Knowledge Center

A Business Man with a Plan: Craig Williams on the Future of Diverse Businesses in Philadelphia

running-a-business | Read Time: 3 minutes

By WSFS Contributor | Published: March 2022

image

Craig Williams, President and CEO of Pride Enterprises Inc. and American Power Electrical Supply Company, has more than 30 years of experience in construction management, getting his start by working for his uncle when he was home from college. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Syracuse, Williams helped his father cultivate and develop his own construction business, eventually founding Pride in 1996 and American Power in 2018.

Over the years, Williams has not only been able to retain an experienced local workforce (many of whom have been with Pride Enterprises long-term), he has continued to expand the reach and growth of both companies, contracting with a wide array of organizations such as Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Drexel University on large-scale projects.

Recently, Williams shared insights about the business community’s responsibility to establish and improve relationships with diverse companies, and how the right partner can make a tremendous impact on that mission.

Can you talk about how your two companies work together and your inspiration for making the business decision to expand?
We began moving Pride Enterprises into the institutional market and the private sector around six years ago. Around the same time, we started looking into the supply side of construction. Supply is the delivery of a specific good, and engages with the construction process over an extended period of time.

It represented a good opportunity for us, because electrical is a typical part of every project, so each construction project could also provide an opportunity for American Power. In addition, it also enabled us to engage and establish relationships with other, sometimes larger, construction managers, increasing the visibility for both companies and expanding opportunities further. The combination of a construction company and a supply company has created a really interesting and unique dynamic, particularly in the diverse business space.

What does the business landscape look like today for diverse businesses, and what needs to happen for there to be a more equitable and inclusive bidding process?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) reflects a historic issue of access to opportunity and, to some extent, discrimination. Anchor institutions are trying to expand their offering of opportunities, and DEI is certainly the first step in that process. However, diverse businesses are already under additional stress from historic lack of access, and those are compounded by specific criteria put in place for participation in projects such as bonding and insurance requirements.

For example, when we worked with CHOP, they were very flexible and accommodating in recognizing that diverse businesses face unique challenges. They reached out to us with an increased diversity spend goal, and then worked alongside us and representatives from Philadelphia Anchors for Growth and Equity (PAGE) to meet that goal by easing prohibitive bonding requirements. That kind of flexibility had a great impact on our ability to involve diverse businesses in that project.

What is your advice for diverse businesses — how can a banking partner help them ensure their hat is in the ring?
Diverse businesses should strive to find a bank that ‘gets it’ — that understands you and what you’re trying to do. Many banks are very conservative, and are skeptical of your plans and ability to succeed, and they may not share your vision of where your business can go. Finding a bank that believes in your plan, and offers optimism and experience, makes a big difference.

My relationship with WSFS began through the Chamber of Commerce with conversations centered around DEI, and how the banking community plays a part in that. That led to a series of conversations about both Pride Enterprises and American Power’s business needs.

WSFS embraced our entire business model. They’ve supported and enabled American Power to advance to the next level of development. We’ve also secured a number of projects by working with WSFS, including several anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals (interestingly, all of those things happened during COVID). But overall, transitioning to WSFS expanded our access to capital, and grew our ability to perform those projects.

You’ve worked on a number of high profile projects in the city recently, from Critso Rey High School to the Schuylkill River Park Trail. What’s next?
Philadelphia construction and real estate is in a renaissance. In the next 10-15 years, there is projected to be $25B+ invested in our area, and roughly 25% is earmarked for diverse businesses.

Our companies in particular are excited about upcoming projects with the Navy Yard, Drexel, 30th Street Station, and more. These include our own projects, as well as those with partner construction organizations. Overall, the opportunities over the next few years are tremendous.

 

Designing for the Benefits of Co-Living: How Developer Dana Spain Mastered the Pivot

Dana Spain is known for many things, from her work in publishing to animal welfare and her charity work for Veterans’ causes. She has led a circuitous career that began in commercial real estate with her family’s retail chain that has led her back to commercial properties since 2013 with a myriad of her own projects. Most recently, Spain–now Managing Member of her latest endeavor, Spain Development Group–has been designing multi-family properties ranging from rehabs, stick-built, and eventually modular. “Once I got into modular construction systems, I stayed there because it was an epiphany and now I advocate all the benefits of modular and won’t build any other way,” Spain said.

Read More

Restoring The Flats: Making Affordable Housing Beautiful and New Again

Wilmington, Del. has been a hub for industrial innovation and activity for more than 350 years. When William Bancroft opened the Bancroft Mills along the Brandywine River in the early 1900s, Wilmington quickly became home to hundreds of workers. Bancroft, the founder of Woodlawn Trustees, was a major advocate for affordable housing and one of the first in the area to develop this type of community residences for his employees and their families – which later expanded even beyond Bancroft employees. He felt that he had an obligation to provide housing and thoughtful development to the area – bringing to life what Wilmington locals know today as The Flats.

Read More

Two Organizations, One Shared Vision: A Stronger Community

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia has been serving youth since 1887, when the Germantown Club first opened its doors. Since then, the organization has expanded, providing quality programming to youth in neighborhoods across Philadelphia. Its mission: to enable all young people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Over the past 134 years, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia has grown to 21 clubs throughout the region’s most impoverished communities and the dedicated staff, volunteers, and partners work together to impact more than 9,600 young people each year.

Read More

Why a Local Banking Partner Might be the Best Fit for Your National Business

We first started HLI Rail and Rigging and Mars Transformers in the tri-state area, moving turbines, generators, large portions of bridges, and even buildings by ocean, barge, rail, and large and small trucks. If something heavy needs to be moved, we are the team to do it. Since then, we have scaled our business and now operate across North America. An important part of this growth was finding the right business partners. Just as important as your accountant, machine equipment or computer systems, is the right banking partner.

Read More

QuotePro and Cash Connect: A Match Made in Kiosk Heaven

QuotePro provides innovative kiosks, digital sales technology, mobile applications, websites, and payment technology for insurance, BHPH (Buy Here Pay Here) and franchise auto dealers, utilities, healthcare, municipalities and more. At our core, we make cash affordable and help businesses better serve their cash-preferred and underbanked consumers. One of our signature products is the QuotePro Kiosk, which accepts all payment types and helps facilitate faster and safer transactions anywhere, from auto dealerships to healthcare institutions.

Read More