FRONTPAGE SPOTLIGHT: Introducing Blane F. Stoddart
Blane F. Stoddart has been making an impact in the real estate and construction industry for over 30 years. Stoddart started his career building affordable housing in West Philadelphia in the early ‘90s. Today, he is the President and CEO of BFW Construction Project Managers, which provides construction project management, construction administration, owners representation, and consulting services to non-profits, government, building owners, schools, churches, institutions, and large construction management firms (CMs) throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. But entrepreneurship isn’t enough for this outspoken leader. Stoddart works passionately for economic opportunity and inclusion for historically marginalized populations through his work at the Diverse Procurement Collaborative at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; as co-chair of PAGE’s Real Estate and Construction (REC) Committee at the Economy League and as a small business/free enterprise advocate.
Why form a Real Estate & Construction Committee at PAGE?
Stoddart is the co-founder of the CEO Access Network (CAN), which provides a platform for minority-owned enterprises to forge meaningful mentor-mentee relationships with CEOs of major companies. CAN has served hundreds of CEOs and was the inspiration for PAGE’s REC Committee. “I had this idea that if the CEO Access Network was seeing so much success,” said Stoddart, “why not do something similar in the construction industry?” When posing the idea to others within the business community, Stoddart didn’t receive the enthusiasm he was looking for. But when he and Harold Epps, senior advisor to Diversified Search and Bellevue Strategies, brought the idea to Economy League’s Executive Director Jeff Hornstein, the answer was an immediate, “Yes!”.
So far, “it’s been a wonderful fit,” says Stoddart. Still, he understands that the work of changing the construction industry can’t happen overnight. At PAGE we are acutely aware of the fact that Philadelphia has an egregious record of minority participation in the construction industry. In a city where over 40% of residents identify as Black or African American, this is not only ethically unacceptable but also bad for business. “The city cannot make progress without improved economic activity and education and training for its people,” says Stoddart, “and we can’t have increased economic activity without minority participation.”
Collaborative solutions for a more inclusive Philadelphia
For Stoddart, a key part of the solution is relationships. “Relationships build trust and trust creates opportunity.” Simply put, minority entrepreneurs need to have not just a seat at the table but a voice. Moreover, they must have the opportunity to develop relationships with key decision-makers inside our city’s anchor institutions and large construction management firms, and general contractors. “If you’re waiting until a bid goes out to get minority businesses involved, you’re already too late,” Stoddart says. “We need to build these relationships much earlier on.”
According to Stoddart, access to the tight-knit network of construction firms, design professionals, and suppliers - especially during the pre-development process - as well as payment terms and risk-sharing are amongst the largest challenges the minority construction firms face today. Stoddart, along with the REC committee, plan to address these challenges head-on by advocating for transparency and equity in procurement, simplifying the prequalification process by way of a universal prequalification form, working with anchor institutions to improve payment terms, and creating a mentorship program for up-and-coming minority construction firms.
When Stoddart isn’t working to promote BFW or to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the real estate and construction industry, you might find him traveling. “I lead a very stressful life, so I take the time to travel out of town every 90 days. People wouldn’t know that though because I’m always on the phone,” jokes Stoddart. And it’s true. PAGE was fortunate to receive some of Stoddart’s precious time off when he spoke with us for this feature from Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida. But not for too long. “I’m only here for the weekend to see the Elders in my family and take a walk in the sand. It’s Monday so I’m coming home today,” he said. And so, the work continues.
The Real Estate & Construction (REC) Committee of PAGE meets quarterly. If you’d like to be added to our distribution list or would like to get involved with the REC Committee, please send an email to Kenyatta James.