Electric Works will contribute to the local community even before the first tenant opens, officials announced Tuesday.
RTM Ventures, developer of the $248 million project, has partnered with nonprofit Joshua's Hand to create apprenticeship programs that will employ minorities during construction.
According to its website, “Joshua's Hand empowers individuals, families and businesses to transcend hardships and create positive opportunities through socioeconomic programming and initiatives, creating communities worth coming home to.”
Not only will the apprenticeships provide individuals paid training and new career opportunities, but the programs will help address the region's shortage of workers trained as plumbers, electricians, steelworkers and other skilled trade positions, officials said.
Larry Weigand, CEO of Weigand Construction, the construction manager, also signed the agreement.
“This is not something we or the developers are required to do – it's something we want to do,” he said in a statement. “We understand firsthand how important training and preparing the next generation of skilled tradespeople is for our regional economy – and Electric Works, as a regionally transformative project, provides a unique opportunity to lead the way in these efforts.”
Women- and minority-owned businesses are also encouraged to bid on pieces of the project.
The developers have set a goal of awarding at least 15% of construction-related contracts to businesses under those umbrellas.
Additional goals include recruiting and hiring underemployed and unemployed local residents to join the construction crew.
Cedric Lee Walker, founder and CEO of Joshua's Hand, said he's honored that his organization will play a role in the project.
“We recognize with Electric Works the profound potential this project has to positively impact the lives of so many throughout the region, and that includes in areas of need here in our city,” he said in a statement.
Electric Works is a mixed-use district of innovation, energy and culture, developed as a public/private partnership between RTM Ventures and the city of Fort Wayne. The 39-acre campus just south of downtown is the former location of General Electric.
RTM Ventures plans to convert 1.2 million square feet in 18 historic buildings into space for office, educational, innovation, retail, residential, hotel and entertainment uses.
Kevan Biggs is a partner in RTM Ventures and a board member of Joshua's Hand. He said the developers want Electric Works to be “an engine of inclusive growth in our region.”
“This agreement and partnership are also about expanding and strengthening the continuum of educational opportunities available at Electric Works,” Biggs said in a statement. “In addition to innovative initiatives with educational institutions like Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indiana Tech and Indiana University, this agreement will help provide real opportunities for those wanting to pursue careers in the skilled trades.”