Ford outlines union hiring plan for $740M Detroit construction
- Ford Motor Co. officials offered more details on its planned $740 million Detroit campus construction project during a recent meeting of the Detroit Skilled Trades Task Force. The Detroit News reported the company plans to use 100% unionized construction workers, but that the automaker was concerned about meeting the city's 51% local hiring goal.
- In exchange for $104 million of tax incentives, 50% of the contractors hired must be from Wayne County, Michigan, and 30% of which must be located in Detroit. Ford also agreed to spend $5 million on workforce training, education and development as a way to attract more local workers.
- The focal point of the new campus, located in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, will be the renovated Michigan Central Station, a historic rail depot. The 1.2 million-square-foot campus also will include the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, a two-acre piece of vacant property, the site of an old brass factory and a factory that is home to Ford's electric and autonomous vehicle divisions. In addition, the project will include office and retail space and some residential units. The only scopes of work that have been bid out so far are for safety measures and temporary roofing.
Ford is no doubt trying to avoid a repeat of the situation that contractors for the Little Caesars Arena project in Detroit found themselves in. Despite city officials' acknowledgment that contractors made a substantial hiring effort through job fairs and training programs, the city ended up fining construction companies working on the project a total of $5.2 million for failing to meet the city's hiring goals.
The city could expand the requirement to all city-funded construction work and demolition. Last month, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield proposed the regulation after determining that the city's African-American workers and businesses were underrepresented in city's Land Bank program, which finances the demolition of blighted Detroit homes. Only 16% of the $70 million spent on the program so far has gone to African-American-owned businesses.
In one of the latest moves trying to mandate labor requirements, Santa Barbara, California, is considering a proposal that would require all capital construction projects to be performed by local union workers. Proponents of the measure said such an ordinance would result in a higher-quality building, reducing future costs. Currently, the city awards projects to low bidders.
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter