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The Michigan Chronicle’s Guide to Little Caesars Arena


Highlights from Little Caesars Arena Ribbon-Cutting Speech by Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. Projects like Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit are rare. Perhaps once in a lifetime. When they are done well, and done right, they can create incredible pride and change lives across our community. As such, extreme care, planning and hard work have gone into this project - we put our heart and soul into creating something truly spectacular, for the people of this city, state and region. A special place that will amaze and inspire. A place to be joyful and in awe; and a place to feel proud and have fun. A state-of-the-art gathering place, that makes our community a better place for all. While we celebrate the truly breath-taking final product before us, we also celebrate how this structure was created. Three years ago, when we symbolically broke ground on this development, we talked about our vision for Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit, as places we would build together. Michigan-Made, Detroit-Built, that was our call to action. To us, that meant taking an approach that would ensure the impact of this massive project stays here. . . benefiting our community, our neighbors, our work force, our city and our state. And today, I am so proud to say, that our vision of a Michigan Made, Detroit Built Little Caesars Arena, came to life even more powerfully than we had imagined…breathing opportunity into local businesses, local workers, and people in need of new careers. Thus far at Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit, 94 percent of contracts awarded have gone to companies based in our great state of Michigan. That translates into nearly $700 million being pumped into our local economy. What’s more, is that nearly $475 million of those contracts – 61 percent of the total – have been awarded to companies based in Detroit, helping to power our city’s amazing and ongoing comeback.

We also have been committed to ensuring that jobs created by this project were filled locally. And I’m so proud to share that residents of our great city have spent upward of 600,000 hours, nearly 15,000 work weeks, earning great wages on our job sites, and according to our research, it’s the most hours worked by Detroiters on a project, in more than 40 years. And when we encountered the need for more skilled tradespeople than were available here in our local marketplace, we turned that challenge into something incredibly positive, and looked to the future. We have welcomed 836 apprentices to our arena construction site, to be trained in new skills they can use to build their careers and provide for their families well after the doors of this arena open today. These apprentices represented more than 15 percent of our total arena construction workforce, which is more than double a typical project of this size and more than any other construction project in the state of Michigan, during this same time period. Altogether, more than 4,500 Michigan citizens worked on Little Caesars Arena. And this great story of opportunity continues. Two thousand people have been hired for post-construction jobs at Little Caesars Arena, and more than 61 percent of them, are Detroiters. Stated simply, Little Caesars Arena is the result of homegrown talent and skill. It’s a product of love, pride and that amazing Detroit and Michigan hustle. My gratitude to everyone who worked on Little Caesars Arena, with their hands and hearts, is immense. It is undoubtedly a hopeful time across our entire city and state. So many people, projects and initiatives are propelling our community’s amazing comeback. We all are fortunate to be in a city and state, where so many positive things are occurring. And our collective future is very bright.

Letter from the Publisher With a landscape that is transforming daily, excitement is coursing through the city of Detroit! Nowhere is this energy more evident than Olympia Development of Michigan’s new The District Detroit which spans from Midtown to downtown and has something for everyone. Hiram E. Jackson

At the heart of The District Detroit is the new state-ot-the-art Little Caesars Arena, a world-class entertainment venue offering concerts, dining, and sporting events, including the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons who have returned to the city after almost 40 years! Within the pages of this special insert you will learn more about Olympia Development’s voluminous influence in the revitalization of downtown Detroit and how the organization is striving to further ingrain itself into the fabric of the community. You will find articles about its commitment to affordable housing in The District Detroit, as well as how Dixon Masonry and Blaze Contracting, two Detroit-based companies, were integral in the building of the arena. We also profile an iron worker who represents just one of the 20,000 jobs that have been created by its projects. And we have yet to see the total impact it will have on existing businesses in the area and Detroit as a whole. This is an exciting time for the city of Detroit! Having recently moved from our office on Ledyard St. to a new headquarters in Paradise Valley, I’ve witnessed the creation of The District Detroit from inception. As we focus on moving our city forward, it gives me great pleasure to see the positive change to the city’s landscape!

Sincerely,

Hiram E. Jackson Publisher, Michigan Chronicle

2 | September 2017


The all-new

Little Caesarsis finally Arena here By Curtrise Garner Construction of the new Little Caesars Arena is a major part of the downtown Detroit story. Yet, with the focus on the arena — the construction, anticipation, the jobs, the games — some may overlook all that’s along Woodward Avenue. In addition to becoming the home of the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Red Wings and a concert venue for the likes of Janet Jackson, Imagine Dragons and Jay-Z, the arena will anchor The District Detroit. The District Detroit is a 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch companies uniting eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues including Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park and Ford Field. It will feature new housing, dining and shopping brought together into one vibrant, walkable urban destination. The arena has drawn praise from people who wanted to see the Detroit Pistons return to the city. “Little Caesars Arena is the most innovative venue ever

built,” said Dr. Mark Rosentraub, professor of Sports Management at University of Michigan. “This is a first-time concept in Detroit with an area for people to congregate outside of the game or event.” Rosentraub said once people start to grasp all that The District Detroit offers, it will attract people from all neighborhoods and interests. “This will be a new neighborhood with retail and an arena that is open year-round,” Rosentraub said. “The District Detroit will offer new types of retail that we don’t have right now.” Rosentraub also said the economic impact in the city of Detroit is already more than $1.5 billion between the arena and The District Detroit.

What’s in The District Detroit New Homes Construction on the first of six residential developments started earlier this year. There will be 686 units of housing, with 20 percent reserved for affordable housing. The housing

will be located between downtown and Midtown, near Temple, Cass, Henry and Bagley streets. Eats and Treats Four new restaurants, including Mike’s Pizza Bar and the District Market, join the 20 or so already in the 50-block radius of The District Detroit, with many more to come. A Look at the Economic Impact of Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit The District Detroit has already created nearly 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs in Michigan and is projected to generate a total economic impact of more than $2 billion by 2020. The District Detroit has awarded more than half of its $700 million in contracts to Detroit-based companies. Nearly all those contracts — 94 percent — went to Michigan-based companies.

September 2017 | 3


Detroit Contractors Help Build Little Caesars Arena, Provide Jobs, Apprenticeships for Detroiters

Little Caesars Arena, Blaze Contracting had performed work for several large companies and buildings in the Detroit area, specifically, the Q-Line, all three casinos and Henry Ford Hospital. Blaze Contracting was responsible for the excavation and underground utilities for the arena. “The beauty of it is that you can’t see it {the actual work of Blaze Contracting}, but you can walk on it,” said Blaise. “The sewers, water mains, the hole for the arena, we did that. We re-routed water mains and sewer lines to the outskirts of the building,” he said. Blaise added that excavation for the arena was nearly 40 feet deep and that he and his team hauled away more than 100,000 tons of soil to create the foundation. Collins said that both Dixon and Blaze performed at a phenomenal level – not that she expected anything less. “Both employed Detroiters and mentored men and women to succeed in creating and obtaining life changing careers”. She added that both businesses grew financially and in size, “Which I’m proud of.” Both companies are the lead on two new major construction projects in the city of Detroit.

Elmer Dixon, CEO - Dixon Masonry, Inc.

By Curtrise Garner Little Caesars Arena is standing tall after months of excavating, pouring concrete, setting bricks and hard hats everywhere. The arena and its surrounding buildings, plaza and retail space, which is the new home of the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings and a variety of other events, is an $863-million investment for the city of Detroit. In addition to the sports and other special events that the arena will bring to the city, it is also bringing plenty of jobs for Detroiters and those in surrounding cities. When Olympia Development of Michigan announced its plans to build the arena in downtown Detroit, the company worked with the city of Detroit and Heritage Development Services to create and implement program to help ensure Detroit-based and headquartered businesses were awarded at least 30 percent of construction contracts. By the time construction was completed, more than 61 percent of contracts had been awarded to Detroit companies – more than double the goal. Two Detroit-based businesses, Dixon Masonry, Inc. and Blaze Contracting, were among numerous Detroit companies awarded large contracts to prepare, build and construct the new arena. Both of the business owners, Elmer Dixon and Kerlin Blaise, respectively, said that building Little Caesars Arena has helped

4 | September 2017

to grow their business and added high-paying, skilled-trades jobs and employees to their companies. Together, their contracts totaled approximately $50 million.

year and said that his team worked hard to complete the projects on schedule. “I know what our guys can do and their capabilities,” he said.

According to Rochelle Collins, Project Manager with Heritage, the company not only identified Detroit companies but also served as a matchmaker between smaller Detroit companies and larger companies that could help provide manpower and equipment. The pairing allowed some Detroit businesses to increase capacity and afforded them the opportunity to bid as a primary contractor on future contracts.

In addition to the matchmaking of Detroit businesses, Heritage created a project-based apprenticeship program that provided assistance identifying qualified Detroiters the opportunity to enter into a new skilled trade. Heritage collaborated with unions and contractors to develop on-site apprenticeship programs. The goal of the apprentice program was to strengthen and increase Detroit’s current skilled-trade workforce, which had been depleted due to a lack of local construction projects necessary to continue the program. The apprenticeships range from three to five years and include such trades as: carpentry, masonry, electrical, ironworkers, glaziers and sheet metal workers. As a result, Dixon hired 12 apprentices and Blaze Contracting, 33 apprentices of varying trades.

Dixon, 48, started his business in 1999 with 10 employees. He was responsible for the majority of the masonry work. By the end of the project, his business had grown to approximately 60 workers. “As we continue to get work, which allows us to keep guys working; all of the guys are coming together to achieve a common goal,” said Dixon “It all comes together and it’s one of the best projects I’ve ever been involved in.” Dixon and his team laid more than 750,000 bricks in 15 different colors; and also the cast for the bricklaying. In addition, Dixon was responsible for more than 200,000 masonry blocks in the sports and entertainment area of the arena. Dixon worked on the arena for more than a

Blaise, 42, is originally from Orlando, Fla. Of course, the obvious question is: What brought him from Florida to the Detroit? Answer: The Detroit Lions. Blaise is a former football player who retired from the Detroit Lions in 2005. He played defensive guard/tackle for the Lions and upon retiring, realized that he needed a plan B. Hence, he started his company, Blaze Contracting, which is located on the east side of Detroit. Before working on

When Blaze Contracting started working on the arena two years ago, they had approximately 25 employees. The contract with Olympia Development allowed them to hire at least 25 more employees. “As a company, we pride ourselves on doing quality work. This project brought a lot of jobs to workers that live in Detroit and a lot of recognition to my company. My employees can say, ‘that’s what Blaze Contracting has done.’ People will enjoy this arena from all over the world.”

Detroit-Based Contractors Statistics Michigan •94% of The District Detroit (TDD) contracts have gone to Michigan companies •TDD contracts are nearly $700 million to Michigan companies •More than 4,500 Michigan citizens worked on Little Caesars Arena Detroit •61% of TDD contracts have gone to Detroit companies •TDD Detroit-based contracts are nearly $475 million •Detroit residents have worked nearly 600,000 hours •That’s the most worked by Detroiters on a project in 40 years Apprentices •TDD has hired 836 apprentices so far; more than half of them Detroiters


moves from the Ilitch family By Curtrise Garner The Ilitch organization is known for sports, pizza, entertainment and a longterm, passionate commitment to Detroit. The positive stories about Little Caesars Arena are unfolding before our eyes; the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings are two of the city’s strongest icons – and, of course, almost everyone has been to a party with HOT-N-READY® slices available. The story that is less well known, but also important, is the story of philanthropy. Ilitch Charities was formed in 2000. Ilitch Charities and its affiliates have given more than $35 million in cash and in-kind donations to various causes since 2005. This includes $50 million in personal gifts from Mike and Marian Ilitch to Wayne State University; the organization and its founders have donated more than $85 million to charitable causes in the past dozen years. Along with the construction of the all-new Little Caesars Arena, the organization has announced several major donations in support of education, arts and business. Wayne State University, College for Creative Studies (CCS) and Cass Technical High School all are beneficiaries of the Ilitch Charities and its commitment to the Detroit area that will house the all-new Little Caesars Arena. Mike Ilitch School of Business Mike and Marian Ilitch are two of the most successful entrepreneurs in Southeast Michigan, and across the country. It only makes sense that one of their biggest investments in Detroit would include business. The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business is the result of a $40 million donation from Mike and Marian, supporting construction of a new business school for Wayne State University, as well as the land on Woodward Avenue just north of Little Caesars Arena. The building is slated to open in summer 2018. The new four-story building will be roughly 120,000 square feet and includes: •A highly visible finance and data analytics lab on the ground floor at Woodward Avenue and Temple Street that features an LED stock ticker, interactive display wall and multiple Bloomberg terminals and databases for student and faculty research. •The 260+ seat Lear Auditorium, which has state-of-the-art AV technology and the ability to bring full-sized vehicles into the room for events with corporate partners in the auto industry.

Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., with the late Mike Ilitch and Marian Ilitch • A rooftop terrace along Woodward Avenue that will allow the school to host students, alumni and friends for all kinds of events, including America’s Thanksgiving Parade and the Ford Fireworks. College for Creative Studies

The only way to be an artist is to create art. Together, Ilitch Charities and Olympia Development of Michigan, both made significant donations to CCS. The funds are going to a hands-on program where students are working with CCS staff, community members and professional artists to create art that will be on display in The District Detroit. Ilitch Charities donated $350,000 to fund the semester-long arts program and Olympia Development of Michigan donated $450,000 to fabricate and install the student-designed artworks in The District Detroit. The program is intensive and much of it is taking place outside of the classroom, including the exploration of Detroit history, studying the lore of local sports teams, and hearing lectures from community members and artists – all in hopes of sparking a fire under the creative muse.

Cass Technical High School Internships

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s all about location.” That must be true, since Cass Technical High School is right down the street from Little Caesars Arena. Two dozen students each year at Cass Tech are offered the opportunity to take part in a paid, 10-week, internship at Ilitch Companies where they work for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars, Olympia Entertainment and Olympia Development of Michigan among others. This has been the third year of the program. The 24 selected interns are at least 16 with a 3.0 GPA. The internship program is one of many initiatives announced as part of Ilitch Holdings’ Community Connect program, which will help to ensure that the transformation of The District Detroit project directly supports the Detroit community. Home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions - The District Detroit is “Michigan Made, Detroit Built” and will represent the greatest density of professional sports teams in one downtown core in the country.

September 2017 | 5


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September 2017 | 7


Affordable Housing: Part of Little Caesars Arena Landscape By Ken Coleman George Jackson is excited that affordable housing will be a reality in Detroit’s newest community: The District Detroit. He says city residents will benefit from its construction and its quality of life. Jackson, longtime Detroiter and Cooley High School graduate, headed the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) for 12 years. During his tenure, he helped to broker deals that redefined the city’s riverfront and restored the Book Cadillac Hotel. He also helped to negotiate the arena deal while CEO at DEGC. “The Ilitches wanted to have more than just an arena,” Jackson said. “It’s an opportunity for transformation of neighborhoods and a way to fill in the gap between downtown and Midtown. This serves as connectivity.” Jackson’s Ventra LLC real estate development company has been hired by Olympia Development of Michigan (ODM) as development consultant for residential projects. He has been involved in commercial real estate for more than 30 years and believes that commitment to affordable housing is important. “Your typical suburban arena is surrounded by a sea of parking,” Jackson said. “Olympia Development of Michigan wanted more than parking.”

The District Detroit Earlier this year, ODM announced plans for several hundred affordable and market-rate rental housing units across six buildings in The District Detroit. “The District Detroit will be one of the most exciting places in the country to live,” said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “These six unique Detroit residential developments will be in the heart of the action, in a city on the rise.” The District Detroit has already created nearly 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs in Michigan, along with thousands of permanent jobs and is projected to generate a total economic impact of more than $2 billion by 2020.

By Detroiters for Detroiters Four existing buildings; The Alhambra, The American, The Eddystone and 150 Bagley and two new-construction buildings will create an exciting mix of urban lofts and apartments in The District Detroit, developers say. “Olympia Development’s plan to preserve several historic buildings and bring hundreds of new residential units into the heart of the city is a clear sign of the demand for housing in Detroit,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “The fact that they are including nearly 140 units of new affordable housing across these six developments aligns perfectly with our efforts to build a city that includes everyone.” Residential development includes 686 units, 139 of which will cost no more than 80 percent of the Area

8 | September 2017

Median Income. These projects together meet Olympia Development’s goal of providing 20 percent affordable housing units throughout The District Detroit. Detroit-based Bagley Development Group, an AfricanAmerican outfit, will partner with Olympia Development to redevelop the majestic 18-story structure at 150 Bagley, just west of Grand Circus Park. It will feature 148 new residential units and first-floor retail. Renovation is expected to start next year. The Bagley Development Group is led by Emmett Moten Jr. Thirty years ago, Moten helped former Mayor Coleman A. Young lure Ilitch headquarters from Farmington Hills to downtown Detroit’s Fox Theatre. “I am very optimistic about the opportunity for a dynamic development at 150 Bagley,” Moten said. “This well-known building has a high-demand location, and we believe its renovation will be well received by the entire community.” Diversity of income, George Jackson says, is important. “We will have affordable housing in this development,” Jackson said. “Affordable in the sense that people who work at the arena will be able to live near it.”


The Detroit Pistons Return to ‘The D’

By Curtrise Garner The news of the Detroit Pistons returning to “The D” rang throughout the city of Detroit faster than a free throw with :03 seconds on the shot clock. Everybody was a part of the discussion and the discussion was everywhere — the barbershop, the grocery store, the pulpit and the corner store. Regardless of who was talking and where they were, the most asked question was, “So, what do you think about the Detroit Pistons hooping right in the middle of the city of Detroit?” To sum it up, for almost every basketball fan, the feelings were unanimous: It’s going to be a great day when the Detroit Pistons debut at the all-new Little Caesars Arena. From old-school fans who once watched the Detroit Pistons when they played at Olympia Stadium and Cobo Hall, to the new school fans who never knew the Pistons once reigned supreme in Detroit, everybody was excited. Janice Jones, a native Detroiter, said her father, who is now 75 years old, often would attend Detroit Pistons games at Cobo Hall, but once the team moved to Auburn Hills, he stopped going to the games. “I’m extremely excited about the move to Detroit,” said Jones, who said basketball is her favorite sport. “Now we can be much more supportive (and attend the games) since they are right here in the city,” she said, adding that she is without doubt going to attend a game and would like to see the Detroit Pistons compete against Golden State or the Phoenix Suns. “It’s about time,” said Donovan “Doc” Walton, a season ticket holder. “Their name is the Detroit Pistons and they never should have left. Economically, it’s a complete turn-around and a win-win for Detroit.” Walton also noted how convenient and accessible the new arena is for him. With the new arena located in Detroit, he can leave his house at 6 p.m. and still arrive on time for a 7 p.m. game, “Even if it’s bad weather, and I live deep east,” he added. Garrett Street said the Pistons’ move to Detroit is good for the city because more Detroiters will have access to the game. “I am definitely going to check out the new arena, everybody wants to see it,” said Street. “Detroiters want to support the Pistons and we should because we lost them before.” The Detroit Pistons play their first game on Oct. 18. For many who will visit the arena for the first time, the excitement is palpable, all the more so when they realize that the new Little Caesars Arena has several unique features to boost the level of enjoyment and excitement for Detroit Pistons fans. The arena boasts the largest seamless centerhung scoreboard in the world, creating a 360-degree experience. The unique design includes a dramatic incline with great sight-

lines that place fans closer to the action. Little Caesars Arena has 20,000 seats and has concessions at more than 50 fixed and portable stands, premium dining services in five club areas, 24 loge boxes, 62 suites and two rows of one-of-a-kind gondola seating that hang from the arena’s ceiling. Outside of the arena is the Via Concourse, an indoor street-style shopping and dining experience surrounding the arena bowl that is highly activated on game nights and will be open to the community all year-round. Outside, Chevrolet Plaza, an outdoor urban plaza will be regularly programmed with music and entertainment and serve as a signature new public gathering place in Detroit. Chico Sorrell plans to visit the arena and check out the restaurants in the Via Concourse prior to the game starting. His first visit to Little Caesars Arena will be on Oct. 23. A native Detroiter who usually drives everywhere, Sorrell has decided to take the Q-Line to the game instead. “This will be my first game and my first time on the Q-Line,” said Sorrell. “Everything is so convenient with all four sports teams downtown. The Pistons’ return home is a wonderful thing for the city of Detroit.” In addition to the excitement of the Detroit Pistons returning home, the other underlying sentiment is also very clear and simple: They never should have left. There is no telling what a new arena and this year’s starting line-up with Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris leading the way will produce, but Detroiters are anxiously awaiting. Thanks to Tom Gores, The District Detroit and Little Caesars Arena, the wait is finally over. Welcome home, Detroit Pistons. Welcome home to the city that you sport proudly on your chest: Detroit, affectionately known as “The D.” Fiscal, Economic Community Impact of the Detroit Pistons Balling in Detroit • Relocating the Detroit Pistons, building a new practice facility and corporate offices will generate an additional $596.2 million in estimated total economic impact. • The relocation will create more than 2,100 jobs, including an estimated 1,722 construction and construction-related jobs, and 442 permanent positions. • The Detroit Pistons agreement with Detroit includes a 10-point community benefits plan, such as the renovation and refurbishment of more than 60 basketball courts in parks throughout the city of Detroit. •Detroit youth and residents will receive 20,000 free tickets per regular season to attend NBA basketball games

September 2017 | 9


Big Tidbits about Little Caesars Arena Plan to arrive early when attending an event and enjoy one of four Little Caesars Arena restaurants – open on event and non-event days – or any one of the establishments in the area. Pre-paid parking ensures you a spot in the lot or garage of your choice. Check out Ticketmaster, Parkwhiz or The District Detroit app to secure your parking before you arrive. Most Olympia Development lots are credit card only. Little Caesars Arena recently launched The District Detroit app which will be the go-to tool for fans visiting Little Caesars Arena and the surrounding area. The District Detroit app will include features such as mobile event tickets and parking passes, express pickup for food and beverages and wayfinding to navigate around The District Detroit and Little Caesars Arena.

For the comfort and safety of our guests, Little Caesars Arena and its surrounding areas are non-smoking and re-entry to the arena after exiting is not allowed. The Little Caesars Arena bag policy allows soft-sided bags and briefcases smaller than 14” x 14” by 6”. Diaper bags and medical bags are permitted as well. Hard-sided bags of any kind are prohibited. All persons and bags exiting or entering the arena are subject to inspection. Doors to Little Caesars Arena generally open 1.5 hours prior to start time for Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons games and will vary for concerts and other shows – check event details for more information. The Little Caesars Arena Via concourse is open to the public on most days. Guests pass through security screening to enter the facility.

Ridesharing drop-off and pickup for services such as Uber and Lyft are on the I-75 service drive between Park Street and Woodward Avenue. Metro Detroiters Share Their Thoughts and Opinions About Little Caesars Arena Alex, 24, Rochester

Nathan, 23, Southgate

James Stewart, 26. Detroit

Lee, 46. Belleville

Adam Sebree, 31, Detroit

“The arena is pretty cool. I am excited to check out the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.”

“It’s cool that everything will be down here. I’m going to a Red Wings game as soon as I can.”

“I think it’s great that the arena is coming to Detroit. It will bring money back to the city. I am definitely going to the games.”

“This is going to be major, huge. I am absolutely excited and I’m going to check it out. I’m going to as many hockey games as I can.”

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m glad to be able to get to a Detroit Pistons game within 15 minutes. I want to see The Weeknd at the arena. I have to get tickets.”

10 | September 2017


Arena helped give Detroit ironworker new start By Ken Coleman Dino Vann, a Detroit resident, became an ironworker almost by accident. A friend of his had inquired about a career in the industry, but didn’t qualify. “So, he passed it on to me,” the 34-yearold Vann recalls. “I went down there and took the exam and passed it.” Vann, like far too many urban-area residents, has seen poverty, blight and despair choke inner cities like Detroit. “You see the same cycle over and over and over again, and wonder is there any way out,” he says. Vann now sees the skilled trades as a way out of challenging conditions. He’s an ironworker, earns a strong, middleclass salary and just completed work on the construction of Little Caesars Arena, which is part of the game-changing development project known as The District Detroit, helping connect Midtown and Downtown. Vann is excited about the Detroit Pistons playing home games in the building that he helped to build. Vann also is focused on assisting other Detroit residents to help them gain the same opportunity as him. Vann is founder of the Skilled Trade Enrollment Assistant Program (STEAP), an initiative of Detroit-based Better Men Outreach. In this role, he helps to close the city’s skilled trade talent gap by providing training, tutoring, mentorship and support through the program. Vann believes that schools and other institutions aren’t doing enough to inform and prepare urban teens for skilled-trades careers. Better Men Outreach is a community organization based in northwest Detroit that provides leadership and life skills training and development for young men. Those who participate in the program put themselves in a great position to be successful. The median yearly salary for an iron worker is $50,830, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than $10,000 better than the starting salary for a Detroit Public Schools teacher or a Detroit Police Department rookie officer.

Job prospects for ironworkers are plentiful – employment is projected to grow nine percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau, faster than the average for all occupations. “The construction of large projects, such as high-rise buildings, is expected to drive employment growth, as well as the need to rehabilitate, maintain and replace an increasing number of older roads and bridges. Job

opportunities should be best in metropolitan areas, where most large construction projects take place.” Vann is cruising today, but hit rock bottom first after going to prison in 2012. While there, Vann began to think about his master plan. He formulated the tenants of the STEAP program. “While in prison, I just knew that there had to be a bunch of people like me,” he says. “I came out successful, I came out healthy and I came out with a beautiful family. Better Men Outreach was there for me the whole way.” In addition to Vann’s efforts, other great things are happening. SER (Service, Employment and Redevelopment) MetroDetroit’s Jobs for Progress, Inc., was recently awarded a U.S. Department of Labor grant in the amount of $1.1 million to provide 18- to 24-year-olds with basic skills and academicoccupational skills training in the construction field. In May of this year, ironworkers “topped” out their work on the new Little Caesars headquarters expansion. Vann was part of that ceremony. The $150 million building will hold more than 600 Little Caesars employees. “It was great,” says Vann about his experience on the project. “It’s something that I’ll be able to show my kids that I was a part of.” The Little Caesars Arena project offered many Detroit residents a genuine opportunity to better themselves. Much like Vann, a move to the skilled trades for 35-year-old Michelle Jackson, a former emergency medical technician, was a positive career move. Ready for a new challenge, she was motivated to enroll in a 10-week pre-apprentice program. Training to become a licensed union electrician, she now has the opportunity to earn a great wage in an industry where work is plentiful. An electrical apprentice, for example, earns about $13.30 per hour. A journeyman electrician earns about $36.85 per hour. “Working on the arena was awesome,” says Jackson about the eight-month experience. “It’s great to see the city of Detroit coming back.”

September 2017 | 11


A Commitment to Community In addition to the world-class Little Caesars Arena, new retail and residential developments, The District Detroit is focused on supporting the local community with investments in parks, hiring local residents and through millions of dollars in contract awards. More than 2,000 people have been hired to work at Little Caesars Arena in a variety of permanent positions and of those, more than 60 percent are Detroit residents. More than 800 skilled-trades apprentices have worked on projects within The District Detroit. The total dollars awarded to Detroitbased or -headquartered businesses is more than $475 million and the amount awarded to Michigan businesses is nearly $700 million. This commitment to give back to the community is driving unique partnerships, such as the Cass Tech High School intern program, the adoption of Cass Park along with Woodside Bible Church, and the unique “Art in The District Detroit” program with College for Creative Studies. It’s a community effort that’s Michigan Made, Detroit Built.

12 | September 2017

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