THE ISSUE: Pine Bluff Rising’s creation of an alliance designed to help local subcontractors find work.THE IMPACT: Through mentorship and skill-building training sessions, local subcontractors will benefit by being in a better position to compete for project bids with out-of-town firms. This, in turn, will help boost the local economy.

Seventeen members of Pine Bluff Rising’s new construction and trade alliance attended a pre-bid meeting recently to express interest in working on a project to renovate Dollarway High School’s football field and fieldhouse. Pine Bluff Rising is made up of a group of investors whose goal is to boost the city’s economy and improve infrastructure.

The alliance is expected to offer mentoring, job training and education to allow local subcontractors to bid successfully on projects. Subcontractors include electricians, plumbers and carpenters who are hired by general commercial contractors to complete smaller projects that are part of a larger construction project. Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff and a former board member of Pine Bluff Rising, told assembled subcontractors the turnout “means the alliance is creating opportunities for work.”

“That’s one of our first and foremost goals,” Watley said. “I hope you guys stay encouraged [and] stay informed about the alliance.”

Little Rock-based general contractor East Harding Construction is overseeing the project, which will re-surface the playing field, add safety improvements to the grandstand and renovate the fieldhouse. As the general contractor, East Harding will contract with various subcontractors to complete the project. The hope is to award as much of the work as possible to local workers, East Harding Senior Vice-President Shawn Carroll said.

Architect Dave Sadler, who drew up plans for the project, said it is expected to cost about $700,000 or $800,000. A pre-bid meeting for a project that size typically draws 12 to 15 subcontractors, he said. Carroll said 28 subcontractors attended the pre-bid meeting Tuesday at the Dollarway fieldhouse.

“We may see 14-15 contracts overall [awarded] on the Dollarway project, pretty easily,” Carroll said Thursday in a telephone interview.

East Harding, CDI Contractors and Con-Real are three large general contractors who have pledged to provide mentorship to smaller local contractors who are part of the alliance. East Harding started a similar program in 2008 in Little Rock that provided mentorship and afforded local contractors the opportunity to bid on public construction projects.

In that program, Carroll said contractors were paired with large firms to build their expertise to the point where they could bid on larger projects. They shadowed East Harding officials for training in human resources, accounting, field operations and the intricacies of preparing a project bid. The Pine Bluff alliance is currently scheduled to hold quarterly training sessions, he said, but he thought more training would eventually be provided.

The next meeting of the alliance is Thursday, May 18, from 5-7 p.m. at BlueLine Rental in Pine Bluff, Carroll said. On Tuesday, Carroll went over various parts of the project that will require subcontractor work, from painting, carpet installation and roofing to installation of new field lights and guardrails in the grandstand.

One goal is to make sure contractors are aware of a given project, know what part they might be able to take in it and know how to produce a qualified bid, he said.

“I explained a little more [Tuesday] than I would in a normal pre-bid [meeting], just to make sure everyone understood because I did see a lot of contractors I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

Allen Richardson II and Foster Richardson II, of Richardson Diversified Services, recently joined the alliance and attended the pre-bid meeting. Allen Richardson said their company provides a range of services, from general contracting to specific jobs such as welding and demolition. But they hoped to increase their capacity for larger projects.

“The alliance is helping people who wouldn’t have had the opportunity,” Allen Richardson said.

Daniel Joslin and Pete Yates of Joslin Construction also attended as new members of the alliance. The Pine Bluff company recently installed wood flooring in a building downtown, and Yates said they provide a range of construction services.

They normally bid on jobs in the $50,000 to $150,000 range, but hope to build their business.

“We’re excited about it,” Yates said of the alliance. “I think it’s great that people are coming together. It gives us the opportunity [for more work.]”