, assembly and operations jobs as well as hundreds in construction. Phase 1, which is planned for 2021, includes the development of a 30-acre site to accomodate marshaling activities and a 25-acre manufacturing site. Phase 2 will add another 150 acres for those activities.

“Despite being one of the most diverse states in the nation, inequality continues to persist in New Jersey, especially in access to opportunities. Rutgers is proud to work with the NJEDA to begin dismantling these historic inequalities by identifying any existing disparities related to the New Jersey Wind Port project and recommending programs and policies to address both the immediate problem and the underlying causes,” Kevin Lyons, director of the public private community partnership program at Rutgers Business School, said. “The Wind Port is an amazing opportunity for New Jersey to build a clean energy future while creating opportunities for businesses, and we look forward to helping the NJEDA complete the project in a way that distributes these economic benefits equitably.”