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Joliet committee balks at funding request for minority training center

Jan Quillman

Jan Quillman

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:38AM



Advocates who want more construction jobs going to Joliet minorities have proposed a $5.5 million training and outreach center.

The proposal made to a Joliet City Council committee this week, however, met immediate resistance because of a request for $532,000 in city support by early next year.

“The plan is to build a minority outreach and development center on Joliet’s East Side or in the Will County area,” Cathy Wells from the Harvey Brooks Foundation in Joliet told the city council’s diversity committee on Tuesday. “Our target group is people who fall through the cracks — high schoolers and post-high schoolers.”

The Harvey Brooks Foundation would team up with the Black Contractors of Will County to create the center. Harvey Brooks facilities would house the center initially, Wells said.

Wells proposed staffing the center by early next year with $532,000 from the city of Joliet to cover the first year budget. The money would include $410,000 for staff.

Committee members quickly said the city would not provide the money.

“Put that on your wish list, I’m sorry to say,” said committee Chairwoman Jan Quillman.

She said the proposal is “very off the task of what we originally started talking about.”

The committee is looking for ways to address concerns that not enough contracts for city construction work is going to minority contractors and that too few minorities are working on the jobs.

The proposal for an outreach center attempts to create resources where minority youths can be trained in the skills needed to work in building trades jobs.

“We’re proposing as a diversity committee let’s all get together and get the impoverished people up to speed so they can be competitive,” said Burneva McCullum, secetary with the Black Contractors of Will County.

The advocates did not identify any other funding sources. Committee members said that while the proposal may have merit, the city would not be able to provide funding on the timeline set by the advocates.

“I’ll be blunt,” Councilman Larry Hug said. “There’s no way the city can put together enough money to fund your staff in the first quarter (of 2014).”

Hug said the city was looking at a loss of $5 million in gambling taxes in the near future with expectations that Illinois would allow more casinos to open up in the Chicago area and create more competition for Joliet casinos.

The committee and advocates wrapped up with a commitment to work with local labor leaders to bring more young people into the building trades unions.

Thomas White, executive director of the Three Rivers Construction Alliance, said he would join the advocates in visits to local high schools to begin recruiting minority workers for future construction jobs.

“We need to get some kids trained,” White said. “Let’s start there.”



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