Joel Haashiim is the owner of Joel's Enterprise Inc., of Detroit, which does construction trucking and over-the-road trucking. The company has been in business for over 20 years.
"We have a total of 17 trucks; however, we have three trucks that are for aggregate hauling and heavy duty hauling for construction sites," Haashiim said.
Haashiim is also the owner of Detroit Reddi-Wall, of Detroit. The company will be manufacturing steel floor joists, steel studs, steel roofing, and foam for the Reddi-Wall system. The Reddi-Wall system is a foam-insulated concrete wall system. The materials will be used for residential and commercial building construction. Detroit Reddi-Wall will also have a training school.
The Reddi-Wall system is currently being manufactured by the parent company, which is Reddi-Wall, of Oakland, a minority contractor. Haashiim is a partner in the parent company. Reddi-Wall has plants in Port Huron, Monroe, and the Rochester Hills area.
Five homes have been built in the city of Detroit using the Reddi-Wall system. Some 45 homes in the city of Detroit will be built with the system. Approximately 3,000 homes have been built in other parts of Michigan using the Reddi-Wall system.
"It's probably one of the best kept secrets in the building industry. It is probably the best way to build today. This is a product that is fire-retardant, so insurance premiums are reduced," Haashiim said. He said that the Reddi-Wall system reduces insurance premiums by two-thirds.
"Buildings are also mold-free. They provide the best quality air. In addition, there is a great reduction in heating and cooling costs," Haashiim said. He added that the maintenance on these structures is very low.
Haashiim said that the Reddi-Wall system takes approximately one-third to one-half the time to construct compared to a conventional structure.
Haashiim said that his companies will go anywhere to haul materials or build with the Reddi-Wall system.
He said that it's been a struggle for many African-American companies in the construction business. "I don't think that it's been a level playing field. I don't particularly care for minority set asides; however, I realize the importance of having minority set asides if a level playing field is not provided," Haashiim pointed out.
Haashiim is vice president of the African-American Trucking Association. "The African-American Trucking Association is very important because there are many minorities in the trucking business that are having many issues. The industry is making it difficult for them to be successful," Haashiim said.
Lawrence Black Jr. has been a heavy construction equipment operator since 1998, when he joined the International Union of Operating Engineers. He operates wheel loaders, excavators, rubber tired backhoes, forklifts, and paddle scrapers. He has worked for several construction companies. Black said that his experience as an African-American in the construction business has been pretty good.
"So far, it's been fine for me. Some years it's been kind of tight, but most of the time it's been pretty good," Black said. He said that he's seen many improvements in opportunities for minorities in the construction business over the past 10 years. He pointed out that even though the business is a little slow right now, there are opportunities for minorities.
Black said that the construction industry needs to do a better job of telling people about the opportunities that are available.
Derrick Sanders Jr., an African-American, is a second generation heavy construction equipment operator following in his father's footsteps. Sanders was in the U.S. Air Force for two years, where he did civil engineering work. He has been a heavy construction equipment operator and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers for three years. Sanders operates dozers, end dumps, wheel loaders, backhoes, rollers, forklifts, and clam shell cranes. Sanders is currently an apprentice in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program.
"Being in the construction business has been an experience, due to the fact that there aren't many minorities in the construction business. But, the union is like a brotherhood," Sanders said.
"I don't see anything that is holding minorities back in this business. Minorities that I know in this business seem to be doing pretty well."
Patrick Collier has been in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program for approximately 2-1/2 years. He operates wheel loaders, excavators, dozers, rollers, and paddle wheel scrapers. Collier is African-American.
Collier has worked for a few companies as a heavy construction equipment operator. He said that the construction industry needs to better inform people on the opportunities available and what types of skills are needed.
Josh Adams has been an apprentice in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program for approximately two years. He operates wheel loaders, rollers, dozers, and excavators, and has been working in the construction industry. Adams' experience as an African-American in the construction business has been a positive one. He said that there are opportunities for minorities in the construction business if they pursue those opportunities. "If I need some information, I call on people," Adams said.
Dennis Pogue is a veteran in the construction business with 25 years of experience as a heavy construction equipment operator. Recently he has been doing fine-grading work with a dozer for Nagle Paving. Pogue operates just about every type of heavy construction equipment from cranes to forklifts to rubber tired backhoes to wheel loaders. "That's what keeps me working. The more machines I can run, the more work I am available for," Pogue said.
Pogue completed the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program and is a journeyperson. He spent four years in the apprenticeship program. He's worked for several construction companies.
"I'm starting to see more African-Americans out in the field. There are some that I don't know. At one time there were so few that I knew just about all of them," Pogue said. Pogue is African-American. He said that African-Americans are not always treated fairly, but he lets his work speak for itself.
"I do what I do and I guess I've been good at it since I've been working for 25 years. That says it all. I've been busy and I can't complain," Pogue said. Pogue added that it's not always a level playing field.
"There is still a little stigma out there, but it's not as bad as it used to be," Pogue said.
"With the economy the way it is now, the contractors flex their muscles a little harder because it's not a day for the worker now; it's a day for the contractor. It was a day for the worker back in the 1990s when there was a lot of work, but now you pretty much have to stay put." Pogue said that when the economy improves, opportunities for minorities may improve as well.
Anysia Gray has been in the construction field for three years. She operates forklifts, dozers, wheel loaders, and graders. She completed the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program in 2006 and is a journeyperson. As a Black American and a woman, she says that it's been an uphill battle.
"A lot of people are not used to women being on job sites. It's an unconventional job for a woman," Gray said.
She said that there are adequate opportunities for minorities in the construction field, but it's up to them to take advantage of the opportunities. She said that information about opportunities is available, but people need to seek it out. "If you're not looking for it, you're not going to find anything. Opportunity is not going to beat down your door. If somebody wants to do something bad enough, they will go after it," Gray said.
Gray was a heavy construction equipment operator in the U.S. Army. She was on active duty for two years and is currently a reservist.
Maurice Drew is an apprentice in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 apprenticeship program. He has worked for Laramie Equipment Company, of Detroit, and is currently working for Washington Group. He has worked in the construction field for approximately three years. Drew's training and skills currently involve operating cranes and handling hazardous materials as he continues to complete his apprenticeship program. When he returns to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training center in Howell, he continues his training on dozers, loaders, rollers, end dumps, and rubber tired backhoes. Drew is African-American. He said that having a successful career in the construction field depends on the quality of an individual's work.
"I think that at the end of the day, the contractor looks at the individual's work," Drew said. He said that a lot of minorities are not educated about the opportunities in the construction industry. "If minorities were educated about the opportunities available in the construction industry, there would be more minorities in the business," Drew said.