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Greensboro-based partnership has early lead in bid to manage Guilford County Schools' $300 million school construction program
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Greensboro-based partnership has early lead in bid to manage Guilford County Schools' $300 million school construction program

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GREENSBORO — A team of Greensboro firms is at the top of a list of hopefuls being considered to manage the $300 million in school construction voters approved for Guilford County Schools.

Their three finalist competitors include much larger national and multinational companies.

The contract is for what district leaders hope would be the first stage of completing an estimated $2.6 billion facilities master plan. Earlier consultant estimates suggested it would take more than $1 billion just to do proposed rebuilds and renovations of schools in unsatisfactory condition. Guilford County commissioners agreed to put a first-phase, $300 million bond on the November 2020 ballot, which voters approved 73% to 27%.

The district is asking the Guilford County Board of Education to vote at its retreat Saturday to authorize staff to negotiate construction project management contracts for the work. A committee of school board members and school staff interviewed the four finalist firms that responded to the district’s request for proposals and qualifications and ranked them.

The committee members recommended negotiating first with the joint venture of HICAPS and C2 Contractors.

Both are based in Greensboro, although HICAPS has a couple of other offices in North Carolina and Virginia, according to a map on its website.

Dave Smith, director of construction for HICAPS, declined to answer any questions about the company or the proposal on Tuesday, but said HICAPS would be happy to speak with the News & Record once the school district had made its choice. Cornelious Lamberth, the partner in charge of C2, did not respond to a phone message left for him at the C2 office.

The News & Record asked Guilford County Schools for the materials the finalists submitted in their pursuit of the project contract. A district spokesman said officials were working on the request, but no materials were sent as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

School board member Pat Tillman, a member of the committee, said he was most impressed with HICAPS/C2 among the four finalists, though all that presented appeared capable of doing the work and met criteria the district was interested in.

“There’s not a huge delta between the first choice and fourth choice,” he said.

Tillman said HICAPS’ past work with the school district stood out to him, including hearing they had saved the district money on a project from the early 2000s.

HICAPS worked on the district’s $200 million school bond in 2000 and $300 million school bond in 2003, he said, as well as on bond projects for other districts including Durham Public Schools.

All the finalists met the district’s requirements for Minority and Women Business Enterprise participation, he said, but the HICAPS partnership with C2, a Black-owned firm, seemed especially strong.

Lamberth had an impeccable record relative to MWBE and Historically Underutilized Business endeavors, according to Tillman.

The team also presented well, he said, and appeared to have resources and contacts available that would help them manage the construction.

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HICAPS had 28 employees as of Jan. 21, according to the Triad Business Journal, and $22.5 million in revenue for 2020. The Triad Business Journal listed it in May as the 13th largest general contractor in the Triad based on 2019 figures.

It is dwarfed in size by the other finalist competitors for this school construction management contract. CBRE/Heery has about 500 employees according to its website, while Jacobs and AECOM each have over 50,000.

David Waggoner, a managing director with CBRE/Heery, said his firm partnered with Greensboro-based M. Edwards Group to apply for the opportunity as a joint venture.

“We split the leadership and the responsibilities,” he said. “We wanted a local minority-owned firm to work on the project.”

He said subconsults working on the project included the Black-owned Gerry McCants out of Greensboro and woman-owned TRS and I in Charlotte.

He said CBRE also has an office in Greensboro and worked as a program management consultant for the school district in the ‘90s and 2000s.

“We want to work with them and we have a great deal of experience, over $33 billion and 50 years worth of experience with school districts across the country,” he said.

Jacobs did not respond to a request for comment submitted through their global headquarters in Dallas.

A spokeswoman with AECOM said in an email that AECOM and Edwards-Pittman Environmental had formed a joint venture, “Partners for Great Schools,” for the proposal.

Between the partnership with Georgia-based Edwards-Pittman and local project partners including Multi-Energy Group and O.U. Chavis Contracting Corp., AECOM would expect to hit 40% MWBE participation, the spokeswoman said.

AECOM has more than $60 billion worth of K-12 program experience over the past five decades and both Multi-Energy and Chavis Contracting have past experience working with the school district, according to the information she shared.

School board Chairwoman Deena Hayes-Greene, also a member of the selection committee, said she thinks the district had about eight responses to its request for qualifications and proposals. She said it’s possible there could have been more she’s unaware of, if they were immediately rejected for not meeting basic criteria.

She said school board members who were not on the committee may have their own thoughts about the priority list and could choose to approve a different order for the list than what the committee is recommending.

In response to a question, Hayes-Greene said her husband had worked as a contractor for C2. She was not sure how long ago it had been, but thought he worked for them for one and a half to two years about 10 years ago.

She said they have endeavored not to intermingle his work with her school board work over the last couple of decades and that he has stayed away from some opportunities they deemed too closely connected with Guilford County Schools.

She said that she would not seek financial gain where it could taint her ongoing efforts to speak out for women and minority owned businesses.

“I would never compromise my advocacy of MWBE,” she said.

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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