Bridges Project Mentoring Program Sparks Success

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Louisville, Ky. -
A small, minority-owned Louisville business is growing as a result of participation in the Ohio River Bridges Project's mentoring program for disadvantaged businesses. 

Vinay K. Polepalli, a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio and a project management professional (PMP), founded Global Solutions, LLC in 2003. For the past three years, the Louisville civil engineering firm has taken part in a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) mentoring program with the Bridges Project.

"The DBE mentoring program is opening doors for me in a really competitive market," says Polepalli. "I am like a sponge, soaking in all of this information; it's a great way to grow."

Polepalli meets weekly at the Louisville office of James "J.B." Williams, Vice President and Regional Manager for Michael Baker Jr., Inc., a professional engineering and consulting firm with 4,000 employees in over 50 offices worldwide.

Williams, project manager for the new Downtown Louisville Bridge, has taken Polepalli under his wing. "It's about more than getting work; it's about getting to know people and make connections," says Williams. Polepalli agrees. "Mentoring has not only helped me gain experience, but I've been able to interact with executives like J.B. from a top notch firm. That's an opportunity I would otherwise never have."

Global Solutions is certified as an 8(a)/Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). The firm provides services to various architectural, structural, civil and highway engineering firms as well as developers.

Williams has mentored Polepalli in Earned Value Management, tracking expenses and accomplishments, which plays an increasingly important role in project management. "He's done so well that he has graduated from mentoring to doing actual work for the new Downtown Bridge," explains Williams. Polepalli compiles reports for the Bridges Project, tracking scheduling and comparing work versus cost. Williams also helped train Polepalli for the prestigious Project Management Professional (PMP) certification test, which Polepalli recently passed. PMP certification is recognized internationally and is awarded by Project Management Institute (PMI).

A fascination with America brought Polepalli to the U.S. in 1992 from his native Andhra Pradesh, India. "As a kid, I loved American movies and music and always dreamed of living in the States. When I arrived, I was amazed at the infrastructure here; it was something we lacked in India. Everything here ran so smoothly and was so well-designed. So I became interested in highways and focused on transportation. To this day I love the area I'm in."

Polepalli graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Masters in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Louisville.

In addition to obtaining his PMI certification, Polepalli has been chosen to participate in a year-long Leadership P.E. program organized by ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies)/SAME (Society of American Military Engineers/KSPE (Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers).

Global Solutions is one of only a few firms in Kentucky that is pre-qualified and certified as a DBE firm to provide Traffic Engineering Services by KYTC. Polepalli's company is currently a sub-consultant for Michael Baker, Northup Grumman and on other KYTC projects. The company has also played a role in several federal projects. Polepalli has been awarded a prime contract as a result of his networking in the mentoring program.

"Being part of the Bridges Project's DBE mentoring program has changed the course of my business. When I was first starting out I would meet with companies and they'd question how stable my company was. Now clients see my work on other projects and know I am a viable company and that leads to more work.

The mentoring program is part of the Ohio River Bridges Project's commitment to providing opportunities for disadvantaged businesses. In addition to the mentoring program, Kentucky's DBE Program strives to help minority firms prepare for possible work on the Bridges Project, and beyond, by offering support and a wide range of resources designed to help them become more competitive.

The $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, the third-largest federally funded transportation project in the country, calls for building two bridges and the highways leading to them, including a reconfiguration of the Kennedy Interchange (a.k.a. Spaghetti Junction). The Bridges Project is currently in the design phase with construction scheduled to be complete by 2024.