News Column

Minority Business Coalition Wants Detroit Jobs Tracked for Bridge Project

June 15, 2012

Katherine Yung

A coalition of groups representing minority businesses and Detroiters today called for the creation of a committee to track and report the bridge project's local job creation, business participation and community benefits.

The groups, which include the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan and the Michigan Minority Development Council, expressed concerns that minority businesses and Detroiters would get very little of the millions of dollars in contracts that will be awarded to build the new bridge.

"The only thing we are ever advocating for is fairness and opportunity," said K.B. Stallworth, managing director of the Black Caucus Foundation and chairman of Detroit-based Utility Services of America. "We need to train people to make sure they get an opportunity to work."

Kenneth Harris, CEO and president of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, said there are 79,000 black-owned businesses in the state, including 32,000 in the City of Detroit. "We just want to make sure local businesses have their fair shake," he said.

Hiring Detroiters has been a controversial issue in big construction projects in the city. Some companies, such as Marathon Petroleum, have said they couldn't meet local hiring targets because they couldn't find Detroit residents with the skills and certifications needed.

Rick Williams, president of Laborers Local Union 1191 in Detroit, said Friday that his union is ready to train the city's residents to fill bridge-related jobs if companies commit to hiring them. His union is also willing to provide Detroiters with transportation to and from its high-tech training centers.

"We can supply whatever manpower is required," Williams said, dismissing any concerns of a shortage of laborers.

Local 1191 has 4,000 members in Wayne and Macomb counties. Statewide, the Laborers union has 11,000 members.

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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