After getting off to a slow start, efforts to hire Pasadena residents for construction work at the Rose Bowl are starting to pay off, officials say.
Some 200 local workers have earned more than $1.7 million in wages at the Rose Bowl since the stadium renovation broke ground in January 2011, according to Parsons Co., which is overseeing construction details on the project. That’s nearly 10% of total payroll so far.
The volunteer Rose Bowl Local Hiring Advisory Group would like to see payroll for locals exceed $2.25 million by this time next year, said member Ishmael Trone.
“It’s ambitious, but we have to be,” Trone said. “We set high benchmarks so contractors understand what we’re trying to achieve.”
When the group started in February 2011, less than 3% of payroll was going to local workers despite an initial goal of 15%.
The greatest challenge is that Rose Bowl contractors aren’t obligated to hire locally — only to make a good-faith recruiting effort, said city purchasing administrator Larry Hammond.
“A lot of it is a pat on the back,” Hammond said of city letters of support for firms that bring on local workers. “It builds goodwill that a business can carry on to other projects, even in other cities where local hiring is a priority.”
Pasadena’s local hiring efforts date back to a 2004 ordinance adopted prior to renovations at Pasadena City Hall. In 2006 the city began keeping a registry of locals seeking construction jobs that now includes more than 400 names, said Finance Department project manager Antonio Watson.
The nonprofit Flintridge Center joined the effort in 2007 with a program that aims to reduce crime by training at-risk youth and others struggling to find work.
The program has placed more than a dozen workers in Rose Bowl construction jobs, said Community Organizing Director Brian Biery. Program graduates hired for Rose Bowl work are sponsored into labor unions by their employers, extending short-term work into potentially lifelong employment.
But things aren’t always easy.
Subcontractors often come with full payrolls and don’t have managers for hiring on site, Biery said. To address concerns about worker qualifications, graduates of the Flintridge program must earn Occupational Safety and Health Administration certifications.
The local hire rolls include a number of skilled crafts workers, but project statistics show many Pasadena residents reporting for work at the Rose Bowl are general laborers.
Though lower-paying, many of those jobs go to people who would be otherwise unemployed, said Biery.
Mark Franco, a graduate of the Flintridge program being sponsored into Laborers Local 300 after four demolition and grading gigs at the Rose Bowl this year, said he is thankful for the chance at stable employment. That he had a hand in sprucing up a local landmark makes it all the better.
“One day I hope to take both my boys and my daughter to a Rose Bowl game and tell them I helped renovate it,” he said.