Ford Details Construction Hiring Plans for Train Station, Corktown Campus
By: Breana Noble
Ford Motor Co. said all 2,000 workers building its 1.2 million-square-foot Corktown campus, including renovation of its iconic Michigan Central Depot, will be unionized.
The Dearborn automaker estimates construction and restoration efforts will cost $740 million and will require 2.5 million man-hours, 51 percent of which must be done by Detroit residents. With a shortage of skilled trades workers in the city, however, Ford says it is evaluating whether or not it can meet that goal by each trade and will put together training programs for work that needs more people.
"It is difficult" to meet the 51 percent threshold, Rich Bardelli, program manager for the Blue Oval's real estate arm, Ford Land Co., said during City Council President Brenda Jones' Skilled Trades Task Force meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 building. "I think we all recognize it is difficult. If we get on it right now and train people right now, there will be people in the pipeline over the next two years."
Bardelli said the company is reviewing its list of contractors and is preparing a list of bidders for the project. So far, only one trade package has been put up for bid for safety measures and adding temporary roofing, a process that will begin in November to start the year-long process of drying out the train station. Most packages will become available mid-2019.
All contractors, said Chris Johnson, director of construction services at Ford Land, will be required to use union labor.
Bardelli said the company is looking to hold a job fair early next year to connect contractors with Detroiters so that those who bid on the work will meet the requirements Ford is expected to meet. Additionally, Ford will be working to identify what training programs it needs to offer to ensure it can meet the 51 percent goal and avoid fines.
Not all projects meet that requirement, according to the city's department of civil rights. An average of 25 percent of the hours by skilled-trades workers were Detroit residents on Little Caesars Arena, causing dozens of contractors to pay a total of $5.2 million in fines.
"It is difficult (to meet the 51 percent threshold) because you are not applying to get into the trades," Jones told the meeting's attendees. "As opportunities become available, you will be called. You will be reached upon. It is important that this 51 percent is met."
Ford is requesting nearly $104 million in tax breaks for the project. It also must hire 30 percent Detroit-based contractors and 50 percent based in Wayne County. As a part of its community benefits package, Ford committed to providing $5 million for workforce training, education and development.
Ron Staley, senior vice president of the Christman-Brinker joint venture that is the construction manager for the campus, said the project's greatest need is for masons because of the eight acres of masonry on the building. Additionally, the project's team is looking into using 3D printing over cast iron replications.
"We thought it would be better to train people in a more useful skill over something that is becoming an obsolete process," Staley said.
Bardelli emphasized that Ford hopes the work that goes into constructing the Corktown campus can extend beyond late 2022, when it is expected to open.
"We're hiring for people not just for us," he said. "We're doing training and making sure the next generation, 10, 30, 40 years down the road will have the ability to work."