Bullet train brings contracts, jobs to Houston

The $15 billion bullet train, the first high-speed rail project of its kind in the nation, will bring contracts and jobs for African-Americans in Houston as Mayor Sylvester Turner signed a memorandum of understanding agreement with the Texas Central Railway.

The 90-minute train experience connecting Houston to Dallas is an alternative to the 4.5-hour drive between the two cities, and will cover over 240 miles of elevated tracks using world-class, proven technology.

The impact of the bullet train will be significant according to Turner.

“Number one, it is huge,” Turner said. “It will be governed by MWBE requirements of the City of Houston. It has to be diverse in terms of the economic multiplier. In order for this train to roll, African-Americans businesses and employees must be integrated in a very real way from top to bottom in this project.”

Stephanie Nellons-Paige, vice president of External Affairs for Texas Central Railway, explained that she is responsible for the MWBE and the workforce programs.

“[We are] in the development stages,” she said. “We want to look at what the MWBE program is like in Houston, what it’s like in Dallas and regionally.”

Paige said the programs should launch during the first quarter of next year and those looking for contract or employment opportunities should monitor the website – www.texascentral.com.

In addition to the MWBE focus on minority, women and small business enterprises in line with the city’s goals for professional services, development, construction, supplier and other related services, employment opportunities will play a central role.

There will be 10,000 jobs created during the construction phase and up to 1,000 permanent jobs once the train is operational. Turner said the jobs aspect is equally important.

“We need to start providing the workforce training for employees right now so they will be ready to go when it starts,” Turner said. “I can assure people in terms of the benefits and opportunities that will be created that African-Americans, Hispanics and women will be a major part of this operation over an extended period of time.

“This is not one of those one year and done, two years and done [projects],” Turner said. “It could be a decade of opportunity or more. It’s a $15 billion project.

Understanding the importance of employment and contract opportunities, Eric Goodie, Houston Area Urban League director of Asset and Acquisition, has already started working with the project.

“We have met with Texas Central with regard to constituent engagement along the corridor that the train will travel from Houston to Dallas,” Goodie said. “Our objective is to provide community outreach, engagement information sessions, coordinate skills training for job placement, work with the prime contractors in hiring those individuals and provide case management to support services to address job retention.”

Dr. Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, added: “We have reached out to [Texas Central] to find out what kind of opportunities are going to be available to make sure they can find people in our community…With all that is going on in this country, Houston is moving forward and we are a diverse community.”

African-American contractor Brian Smith, president of Brian Smith Construction, reflected on what the bullet train brings to Houston.

“This $15 billion project will lift a lot of boats for minorities,” Smith said. “I’m happy to hear they are modeling their MWBE program after the City of Houston. It really means a lot to small businesses and it stimulates the economy.”