Mayor Duggan, Jesse Jackson announce ‘opportunity’ fair

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Mayor Mike Duggan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and leaders of Detroit’s faith-based community on Tuesday announced plans for an “opportunity fair” to link city-based and minority-owned contractors with demolition and home repair projects in Detroit.

The city and Detroit Land Bank Authority, with support from Jackson, the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition and Michigan Minority Contractors Association, will host the first of several quarterly “Detroit Contractor Opportunity Fairs” on May 13 at the Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Road. The fair runs from 1-4 p.m.

The fairs are expected to help increase the number of Detroit contractors certified with the city. They also set out to encourage contractors to get into demolition by providing licensing, equipment and bidding information and connecting them with minority-owned companies.

“We’re understanding now that the recovery of Detroit’s neighborhoods has become a major business,” Duggan said during a news conference at Triumph Church on Tuesday. “Let’s develop our own companies in the city.”

Detroit companies that have been in business for two years or less, officials noted, will be able to get certified with the city for a discounted rate of $150, down from the city’s usual rate of $600.

Since May 2014, Detroit has taken down 8,000 vacant homes under the Duggan administration’s demolition program. Of the work completed, $25 million in contracts have been awarded to Detroit-based minority-owned contractors, officials noted.

This year, officials hope to take down another 5,000 citywide — and 6,000 the year after. Historically, Duggan added, the city was knocking down about 1,000 to 5,000 houses a year.

The city has received about $130 million through its first three rounds of federal “Hardest Hit” funding to take down blighted homes and last week learned of its latest award of $41.9 million for the first part of its fourth round.

Officials expect the city’s blight removal program will expand by at least 50 percent over the next two years and neighborhood-focused programs will continue to fuel a rise in home rehabilitation.

Duggan said the increased funding and work being done by the land bank and others will allow the work already taking place in the neighborhoods to ramp up.

“Detroit-based, minority-owned companies will play a key role in Detroit’s resurgence and our ability to meet this growing demand,” the mayor noted.

Jackson, who is president and founder of the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, played a pivotal role in gaining congressional approval for $2 billion in additional blight removal funds nationwide. He praised the city’s efforts to support the growth of its small businesses, officials noted.

“This may be the first major step for urban reconstruction in the country,” he said Tuesday.

The need for contractors has also increased based on the land bank’s home action and nuisance abatement programs as well as others.

Jason Cole, of the Michigan Minority Contractors Association, said Tuesday the group wants to be at the forefront of the initiative that Duggan has brought forward.

“All I have to do is make sure that the contracts get to the people,” he said. “I’m going to do my job.”

To register for the Detroit Contractor Opportunity Fair, visit www.detroitmi.gov/demolition.