Collaboration Creates a Hub for Diverse Construction Businesses in St. Louis

St. Louis is expecting a major construction boom. Over the next three years, the city is expecting $5.5 billion in construction. Meanwhile, the pipeline of skilled tradespeople to build all that is slim.

A group of local organizations – led by Washington University and BJC Healthcare in collaboration with the Associated General Contractors of Missouri Education Foundation, St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers, The Construction Forum and the Construction Career Development Initiative – is taking action to address this. They've created a community-based hub to help diverse companies grow in size and scale, allowing them to better compete in the marketplace. 

The Opus Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to install computer technology in the space.

“Creating an environment where a diverse workforce can flourish is a huge undertaking," said Leonard Toenjes, President of Associated General Contractors of Missouri Education Foundation. “It's a bigger issue than any one organization can tackle alone. When the concept came about, we knew it would require a collaboration of several organizations focused on the same goal."

Supporting Diverse Construction Businesses

Local organizations are collaborating to create a 5,000-square-foot hub with co-working space and a regional procurement center. In this space, diverse construction companies can receive training on business development, project management, accounting, cost control, administrative skills and marketing. All programs and resources, including support from mentors and experts, will be free.

During the first three years, this hub will provide support to nearly forty diverse construction firms annually. The goal is to fully immerse them in the marketplace through pre-apprenticeship programs and jobs in the construction field. The intent is to expand to serve diverse business owners in other industries.

The team leading the initiative knew that technology resources and training for clients would be necessary. Investing in it, however, was not an easy or affordable task, so the Opus Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to cover essential technology.

“We did not anticipate being able to afford this level of technology," said Julie Ledbetter, Special Assistant for Inclusive Construction at Washington University in St. Louis. “The grant is taking the program to an entirely different level, thanks to the Opus Foundation."

The grant will cover laptops, docking stations, smartboards, screens to review construction plans, large meeting technology and software. 

“What we are doing is totally different than anything that's been done in the past," said Ledbetter. “Providing a co-working space like this and resources focused on the business of construction, will be a game changer and help diverse firms expand in St. Louis."

Delmar Divine

The construction hub will be located at Delmar Divine, a redevelopment of a 500,000 square foot hospital that has been vacant since 2013.

The Delmar Divine is strategically located on the north side of Delmar Boulevard along the Delmar Divide, a long-standing symbol of racial and socio-economic division. Its mission is to set an example for social improvement, community development and collaboration. It will provide space for diverse businesses and organizations, as well as nonprofits, apartments, office spaces, a café and social service agencies.

The construction hub is expected to open and start serving clients in mid-January 2022.​