District Detroit will cover fifty (50) blocks and have various destinations, parks, restaurants, residential and the new Red Wings arena, which is slated to open in the Fall, 2017. According to its website, District Detroit will connect the Midtown and Downtown areas where residents and visitors can enjoy city life, entertainment, the residential experience and the excitement and vibrancy the city has to offer.
And this transformational investment is providing opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs from all across the city and region.
One of those businesses is Detroit-based, White Construction (WC), which was founded, in 1989, by W. Bernard White. Since its inception, WC’s portfolio has expanded to include projects such as Comerica Park and Ford Field. The company, a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), takes much pride in being one-third of the team of general contractors managing this monumental project.
Donovan White, Deputy Operations Manager, White Construction, works as the firm’s senior project engineer on the District Detroit project, which includes document control on the site of the Detroit Events Center development, the future home to the Detroit Red Wings. He is responsible for sourcing and managing all of the general conditions vendors on the job site – which typically include material/work for the project that doesn’t get permanently installed including site supervision, permit fees, site safety expenses, miscellaneous cleanup and janitorial services, security, site trailers, etc.
I recently talked to White about WC’s District Detroit’s role and providing advice for those wanting to gain access to these types of projects.
Lee: What are some of the major construction projects the firm has been involved with?
White: White Construction has been involved in a diverse set of projects, including, but not limited to, commercial, education, healthcare, industrial, public/municipal, religious and residential. Some of our most notable projects include Comerica Park, Ford Field, DMC Sinai-Grace Emergency Department, Campus Martius Park and the QLINE, formerly known as the M-1 Rail.
Lee: You’re been selected for the Red Wings new arena. What is the company’s role in this transformational arena project?
White: White Construction is one-third of the team of general contractors which is comprised of Barton Malow Company, Hunt Construction Group and our firm. White’s key role on the site is to supervise and manage construction activities in addition to hiring and managing the general conditions contractors on the project, which include those responsible for services such as janitorial, plumbing, catering and temporary furnishings. What we’re most excited about relative to this particular piece of our role is the unique opportunity it presents for us to support the commitment of hiring Detroit-based businesses and Detroit residents on general conditions projects.
Lee: Is WC involved with District Detroit as well?
White: Yes, we are involved with The District Detroit project as well. In addition to the arena itself, we are working on the adjacent buildings along Woodward Avenue and along Henry Street, and on the arena parking structure.
Lee: So I’m reading this and wondering, how do I get my firm involved in a major project like this that’s well underway?
White: Major projects like The District Detroit, typically have websites where interested companies can gather information on the project and get a better understanding of what requirements and certifications are necessary for participation. In the case of The District Detroit, Olympia Development of Michigan also hosted a series of workforce outreach events to make prospective vendors aware of how to get involved. In the meantime, interested parties can visit districtdetroit.com and complete a submission form to garner additional information about where and how they might fit into the project.
Lee: There’s significant interest in ensuring diversity is part of these projects, particularly, in Detroit. What’s the overall % commitment to minority-owned firms and Detroit residents?
White: A key mission for The District Detroit project has, and will continue to be, “Michigan Made. Detroit Built.” Olympia Development set a goal of 51% Detroit-resident employment. On contract awards they set a goal of 30% Detroit-based or headquartered businesses.
Lee: How do minority-owned firms gain awareness and access to these types of projects, irrespective of size? Partnerships, joint ventures, etc.?
White: We hope that this development will inspire other development companies to continue the commitment of hiring Detroit-based companies and residents. If you are a small or mid-size firm, I would recommend seeking a joint venture with another Detroit-based or minority-owned business if your company is interested in joining a project of this magnitude. Many of our key projects came about because of our participation in joint ventures and we have had the great honor of working on some of Detroit’s most iconic landmarks, in part, because of those collaborations.
Lee: Finally, what advice would you give to companies looking to be involved in Detroit’s revitalization–whether downtown or in other areas of the city?
White: The best advice I could give to other companies looking to be involved in Detroit’s revitalization is that no projects is too big or too small. Every development, from this point on, is playing a significant role in the city’s revitalization. Whether you are rehabbing houses in a neighborhood, working on the new QLINE or building the Red Wings Arena, all of these projects are building on the momentum and helping to create a positive narrative around the city.
Arena site photo credit: Courtesy of The District Detroit
Donovan White photo credit: Rob Kohn, Olympia Development of Michigan