The Plan Room, a new business accelerator created by OneWest to assist minority-owned construction companies in developing their businesses, is receiving support for its mission from the University of Louisville College of Business.

The Plan Room, specifically designed as a resource for racial minority contractors and construction business owners to help them grow their businesses, launched with a virtual workshop in February based on curriculum recommendations from UofL College of Business leaders.

“We met with OneWest leadership and developed a focus group to assess the needs of the business community and then developed a curriculum plan,” said Robert Garrett, director of the UofL Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship and chair of Management and Entrepreneurship, who coordinated the effort. “We then identified six areas for workshops to help participants learn specific skills.”

Those skill areas include: landing great projects, developing project management skills, effective networking, management skills and financial management and technology skills specific to the construction industry. Early users of The Plan Room also received access to the College of Business’ Project Management Certificate. UofL faculty will develop the curriculum for project management and management skills.

“We are fortunate to have the partnership and expertise of the UofL College of Business as we develop the curriculum for The Plan Room,” said Evon J. Smith, president and CEO of OneWest, a community development corporation committed to elevating the city through commercial development growth in west Louisville. “Their executive education team jumped right in to get to the essential knowledge and skills related to this industry. This approach is so important, and the UofL team gets it – you have to start from what the clients want, not from an assumption based on any one group’s perspective.”

Garrett said the project is the kind of opportunity the college is eager to engage in to empower the local business community.

“We want to be valuable partners with the community by supporting minority enterprises and helping all constituents of the population be successful. It is our opportunity to be a good neighbor,” Garrett said. “I am genuinely excited to be participating in this project. The Plan Room is very professionally run by committed and passionate people.”

Todd Mooradian, dean of the UofL College of Business, hopes the college will share its strengths in more of these types of projects in the community.

“We hope this is the first of many collaborations between the College of Business and OneWest for the purpose of economic development and wealth creation in our city, with a special commitment to ameliorating legacy disadvantages and improving access for everyone,” Mooradian said. “This effort targets the construction industry, but the college’s core competencies revolve around teaching business skills across sectors, and our mission compels us to invest in using those strengths to improve social and economic justice.”

Emily Vitale, director of business development for OneWest, said the needs assessment and curriculum plan developed by the UofL group were important assets to guide The Plan Room’s activities.

“Thanks to the UofL data collection process, we know the specific areas of competency to focus on with our Minority Business Enterprise construction accelerator programs at The Plan Room – from building and managing the business and projects, to growing and implementing the technology skills that are so prevalent in the construction industry today,” Vitale said.

The first workshop, held Feb. 27, focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to create, discover and take advantage of business opportunities, and the second workshop is in development. Although the workshop was held virtually, The Plan Room soon will inhabit a physical space where it will support business owners through education, training, mentorship and networking opportunities.

Along with the workshop series, The Plan Room provides the business owners with services ranging from procurement and bid opportunities to technical assistance, and aims to help business owners connect with minority-owned firms, mentors and professional service providers who understand the construction industry. Additional support for The Plan Room is provided by Louisville Central Community Center, KPFF Consulting Engineers and the 7PM Group.

-Betty Coffman, UofL