After the dismal participation by minorities on the Heinz Field, PNC Park and Convention Center projects 10 years ago, it’s a familiar song by now. African-Americans make up about 3 percent of those employed on the Consol Energy Arena  development project. Of that number, 1 percent live in the Hill District. Women also make up about 1 percent.

JOBS VS. CONTRACTS— Clarence Curry of the SEA, left, and Ken Nesbit from the First Source Referral Center, note that employing local residents on arena construction has been difficult despite 23 percent participation by MBEs.

These numbers came out during a Jan. 14 meeting to inform Hill District residents on the arena project. This low employment figure comes despite contractor inclusion being at or near targeted goals.


Clarence Curry, MWDBE coordinator for the Sports and Exhibition Authority, said of the $321 million in “hard” construction costs, 23 percent, or  nearly $74 million, went to MBEs. Another 8 percent, or  $25.6 million, went to WBEs. Curry put the disparity down to the required  use of union tradesmen on the project.

“As part of the Community Benefits Agreement, we agreed to  track employment participation and we did that by tracking payroll,” he said. “Now because not all firms were required to report race, we estimate, based on zip codes, that the real number is somewhat higher, around 6 percent for minorities. We expect it to be about the same for the parking garage project.”

Given that the garage was designed by African-American architect Howard Graves, and constructed by P.J. Dick, with joint venture partner Brinker Construction, a Black-owned Detroit-based firm  and yielded an MBE participation figure of 53 percent, the disparity between contractor participation and actual employment will be even greater.

Curry noted those numbers could go up slightly because Ira Ritter, a Black painting contractor is among those bidding on the painting contract for the garage.

“Ira is on the list and has promised to use Service Striping, based in the Hill District, as a subcontractor for the line painting,” he said.

Carl Redwood Jr., co-chair of the Hill Consensus Group, said his focus is on the permanent jobs  that will be created by the Cambria Suites Hotel, under construction next to the arena, and inside the arena itself.

“Six Months ago we had 2 percent Hill employment, now it’s 1 percent—we’re going in the wrong direction,” he said. “The best way to guarantee jobs is at the hotel. We need the (Pittsburgh) Penguins to instruct their human resources people. We want 50 percent of the permanent jobs.”

Wesley Center AMEZ Rev. Glen Grayson said he was tired of the union runaround.

“I ride past and see very few folk who look like me. We go through this circus every time and nothing changes,” he said. “I can train someone to turn a sign; stop-go-left-right. Yet we’re told we don’t have the training. Who can address that?”

In addition to the employment figures, the Penguins also addressed future development on the site of the current Mellon Arena, noting they would not file a development plan Jan. 20.

The Community Benefits Agreement negotiated among the Penguins, city and county development agencies and Hill residents, allows them to file such a plan if a Master Development Plan for the Hill District is not completed by Jan. 19.

“Hey, we need to seek community input,” said Penguins representative Chris Miller. “We understand the need for a master plan and will participate. The SEA has to survey the site for environmental hazards. There are also historical and archeological issues. So we are looking to set up a meeting schedule by next week.

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