St. Pete’s local hiring policy to be reworked

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At the request of City Council, last week city staff, local construction officials and activists met to discuss ways to rework the proposed local hiring ordinance

“The goal is pretty straightforward,” said council chair Karl Nurse. “How do we use the city’s muscle in big construction project to generate jobs in our community.”

Earlier this month, city council voted 6-2 to delay action on the local hiring ordinance. The delayed proposal would have required public construction projects over $2 million to have 25 percent of the work hours to go to Pinellas County residents who are unemployed, underemployed or apprentices. 

Nurse said it is important to come up with a solution that is the least bureaucratic and creates the least amount of paperwork.

After nearly two hours, the group came to a consensus to explore creating a local registry/database of qualified applicants and apprenticeship/training programs.  

“The city has a really good opportunity to act as conduit for the workers and the employers,” said Jason Spears vice president of sales of business development at Peninsular Mechanical Contractors. 

Spears said it would be invaluable to contractors to have a database of pre-screened employees who have already been drug tested with their resumes online. 

He said this registry could become the “trusted source” when contractors are trying to find qualified local workers. 

Mike Connors, the city’s public works administrator, said Spears’ proposal should be submitted in writing. The city he said, would essentially be working as a job broker for the local construction industry. 

The group tasked with evaluating the local hiring policy also said what would work best is not a mandated policy to hire local underemployed or unemployed residents, but an incentive-based system.

Steve Cona, president of the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, said on all city construction projects, 10 percent of the money is held in “retention” to ensure contractors complete the contract. 

If the city were to get rid of this retention, if contractors hired locally, Cona said it would work better than requiring hiring local workers upfront. This would allow construction businesses to get more of their money upfront. 

“If you say you’re going to get a reward, or waive your retention, that’s cash flow coming in,” Cona said. “You can actually keep more people for a longer period of time.” 

FAST, the organization that has been the strongest proponent of the local hiring policy, would be involved by going out into St. Pete and educating the community on the database. 

More from WIlliam Mansell of Patch here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.