pictured: From left, Michael Peterson and Frank Daniel. Photo Richard Blanc Photographie
Marcus Garvey said it best.“Take advantage of every opportunity; where there is none, make it for yourself.”
This has become the mantra of two local African American businessmen -Frank Daniel and Michael Peterson – whose singular vision and desire is to level the playing field for this city’s diverse workforce component; a city with a continual history of exclusion and separation from the American dream of economic security, despite an exploding construction industry.
Daniel is the Executive Director of Craft technical Institute (CTI), a New York State licensed Construction Trade School located on Manhattan Avenue. He has a history of successfully developing and training persons for a bright future in the construction industry. However, he realized over the years of working in vocational training that every company needs its own mechanism to keep a trained workforce.
Peterson is a contractor and owner of Peterson Heating and Cooling, a residential and commercial business. Like Daniel, he “recognized a long time ago that if I can work for a business and help make it successful, I can do it for my own business.” He also embraced the mantra “it’s time to make it yourself.”
The two visionary forces joined together and coupled with over 30 years of experience in the construction industry and their sheer tenacity, developed initiatives which will train a strong skilled trades workforce for building our future.
“At this point in time there exists tremendous opportunities for interested persons and companies to gain access to the construction industry at all levels,” stated Daniel.
However, key to having that access is to be able to bid on municipal jobs.
“We have put a program together to make open-shop companies have access to municipal projects,” he continued.
It’s a long- held notion that not being in a union, prohibits contractors from bidding on contracts in the city.
But a closer look at the wording in the city contracts suggest otherwise, said Frank.
“The language in the contracts from the city says that you have to be part of a registered NYSDOL apprenticeship program. It does not say you have to be a union contractor,” he explained. “And in order to be an apprenticeship program you need to be attached to a licensed educational component to deliver the education piece.”
“So we started our own apprenticeship program – Independent Contractors Guild of WNY (ICG), because we’re attached to a NYS licensed trade school, Craft technical Institute (CTI). Now we have access to 85% of all the companies in WNY who are not part of the union. If they come through here – they can now bid on stadium projects and any other municipal projects.”
Through partnerships with ICG , contractors can be assured of meeting compliance protocols with the municipal bidding process by way of certified MBE/MWBE/SDVE companies, explained Frank. The ICG apprenticeship training program is a combination of structured on the job training (OJT) with a skilled trainer and trade specific core skill related instruction. “They have to join the Contractor’s Guild ( ICG ) like they would any guild but it will be a lot more affordable…” he added. “They will still be able to eat and can go after any job… they can be competitive. It levels the playing field.”
Mike, a founding member of ICG, recalled his own personal experience attempting to grow his business.
“For my company to actually join a union it would be very expensive,” he said. “ I’ve had my business for about 20 years now. I went to the unions, sat down with them they gave me all the information and according to what they gave me it was almost impossible to survive unless I had a ton of money.”
“The Independent Contractors Guild is a natural workforce for all companies involved,” said Frank. “I can’t stress enough how important this project is. It will be a force for all companies involved.”
He admitted this movement may be perceived as anti-union by some.
“That’s to be expected,“ he responded. “But we’re only interested in making the playing field equal, because there are good majority companies out here as well, that can do the job as good as any union contractor, but they can’t bid…and they would hire minorities, women, and the disenfranchised within the field if they had the work.”
“Now we can change minds,” he concluded. “We’ve struggle long enough. My mentors are gone… Johnnie Wiley, Willie Edwards and others who would not take foolishness from anybody. This is my legacy.”
As far as push back from the powers that be?
“I’m not worried ,”he said. “We have a real chance now.”