Two joint ventures vying to oversee the construction of a half-billion-dollar new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport submitted new, but familiar, proposals for the job this week, setting the stage for a decision on the project in the coming weeks.
Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro and NOLA Airport Builders are again the only two joint ventures that submitted proposals for the $546.5 million project, setting up a replay of a selection process earlier this year that was eventually tossed out.
The mammoth documents — Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro’s proposal runs almost 300 pages while NOLA Airport Builders’ is twice that long — were submitted to the city and airport earlier this week and were released by the city Wednesday.
Of the two, the proposal by NOLA Airport Builders has the most changes from the plans put forward in the previous round, including a shake-up in the leadership of the joint venture, which went by the name Parsons-Odebrecht in the first round. Those two companies, one based in California and the other in Brazil, brought in Royal Engineers, one of the state’s largest minority-owned engineering firms, as a full partner after the first round of the process and severed ties with the local company Woodward Design+Build.
The elevation of Royal Engineers of New Orleans to a full partner could blunt an advantage the competing joint venture seemed to have from the inclusion of Metro Services Group, a New Orleans-based minority-owned business, as a full partner.
In addition to those changes, NOLA Airport Builders announced Wednesday that the Urban League of Greater New Orleans would be working with it to improve outreach to so-called “disadvantaged businesses,” firms that are owned by women or minorities.
Erika McConduit-Diggs, president and CEO of the organization, said this will build on work the Urban League already is doing and on previous successful efforts to improve participation by disadvantaged businesses in other projects.
“We want to be able to commit ourselves to make a difference and help make those opportunities available,” she said.
The Urban League is listed as a contractor on the project and is being paid for its services, but McConduit-Diggs would not say how much the nonprofit will receive.
By contrast, the Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro proposal had few changes.
“We did not change our proposal significantly,” said Melissa Gibbs, of Gibbs Construction, one of the four partners in the joint venture. “We did a little tweaking to make what was already a great proposal even better, but we felt like we had a superb proposal the first time around and felt we didn’t have to make a lot of changes.”
Among the changes is adding Mark Quinn, who holds the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at Xavier University, to recruit disadvantaged businesses. The Good Work Network also will provide services and support to help with disadvantaged business outreach. The joint venture is also doing more to highlight other aspects of its disadvantaged business efforts, including mentorship programs.
The joint venture, which also includes Boh Bros. and Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction as partners, also made some changes to the project leadership to address criticism by its competition that its proposed project manager did not have enough experience.
The airport is seeking proposals for the new terminal, which will replace the existing facility, through a bidding process for what is called a “construction manager at risk.” Under that type of arrangement, the firm selected to oversee the project will work with the airport staff and architects to design the new facility, in a process that aims to bring the design and construction aspects of the project more in line.
The joint venture that’s selected will then be responsible for bringing in the project within an agreed-upon budget and will be responsible for any cost overruns.
An evaluation committee will take up the two proposals next week before making a recommendation to the New Orleans Aviation Board. The members of that committee have not yet been appointed.
Because of the structure of the process, the companies’ proposals will be rated based on their qualifications and other factors, such as disadvantaged business participation, rather than on which one offers the lower price. Both proposals are aimed at spending the full amount budgeted for the project.
But that doesn’t mean price won’t play a role at all. Both companies also submitted information on how much of the project’s budget would go toward actual construction costs rather than fees collected by the joint venture or other ancillary costs. Those figures will not be released until the end of the evaluation committee’s scoring process so that they do not influence the ratings the committee members give to more subjective criteria being used to rate the proposals. The less money that goes into the fees, the more of the budget will be spent on the project itself, meaning a better value for the airport.
In the last round, airport officials said Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro’s proposal directed about $14 million more toward construction than the competition, though Parsons-Odebrecht officials argued that analysis was flawed because the two bids may have categorized some costs differently.
The first time the joint ventures submitted proposals, the 11-member evaluation committee scoring them gave both proposals identical scores. A second round of scoring resulted in a significant decrease in Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro’s score and an increase in Parsons-Odebrecht’s. But Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro lodged a protest, arguing the first round of scoring was flawed and it should have won outright.
The Aviation Board eventually decided to start the process over in light of that challenge.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.