KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s a first time for everything and Bridgette Williams is familiar with that. She is the first African American and the first woman executive director of Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City— also known as the Heavies.
“For lack of a better word, we do the heavy work,” she said.
Now, Williams is dealing even more firsts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Heavy Constructors Association serves as an umbrella organization for local civil contractors, roughly 36,000 in total. Williams said these are the men and women who help clear the way for commercial buildings, apartment complexes, airports, waterways, utilities and road construction.
“Whether a person has clean water,” Williams added. “Whether the hospitals have proper circulation, the work we do here impacts each and every person’s quality of life, and you know, we take that very seriously.”
When asked what the Heavy Constructors Association will look like in six months, Williams is optimistic, but unsure. In the short term, she and her staff are doing everything they can to keep employees safe.
The staff members who actually work in her office can now return to the office if they feel comfortable. Social distancing will be exercised. Williams said they will take everyone’s temperature upon arrival.
“I would’ve never predicted anything like this. I mean, things come and go. You can’t control how things occur; you can only control how you respond,” she said.
While Williams can’t say with certainty what the rest of 2020 has in store; the Heavies' wishlist impacts all of us.
“In six months, what we hope that looks like — we’re six months closer to the new airport, that we are six months closer to filling the potholes that are in the roads in Kansas, that we are able to secure additional funding in Missouri to build the Buck O’Neil Bridge,” Williams said.
Projected budget shortfalls in both Kansas and Missouri are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That raises many concerns for the Heavies.
“Because the first place that elected officials tend to look at are highway funds to balance the budget,” Williams explained. This is money initially slated to repair Missouri’s roads, considered 8th worst in the nation after a recent study.
On the Kansas side, Williams said the Heavies managed to land a $10 billion, 10-year highway program to address roads in the Sunflower State. But with an anticipated $653 million budget shortfall in Kansas, those projects could get kicked down the road and adversely impact things we take for granted.
“Whether the surgical rooms have the technology they need to perform surgeries,” Williams explained. “Whether the airplanes can take off or land, whether your lights can come on or off — our work here determines whether or not you have a road to drive on or whether the highway is open or not.”
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