Vikings stadium contractors meet hiring goals

By Doug Belden
dbelden@pioneerpress.com

POSTED:   06/25/2014 12:01:00 AM CDT

UPDATED:   06/25/2014 04:08:20 PM CDT

Gov. Mark Dayton's push in 2012 for a half-billion dollars in public money for a new Vikings stadium centered on the project's potential to provide work for Minnesotans. Six months into construction, that appears to be happening.

About 92 percent of the hours from mid-December to mid-June have been put in by Minnesota workers, according to data released last week in response to a request from the Pioneer Press.

"I feel like that's been ingrained in all of us that this is about Minnesota jobs, and I think we've passed that along to the other companies that are working here, and people get it. They know that it's going to be looked at, it's going to be reported on," said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body overseeing stadium construction.

It starts with having a Minnesota-based construction manager, Mortenson Construction, that has relationships with local subcontractors, she said. The percentage of Minnesota contractors being used on the project mirrors the workforce number: 70 out of 76, or 92 percent.

The data do not include stadium design work done by Dallas-based HKS Inc.

Dayton, a DFLer, declined to comment on the numbers, other than to say he wants as many Minnesota workers and businesses as possible on the project, and referred questions to Kelm-Helgen.

One of his Republican gubernatorial rivals, Kurt Zellers, who voted against the stadium bill as speaker of the House in 2012, also declined to comment.

Dave Senjem, a Republican from Rochester who was leading the Senate in 2012 and voted for the stadium, said "I'm generally happy about where we are in terms of these numbers ... I think 92 percent is higher than I would have expected."

Of the 8 percent of hours coming from out-of-state workers, the vast majority are from Wisconsin. The Badger State accounts for about 9,000 of the 12,000 hours worked so far by non-Minnesota residents.

The stadium project has aggressive equity goals -- 32 percent minority participation in the workforce, and 6 percent women -- that it has consistently met. Some of those minority and women workers have come from out of state, but only a small portion -- 4 percent of the work hours in the case of minorities, 2 percent for women.

Kelm-Helgen said contractors aren't selectively recruiting from other states to fill equity goals they couldn't otherwise meet with Minnesotans.

"It's not like we're going to Wisconsin to find women and minority people. It's more about if they're working for one of the companies and happen to live in Wisconsin, in terms of a small percentage of these people, that really is what's happening," she said.

The stadium authority is working with an employment assistance firm to recruit and train local minority, women and military veteran workers to fill gaps in the labor pool.

The stadium has higher equity hiring goals than the recently completed Central Corridor Green Line light-rail project, which had targets of 18 percent for minority workers and 6 percent for women. Those goals were met in all areas except "systems," where minority participation was 12.5 percent. Systems, including electrical, represented about 20 percent of the light-rail construction-phase budget.

Alex Tittle, equity director for the stadium authority, said 60 workers so far have come from 16 "targeted zip codes" in and around Minneapolis that officials have been focusing on to bring women and minority workers into the labor force.

He said projects usually struggle in the early stages to meet equity goals because the experienced crews that kick off the project often skew toward white males, so the fact that the numbers are already over goal is a promising sign.

Those early, experienced crews often travel all over, Tittle said, which helps explain why 8 percent of the hours thus far have come from non-Minnesotans.

For example, he said, there are five huge, specialized cranes on the work site right now. None came from Minnesota, and there's no training offered here to operate them. "There's certain people that work up there in those towers all day long, they come with those pieces of equipment," he said.

As the project advances, he said, the work will become less specialized and he expects hiring from the local market to increase.

Roughly 145,000 hours have been worked on the project so far, according to a report through June 11. About 133,000 of them came from Minnesotans.

The work hours break down further as follows: 91 percent male, 9 percent female; 66 percent white, 18 percent African-American, 9 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Native American, 1 percent Asian.

In addition to Wisconsin, workers have come from Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota.

Overall worker compensation on the project varies from $25.96 per hour to $73.19, depending on the job.

In addition to the local workforce and business participation, Kelm-Helgen said roughly 86 percent of the materials and supplies for the project so far have been bought from Minnesota companies. The stadium legislation specified it be at least 25 percent, "to the extent practicable."

Doug Belden can be reached at 651-228-5136. Follow him at twitter.com/dbeldenpipress andfacebook.com/PioneerPressPolitics.

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