Construction, Economic Development, and Government

City rewards companies for hiring local skilled workers

Construction firms that dip into six feeder programs can earn discounts.

March 11, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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City officials want more local residents involved in Grand Rapids’ economic recovery.

One way to ensure that is to have workers from six local entry-level construction programs working on city projects.

The city announced a new Equal Business Opportunity Construction Program this month to help incentivize bidders on city projects to employ workers from those six programs. The first opportunities for the construction bid discounts are open on two park projects.

The program is initiated by the city’s Monday Group, which also implemented the diversity bid discount to encourage the employment of minority workers on city projects.

“This program creates an environment for collaboration where people do business as partners, and we’ve always believed that the best way to establish a vibrant community is to work together,” said Eric DeLong, Grand Rapids deputy city manager.

“These bid incentives are a triple win: They motivate and reward contractors, underline the importance of our training organizations and programs, and most importantly, they promote job creation and professional development for our local citizens,” he said.

Contractors can receive a discount of between 1 percent and 5 percent, based on the employment of workers from the programs, so a $100,000 bid would be evaluated at $95,000, but the contractor would still be paid $100,000.

The six programs included in the incentives are:

  • The Jump Start Program, Construction Workforce Development Alliance
  • Gerald R. Ford Job Corps’ carpentry program
  • YouthBuild Grand Rapids, Bethany Christian Services
  • The Chris Wagner EZ Construction Trades Program
  • Innovation Central Academy for Design and Construction, Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Kent Career Technical Center’s construction skill trades.

Contractors must meet the following criteria to earn discounts:

  • Hire a graduate of the programs.
  • Employ the graduate for three months or more, earning one point.
  • Employ the graduate for six months or more, earning two points.
  • Employment of two or more graduates, earning three points.
  • If the graduate is or becomes a Grand Rapids resident, an additional point is awarded.

The Monday Group worked hard to find ways to accomplish the city’s goal of encouraging the development of skilled trades and helping contractors fill their worker needs, said Norm Brady, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan.

“We were really out there, identifying who the players are in this space,” Brady said. “How do we get these young workers connected with employers who largely tell us they can’t find workers? It’s the city’s attempt to bridge that gap for more incentives.”

Brady said some of these programs have been overlooked in the past because employers aren’t always willing to take a chance on a worker on the fringe, such as one who was once in trouble with the law and entered the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps training program.

He also said some of the programs already receive quite a bit of support, such as the Jump Start Program, which has had 24 employers interviewing the 18 graduates each of the previous two years.

The bid discounts are simply for employing a graduate from the programs and don’t necessitate a worker actually working on the bid project.

“The city would just like to support some of these programs that could use a boost for one reason or another,” Brady said. “They aren’t all the same, and they don’t all serve underserved populations. It’s just another reason to have employers look at these programs.”

There is nothing but positives from this program, Brady said, noting it helps contractors, the city and its residents by connecting two groups that need each other.

“These voluntary incentives encourage job skills training, promote job creation and reward businesses investing in Grand Rapids’ talent,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “I want to credit the partners of the Monday Group for their work on the new workforce bid discount and thank the training partners for their role in helping to produce this pathway to success.”

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