Community Benefits Program


We have announced our Construction Manager Mortenson, with support from Independence Construction and APB & Associates, have selected a diverse small locally owned business in The AKA Team to serve as an additional Associate Construction Manager as part of our Community Benefits Program. The AKA Team is a local minority and female-owned company and a certified Cleveland Small Business, that has been in business since 2009.

Associate Construction Manager Selection Process Background
As a commitment to transparency and true equity, the Guardians have been intentional in their selection of partners for this project. One key aspect was the Project Manager Advisor (Owner’s Rep) including APB and Associates, a minority veteran owned business specializing in project management, construction compliance, 4-D BIM Coordination and scheduling. APB leads the team with an innovative approach to DEI strategies. This included their advocacy to ensure a diverse business was included as an Associate CM partner. APB guided this process through high level recommendations for infrastructure and processes to ensure the final addition to the team will have an intentional outcome that positively impacts their business post-construction. The recommended process included:

  1. Initial meetings with local diverse companies.
    This was important to determine what partnerships they had, what was their role, and how they saw the project for their business growth. This also allowed the overall team to strategize on how we can create a role with intentionality.

  2. Determining to find the right partner, not the best price.
    This was critical in not focusing on numbers but the true compatibility of the teams for genuine partnership and growth.

  3. Invite highly experienced diverse companies to submit for RFQ.
    The Construction team called each company (Six Total) individually to invite them to apply.

  4. Conduct Site Visits to all applicants.
    The construction team visited each team’s office to see their operations, meet their staff, and answer any questions about the RFQ process.

  5. Conduct Interviews for all applicants.
    Each team was asked the same series of questions to ensure a streamlined process.

  6. Evaluation of Associate Interview Process.
    The APB team’s role of accountability includes evaluating new processes within the overall construction process to determine lessons learned and how this process can be improved in the future.

  7. Associate CM Partner selected by Construction team only.
    Although APB was present throughout the process, their role included staying abreast with the DEI project initiatives to update ownership, and transparency of overall process. Ultimately, the Associate CM selection of The AKA Group was made by Construction Manager Mortenson.



The Cleveland Guardians are dedicated to creating a long-lasting impact in our city and beyond. We are cognizant of the unique position that we hold in our community, and are dedicated to utilizing that position to drive broad economic impact. Building upon the City of Cleveland’s 2013 Community Benefits Agreement with local business, civic, labor and trade organizations, we have set project goals for contracting with diverse businesses, hiring local and minority workers, expanding training programs and studying best practices for improving diversity and inclusion in the construction industry. We know that in order to contribute to long-lasting impact, we must continue to uplift and partner with underserved communities to help everyone in our city thrive.


Our organizational Mission is to "Win the World Series while Creating a Compelling Fan Experience." While that Mission is central to all our projects, including the planned Ballpark Improvements, so too is our Purpose: to “Unite and Inspire the City with the Power of Team.” We believe that a Community Benefits Program (CBP) will enable us to achieve our Mission while staying true to our Purpose.


In the course of the Ballpark Improvements at Progressive Field, we have a clear opportunity to further this commitment to our community through an inclusive and diverse supply chain and workforce that participates in modernizing our Ballpark for the next generation of Guardians fans. These projects are an opportunity for the Guardians to be a gateway to further uniting the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio by helping small businesses -- specifically minority, female and veteran owned -- scale and build the foundations that will allow them to be ‘prime’ and ‘go to’ firms on future projects.


Encouraging the hiring and training of tradespeople with both strong construction skills and diverse backgrounds empowers local contractors to operate differently and brings a more inclusive, multifaceted approach to our project needs. In parallel, these projects are ideal conduits for supporting existing apprenticeship and educational opportunities for young Clevelanders to learn and grow their architect, engineering, and construction-related skillsets ‘in the field.’ The Guardians, along with Project Management, Construction Management, Architecture, Design and Engineering firms will be intentional, prescriptive, and transparent about striving to meet and exceed all of the below-listed goals.


Through conversations with community leaders and industry experts, the Guardians and Project Management Advisor APB & Associates have aligned on a Community Benefits Program for our upcoming renovations, with a transparent communications plan (see below in Project Reporting Goal) to keep all stakeholders aware of progress.

CBP Goals

Contracts to be awarded at or above the following for certified companies:

  • Veteran: 2%

  • Hispanic: 3%

  • Female: 8%

  • Small: 18%

  • Minority: 20%

    • This may include, but is not limited to Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Two or More Races, or other intersectional identities.

- Acceptable category certifications include State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County and City of Cleveland

- Companies can only count in one category for goal attainment (cannot be an MBE + SBE + FBE). When reporting the categories, they will be counted separately, with notations when report participation crosses various categories.

- The use of certain terminology above reflects reporting categories determined by external sources and doesn't reflect the Guardians understanding of current DEI trends and commitment to using more culturally affirming language​.

  • Cuyahoga County Residents – 45%

  • City of Cleveland Residents – 20%

  • Low-Income Residents (CoC) – 3%

  • Minority Workforce – 20%

    • This may include, but is not limited to Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Two or More Races, or other intersectional identities.
  • Female Workforce – 6%

  • Project team will know when new pre-apprenticeship programs start at local schools (Tri-C, CSU) and which trades are chosen as focus areas, allowing for a pipeline of potential candidates
  • Project team will work with Construction Manager (and as applicable, A/E firm) to engage and hire participants and graduates across the course of the Ballpark Improvements Project
  • Partner with CMSD and ACE Mentor Programs to provide students with architecture, construction and engineering career pathway exposure and support
  • As possible, bring students ‘into the field’ to further advance their education and build interest in careers in construction, engineering and architecture
  • Partner with entities such as the Construction Employers Association, National Association for Minority Contractors and GCP’s Business Growth Collaborative, to expand our sourcing capabilities for MBE/FBE/SBE/VBE companies
  • Facilitate MBE/FBE/SBE/VBE capacity-building through business coaching and training
  • Hold certification clinics for applying and renewing state and local designations
  • Mentor-Protege facilitation via collaboration with prime contractors to increase and expand diverse firm capabilities
  • Engagement faith-based organizations to increase exposure to the projects and awareness of opportunities
  • Host matchmaker events to identify and create cooperative business and workforce connections

Transparency in reporting and communicating progress for identifying both opportunities and issues is key to the success of this CBA. The following delivery methods are examples of how we will publish and distribute updates to a variety of stakeholders:

  • Dedicated page at with regular project updates
  • Regular reports or newsletters emailed to Executive and Legislative stakeholders of both the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County as well as community leaders and groups
  • Cleveland Guardians (CLE Inspires) social media channels

Community Review Group

Striving to meet and exceed the goals of this CBP is the Cleveland Guardians’ responsibility. Support from the community will play an important role in advancing our diversity and inclusion efforts. Therefore, a Community Review Group (CRG) will be established to ensure there is a regular forum for the Guardians’ Ballpark Improvements Project Team to receive feedback and transparently provide progress updates on all project objectives. The CRG will have a focus on racial, ethnic and gender diversity as it relates to contracting and workforce representation; inclusion and belonging; retention; and engagement on project related issues. The CRG concept is intended to build a coalition, share best practices around diversity and inclusion, and learn from peers and experts as the Guardians proceed with their Ballpark Improvements Project.

Anthony BattagliaExecutive Director, Career and College Pathways, CMSD
Jack BaumannDirector of Project Development, Independence Construction
Andrea BoydBusiness Advisor, Ohio MBDA Business Center
Andre BryanPresident, APB & Associates (and member of Project Management Advisory Team for the Guardians)
Doreen CannonPresident, Plumbers Local 55
Jenice ContrerasExecutive Director of the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development
Curtis DanburgVP, Communications and Community Impact - Guardians
Jeff EpsteinChief Integrated Development Officer, City of Cleveland
Audrey GerlachVP of Economic Development + Chief of Staff - Downtown Cleveland Alliance
Matt GrimesHead of DEI - Guardians
Joe JonesCLE City Council, Ward 1
Lenora LockettDirector, Department of Equity and Inclusion, Cuyahoga County
Lynn LittlejohnVP, Community Affairs and Development, Mortenson
Cindy LeitsonVP, Capital, Construction and Facilities, Cuyahoga Community College
Renee LigonDirector of Partnerships and Engagement - Team NEO
Dawn MayesProgram Manager, APB & Associates
Marsha A. MockabeeCUL + President/CEO, Urban League of Greater Cleveland
Daniella NunnallyChief of Staff, Gateway Economic Development Corporation
Mayor Brad SellersMayor, Warrensville Hts.
Glen ShumateEVP, Construction Employers Association
Neil WeissEVP, CIO and Ballpark Ops, Guardians
Ken WilsonSenior Manager & Minority Business Growth, Greater Cleveland Partnership
Dave WondolowskiExec Secretary, Cleveland Building and Trades Council