BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Each Monday, we introduce you to a City Shaper- someone or a group of people making waves in Western New York's business or not-for-profit communities. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik highlights the work of people involved with both as they build Buffalo.
"There's lot of job openings right now, so we're really out there trying to get the word out about the positives and the benefits of working in the industry," says Joe Benedict, Executive Director of the Construction Exchange.
The Construction Exchange is a trade association representing the local construction industry. 830 companies belong. They are either looking for help from other companies, or they want to help improve the industry in Western New York.
One way the group does that is through classes. It also hosts networking opportunities.
Joe Benedict, Nicole Savage, and Paul Lamparelli all know each through the Construction Exchange. The not-for-profit has been around since 1981, and now it's adapting to the challenges of the new Buffalo.
"How has what's happening in Buffalo right now changed what you do? What are the challenges, and what are the positive things that you're seeing?" asked Dudzik.
“I think a big challenge, and this is something that you hear talked about a lot, and it's something that we're really focused on, is finding enough workers to help build all these projects," says Benedict. "People in the construction industry make more than the average worker in Western New York by about five-thousand dollars."
But, getting high school students interested in joining the industry is not always easy. Paul, who owns his own construction company with his brother, works with several of Buffalo's high schools to get teens involved.
"We interview probably thirty students at the end of the year that want to go to college, or want to go into the apprentice program, we see what their needs are, and we give them money based on their needs. So, that's how we're trying to get them involved in the industry. And, it's working. I actually hired one in my company this summer, and then he went on to college from there," says Lamparelli.
Nicole also owns her own business. Her father started Nature's Way Environmental. She took it over when he passed away.
"Though I never imagined myself being in this position, I now can't imagine myself in anything else," says Savage. "Trying to build the industry overall is what's going to solve the problems with, I believe, the minority and women issues, as well. So, driving that interest at a very young age is important. And, I agree, the outlook out there, if I can give one message, it's to the parents, don't worry so much about saving for your kid's college, I mean, save some just in case they want college, but if they don't, there are so many good options."
Joe, Nicole, and Paul are eager to mentor the next generation of skilled tradespeople, and they're proud to be part of Buffalo's resurgence.
“Most of it is local companies doing it, I believe. Would you agree? On that level, which is really exciting to see. You don't have outsiders coming in to build our city, it's us building our city. And, it's wonderful to see," says Savage.
If you'd like to nominate someone to be a City Shaper, you can send Kelly an email.