The Dearborn Debate: Don’t Forget About the Construction Jobs

By Travis Watson / Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative 

The future of the Dearborn School is uncertain. There are numerous articles, tweets, Facebook posts and blogs that discuss what could potentially be in store for the school. What are not being talked about in these commentaries are jobs. Let us not forget how many construction jobs and how much money the building of a new school could potentially bring into the city. However, these jobs will only become available to the residents of Boston if 1. The new school is constructed with workforce goals written into the contract that are enforced and 2. Best practices from construction projects with sound hiring practices are utilized prior to and during construction.

$70.7 Million is a lot of money. How do we make sure the jobs go to Boston residents?

There are a few construction projects in the city that serve as solid examples of how to ensure construction projects support the local economy. Best practices from these projects should be utilized before and during construction of the city’s newest school. The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) played the role of lead community planning partner during the construction of The Ray and Joan Kroc Center in Dorchester. The project is viewed by many as a model for putting residents, minorities, females and minority/women owned businesses to work and was able to secure over $8 million for minority business enterprises (mbes) and a little under $7 million for women business enterprises (wbes). Additionally, 45% of the construction hours went to residents of Boston, 44% to minorities and 8% to women.

But that was just one project, right?

Currently, DSNI is playing the role of lead community planning partner once again, this time on three US Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods construction projects. These three projects have secured over $16 million for minority business enterprises and well over $3 million for women business enterprises. Now complete, the final workforce numbers for the three projects are as follows:

Quincy Heights I: 58% resident, 67% minority and 6% female

Quincy Heights II: 55% resident, 69% minority and 6% female

Pearl Food Business Incubator: 55% resident, 60% minority and 12% female

Next Steps

If the plan for new construction moves forward these steps should be taken in order to maximize the amount of construction dollars and jobs coming into the city:

1.     The project must have workforce goals/requirements written into the contract. The Boston Residents Jobs Policy has goals of 50% Boston residents, 25% minority and 10% female. As the two examples above illustrate, we can do better. Let’s push to have more aggressive hiring requirements for this project. The Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee goals are 51% Boston resident, 51% minority and 15% female. These were the requirements used on both the Kroc Center and Choice projects and should be the same figures used for the new school.

2.     The workforce goals/requirements have to be enforced.

3.     Strong partnerships must be formed. The strong workforce numbers on both the Kroc Center and the Choice projects were only possible through creative thinking and strong partnerships.

4.     Do not reinvent the wheel. The construction team for the new school should use best practices from projects like Kroc and Choice to maximize opportunities for residents, minorities, females and m/wbes.

In this time of uncertainty regarding the future of the Dearborn School don’t forget to take into account the potential job opportunities new construction can offer. Combined, the Kroc Center and Choice Neighborhoods construction projects brought close to $35 million to minority and women owned businesses and millions of dollars in wages to individual workers. Similar opportunities could very well be on the horizon for the city once again. Whether you are for or against the construction of a new school, it’s hard to be against millions of dollars flowing into our local economy, our small businesses and our resident’s pockets.

Additional resources:

For The People, By The People. A DSNI case study exploring best practices for maximizing resident, minority, female and m/wbe participation on construction projects as learned through The Kroc Center construction process.

For The People, By The People 2.0. A follow-up to For The People, By The People, this DSNI case study explores best practices for maximizing resident, minority, female and m/wbe participation on construction projects as learned through The Choice Neighborho