ELYRIA — School officials and the district’s construction team are working to increase awareness that local laborers and trades workers can find work on the district’s $140 million rebuilding project.
In the coming years, Elyria Schools will transform into a more modern district with new schools and a multimillion-dollar sports complex. It’s the kind of steady work those in the construction industry relish. And, according to district spokeswoman Amy Higgins, now is the time to make inquires about how to get a piece of the employment pie.
Superintendent Tom Jama has spurred the effort to hire local, she said.
“He is very dedicated to the idea that when the qualifications are there, that people should have an opportunity at the jobs that are available in their community,” Higgins said.
David Stahl, the manager of AECOM Construction Group of Cleveland, which is the district’s lead firm in a three-firm construction management team, is leading the charge and is compiling a database of tradespeople and local firms. Subcontracting firms interested in submitting bids will have access to the list and will be encouraged to use it to fill jobs.
“In this new way of doing business, I don’t have to take the lowest price. I have to take the best price. I have to stay within the budget of the project,” Stahl said. “So if I have two bids and one is a few thousand dollars higher than the other, but has actually made an effort to put local people to work so that money is returned to this community, I will have to consider that. With all the work I have done with school districts, every district has easily said, ‘Let’s do that,’ because they understand how important that is to their community.”
Stahl said the scope of the project will mean that only a few companies regionally will have the bonding necessary to submit formal bids, but locals can partner with larger companies to come on board.
“One of the questions we will have is ‘What are you doing locally?’” he said.
The Lorain County Urban League is a partner agency in the recruitment efforts and has offered meeting space at its Middle Avenue headquarters for informational sessions about local jobs. Stahl will lead the monthly sessions.
Derrick Robbins, owner of Elyria-based Stone Facility, said he has a contract on the project after receiving a call from Stahl, who heard about his minority business and encouraged him to submit a proposal to work on the project.
Robbins, 55, said his commercial janitorial and maintenance company employs about 15 to 20 people. He said he initially was hesitant to bid for work on the project.
“At first, I thought it was a joke, but after I got information on the project and learned about the desire to keep the jobs in the community when possible, I got involved and was put on the team,” he said.
Robbins said he could make more than $250,000 with his work on the project. He thinks he will be on-site, starting with the stadium project, in roughly six to 12 months.
“We would be the guys keeping the grounds clean and, when they start building, to keep the buildings clean until they are opened,” he said. “This is just like what we did with the Lorain High School project. We did that from wall to wall, top to bottom. It was one of the largest jobs I have ever done, especially when it came to a school project. We were there for almost a year.”
Robbins said he is experienced and state-certified, things he did long before Stahl came calling.
“If I would have never done my due diligence, crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s, I would have never gotten this job,” he said. “But Dave Stahl said he went looking for local companies, and my named popped up. What I realized long ago was that I may not be big enough to always bid on the contract, but if I can sit at the table with them, then I would have a foot in the door.”
To get involved in the schools project, visit www.elyriaschools.org and click on Facilities Master Plan. There, you will find links to two Google docs — one for workers and another for companies.
Interested individuals also may attend informational sessions hosted by AECOM/AGS and the Lorain County Urban League. The next ones are set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Jan. 4 at the Urban League, 200 Middle Ave., Suite 200, Elyria.
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