About 140 small builders have united in the Michigan Hispanic Contractors Association, a business development resource helping them benefit from Southwest Detroit's construction boom.
Martina Guzmán of Bridge Detroit speaks with participants and the local organizer:
The group connects independent contractors and small construction companies with jobs, creating economic development in Southwest Detroit. ...
Major projects worth billions -- such as the redevelopment of Michigan Central Station and construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, along with related I-75 work -- are taking place in the neighborhood that has the largest Latino community in Michigan.
Yet studies showed that few of the skilled workers who live in and around Mexicantown are employed on those projects or have other wider industry connections. ... The Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) ... found a surprising lack of inclusion of the Latino construction professionals living in the very community where these projects were being built. Minority contractors, for example, make up only 5 percent of the I-75 gateway project.
The association's spark plug is Bridget Barnes Espinosa, a Central Michigan University ('94) graduate who lives in Farmington Hills.
With seed money from the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the backing of SDBA, business consultant Espinosa was hired to build an organization that would give construction workers the resources and opportunities to grow their business.
Guzman interviews Selicio Alvarado of Dearborn, a Mexican-American general contractor who values the group's mentorship and networking opportunities.
He met other electricians, roofers, concrete workers, landscapers – everything and everyone he needed to build his business.
"There are so many of us in the neighborhood that have these skills that are exceptional," Alvarado said. "We definitely are an asset to our neighborhood, to our community and to surrounding communities."