The general contracting team on the Milwaukee Job Corps Center is fending off union criticism that the project is not putting enough city residents to work.
But Milwaukee-area builders should be happy the $28.3 million job didn’t go to an out-of-state company, said
Royce Alsbach, vice president of project management for Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. Inc., which teamed up with De Arteaga Inc., Greenville, to win the job center project.
“They seem to be upset a bit, and it took me by surprise and took us by surprise,” Alsbach said. “It’s like, ‘Guys, you don’t realize what we were able to pull off here.’”
Still, the Milwaukee County Building and Construction Trades Council and the Good Jobs & Livable Neighborhoods coalition are complaining the project does not have enough local workers and held a protest last week to drive home that point. Council President Lyle Balistreri said the joint venture is not signatory and not bound by collective-bargaining requirements to hire local people.
He said the roofing and painting workers will come from the local pool, but others will not.
“We want to train people,” Balistreri said. “We want to put city of Milwaukee residents to work, and if our contractors can’t get work, we can’t put people to work.”
Miron formed the joint venture with De Arteaga, which is federally certified as a small and minority-owned business, because the U.S. Department of Labor required a small business win the job center contract, Alsbach said. Miron teamed with De Arteaga to satisfy the contract’s small-business requirement and avoid losing the job to an out-of-state bidder.
Alsbach said Miron learned its lesson after losing the University of Wisconsin-Stout Jarvis Hall project to Shaw-Lundquist Associates Inc., Minneapolis. On that project, Miron’s $28.2 million bid lost to Shaw’s $29.5 million offer because Shaw received a 5 percent bid preference for being a minority-owned company.
“That’s the big piece that even the unions, when we sat down to talk to them, didn’t understand,” Alsbach said.
Losing to Shaw, he said, was a major blow, and Miron “vowed not to let that happen again.”
Hummel Construction LLC, Ravenna, Ohio, in February finished second to Miron for the job center project with a $28.8 million bid. Brent Redeker, Hummel project manager, said the company bids on Job Corps projects across the country and often runs into a local-hiring sentiment.
He said the projects use federal, not local, tax money.
“There’s always a push by people wanting to keep their tax dollars in a local area,” Redeker said. “And we always try to use as much local labor and local contractors as possible.”
He said Hummel, a nonunion, certified small business with roughly 45 employees, is not booked throughout the construction season and could use the work.
“Northeast Ohio is very slow,” he said. “I think the unemployment rate of the county we’re in is about 12 percent.”
Alsbach said 70 percent of the subcontractors on the project are union, and most are from the Milwaukee area.
He said De Arteaga, which is performing the concrete work on the job, is bringing its own crews to the project because its employees do not have enough work.
Once all of De Arteaga’s crews are hired, the company will bring in more workers from the local labor pool, Alsbach said.
“Right now,” he said, “this is their only project.”