By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition/African American Contractors Association’s (AACA) construction expo held May 11 at PUSH headquarters hosted several companies, some hiring applicants on the spot and promising to hire more in the future.
Armed with resumes, men and women streamed through the expo, being interviewed by construction giants like Matt Moss, vice president, F.H. Paschen; and Joe Koppers, director of field operations with Bulley & Andrews, a 127-year-old company. Koppers said he hired one person as a carpenter and possibly two more as laborers, to be on the job in two-weeks.
Other vendors present were Bob Dore, field personnel manager from Pepper Construction, and Jacki Reyes, project manager with the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Business Transportation Resource Center.
Moss said his company is offering a number of construction opportunities for applicants seeking laborer or carpenter jobs for projects with the CTA, the airports, or the Public Building Commission of Chicago. “We are creating opportunities in both building capacities with the people and small, diverse businesses in the community,” said Moss. His company is working on phase one of the 95th Street improvement project, and phase two of the north terminal, which he said would produce even more jobs.
Antoinette Mitchell, EEO Compliance Officer with Paschen called the expo “awesome. It gives the underserved community the opportunity to come out and see what’s available for them,” she said.
Both Mike Stensald, senior vice president of 90-year-old Pepper Construction, and Dore say the company offered jobs for a myriad of projects it is involved in, including hospitals, and Wrigley Field renovations. They were looking for tradesmen.
But, not all of the vendors were in the construction business. Kathryn Newson, office manager, Public Health and Safety, Inc., said, “We do training for lead and asbestos removal and renovation, repair and painting.”
Reyes and Alex Alcantar said they help small businesses grow, including getting them certified and government or corporate contracts.
Deborah Johnson, a teacher at the Chicago Military Academy, said while the Academy is a college prep school, “there are a handful of students who don’t want to go to college or the military.”
“They are very smart. They are leaders,” Johnson said, explaining that is why she brought about 12 students to the expo. One of them, Emari Burrell, a senior at the Academy, said, “I’m trying to find my next step after high school. I like construction. I like working with my hands and am trying to find a union I can get into.”
One of the applicants, Michael Fields, owner of United Construction Resources, is hoping the vendors can sponsor his small company so he can get a slice of the billion dollar construction industry.
Eddie Amin-Rasul, senior diversity officer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, said he’s trying to identify minority and women-owned businesses “because our contracts always require minority and women subcontractors. We always try to recruit to keep our list of availability ready.”
Lashanda Hayes, economic empowerment coach at the YWCA, said they provide a number of services including financial management education, digital skills training, sexual assault health insurance assistance, and young parents program.
The mini expo was a prelude to the larger one planned for Wednesday, June 13, 2018, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the 47th PUSH convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 151 E. Wacker Drive. Applicants must be registered.