St. Pete: more jobs for disadvantaged workers

The city of St. Petersburg hopes construction projects totaling more than $130 million creates jobs for dozens of disadvantaged workers and creates apprenticeships for dozens more.

"We may go through a learning curve on this," city councilman Karl Nurse conceded Tuesday. "As we experience it we may have to tweak this- that'll be fine too."

Nurse pushed for the hiring mandates for more than three years, and the city council adopted the hiring mandates in May. Both apply to construction projects greater than $2 million.  

One requires 10% of a project's work force be disadvantaged workers, defined as people coming out of the penal system or on government assistance. The second mandate requires 10% of a work force be apprentices.  

Thursday, the city council considers the first significant expenditures for a $45 million municipal pier and a $70 million police headquarters. Contracts for a $50 million waste-to-energy plant could be let in six to nine months.  

"For the three major equates to 100 to 200 staff members that would be either defined as apprentices and or disadvantaged workers," Public Works Administrator Mike Connors told FOX 13 News.  Connors also said the construction industry "has expressed concern on bidding these projects with such mandates." He plans to meet with trade associations in an attempt to devise a system amenable to the industry.

Pastor Frank Peterman is a member of FAST, a faith-based group of community leaders who pushed for the mandates. Peterman said the hiring initiative was a high priority "We [minorities] don't get the chance to actually engage the larger world of construction," he said. Peterman called the initial projections of 100 to 200 jobs a wonderful start. "We would like to see thousands of folks working," he added.