For years, Richmond city leaders have grown tired of hearing the excuse, “We would hire your city’s contractors and residents, but they are not prepared.”
That’s about to change. An effort is underway to create a pipeline of local contractors, businesses and industry-trained residents who can take on the coming flood of economic development activity expected soon in Richmond – from the massive mixed-used development planned for 12th and Macdonald to the 14-acre Terminal 1 development in Point Richmond.
On Dec. 6, the community celebrated the grand opening of the Construction Resource Center, funded as a project of eQuip Richmond, Chevron’s $10 million economic revitalization initiative.
The CRC is a partnership with Turner Group Construction, RichmondBUILD and The Stride Center that will provide existing small contractors and people who want to start a contracting business with extended technical training to build sustainable contracting businesses.
The CRC, which is currently sharing space with the RichmondBUILD job-training program at 360 S 27th St., launched last year but already boasts a number of success stories.
With its continued growth, according to City Manager Bill Lindsay, city contractors, construction businesses and local workers are poised to benefit from the city’s economic development in the coming years.
The Construction Resource Center aims to fill “a lack of depth when it comes to small contracting, and particularly in minority contracting” in Richmond, said Sal Vaca, director of the Employment & Training Department.
“The Construction Resource Center is committed to putting RichmondBUILD graduates to work with local contractors, helping build capacity of small construction companies, and creating opportunities for budding entrepreneurs in the construction industry,” said Andrea Bailey, community engagement manager for Chevron Richmond.
Vaca said among the local residents who could start up their own contracting business with help from CRC include RichmondBUILD graduates.
“We need to better prepare them to participate in the robust construction activity in the coming years,” he said.
CRC offers a 10-week project management course, as well as classes on launching a construction business, managing expenses and overhead, and also job resources such as employment and contract leads. CRC has also built a contractor locator tool allowing the public to more easily find licensed contractors in the Richmond area, said La Tanya Hawkins of Turner Group Construction.
“Resources include e-learning modules in Spanish and English, construction guides, trade-related classes…that’s just a glimpse of what the residents of this city receive,” Hawkins said.
The initiative received rave reviews from City Manager Bill Lindsay, who thanked Chevron Richmond, and in particular the company’s heavily active engagement manager Andrea Bailey, for crafting a tangible plan to prepare residents to benefit from the city’s ongoing growth.
“It’s really important not only to do the right thing, but to do it the right way,” Lindsay said. “With Andrea Bailey’s leadership, they really did that. They took the time to bring the partners together, to make sure that we could work together well and continue that synergy.”
That’s been the result for Surinder Sandhu, who said he was swallowed up by addiction, which led to “stupid mistakes.” At one point, he lived in a half-way house and was not allowed to see his 5-year-old son. When he thought he was never going to get a second chance, Sandhu found CRC.
“It provided me safety training, very valuable certificates and kept me busy,” Sandhu said. “Even after the safety training was over, they kept me busy by giving me work, connecting me to local contractors, always keeping me busy and my mind off my addiction. And instead, focusing my mind on my number on goal: to be in my son’s life.”
After participating in RichmondBUILD and then taking the CRC project management course, where he learned not only construction skills but also work ethic and responsibility, Sandhu joined Russell Pacific Construction, where he became a site foreman on the Solar One job site, the Bay Area’s largest solar project that is constructed on land donated by Chevron Richmond.
“From the day I entered the doors to this point now, I’m a site foreman, I’m back in my son’s life and play a very important role,” Sandhu said. “Words cannot describe how grateful I am.”
Johnathan Brito said his CRC training led him from jail and addiction to running his own business.
“I grew up in this area and made a lot of mistakes…so I was really happy to find the program,” Brito said. “When you have a criminal history, you don’t have a lot of support….[At CRC] I was able to get initial training, a job at Russell Pacific Construction, and additional training to help me advance my career and start my own construction company.”
CRC is the latest project of Chevron’s eQuip Richmond that aims to spark economic revitalization in part by tackling barriers to economic growth.
The three-year investment creates projects that directly address economic needs of specific neighborhoods and their residents, such as job-focused training, support for entrepreneurship, business retention and expansion, and securing permanent pathways to sustainable, living wage or better jobs and careers in growth industries.
In November, Chevron invested $1 million to launch Pogo Park Products, a project of eQuip Richmond and social enterprise that partners with local Scientific Art Studios to train Iron Triangle residents to design and build beautiful parks. The investment will allow those residents to produce, market, and sell their design skills, and original park furniture and play structures for application in parks beyond Richmond.
“It’s been my privilege to be associated with eQuip,” Lindsay said. “The partners that started out in the room five years ago [to launch the Chevron eQuip Richmond initiative] have stayed together and continued to work together. That’s what relationship-building does, that’s one of the successes of the eQuip program.”