In less than two years, The Darden Group LLC has made a significant impact in Indiana. The executive construction management company founded by President Akilah Darden helped achieve 100% diverse participation in the construction of the recently-opened, $15 million manufacturing facility in Indianapolis for Bloomington-based Cook Medical and Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana. That effort along with Darden’s use to technology to achieve it earned her the Community Impact Award for an individual at this year’s TechPoint Mira Awards.
Darden talked about how the diversity goal was reached in a typically white male-dominated industry in an interview with Inside INdiana Business Host Gerry Dick.
“What they see is what they’ll be and if I can get out there and show people that I am a Black female in construction with 23 years and four kids and a husband…if they could see me and see what I’ve done that they can do it,” said Darden.
Darden was tasked in late 2020 with recruiting 100% minority-owned contractors for the Cook project. One of the ways she hit that goal was was using Instagram to meet people “where they are” and creating an animated video to promote the project.
She also created an e-course to help construction professionals advance to managerial professionals that are teaching operational and administrative strategies, according to TechPoint.
“The Mira Awards Judges were impressed by how Darden artfully leveraged technology to disrupt the industry and augment opportunities for under-represented groups, her passion for projecting success, leading by example and bringing others along with her on the journey to success,” said TechPoint. “They were inspired by Akilah’s ability to not just see the need for inclusion in the building trades, but to set out to solve the problem using tech-enabled resources that eliminated barriers and instilled a growth mindset that she, herself, modeled for the community.”
Darden says the success of the Cook facility led her to being hired by Indiana University Health as a director of diversity and inclusion within design and construction, specifically being involved with the construction of the health system’s $1.6 billion medical campus in downtown Indianapolis.
“So, we’re looking for diverse people to build. We’re looking for companies to grow and even start just like mine, and people are starting businesses because of The Darden Group,” said Darden.