Every day, initial renderings revealed just one year ago at the groundbreaking for Crosstown Concourse are coming to life. Drywall is turning warehouse space into residences, grand staircases are winding their way up the main atriums floor-by-floor, while a gleaming white rooftop crowns the daily progress happening below. And nearly a third of that progress is due to local minority and women-owned businesses in the area.
Due to local tax incentives the Concourse project received, the Crosstown development team, including general contractor Grinder, Taber & Grinder, was obliged to award 20% of overall construction spending to minority and women-owned local businesses. The development team upped that figure to an internal goal of 25%, reaching an ultimate total of 29% of all construction dollars going to directly minority and women-owned firms—nearly $38 million total.
“We followed the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law,” said Brett Grinder, vice president of Grinder, Taber & Grinder. “When you spread the money across the board, it gives more people a piece of the pie. It makes a much larger impact locally and we knew that.”
Out of over 100 companies currently working on the construction of Concourse, 32 of them are owned by minority contractors. One of those contractors is Andre Gist of MIG Steel Fabrication in Lexington, TN, a business he has owned since 2007.
“Just about anything metal that goes in the building is ours,” says Gist.
By “just about anything metal,” he means 900 tons of structural steel, 1,520 linear feet (LF) of new and refurbished canopies, 84 stories of elevator shafts, 2,000 LF of stainless steel cable railing, 1,640 LF of parapet supporting steel, and nearly 3,000 LF of stairs and handrails— an equivalent of 154 flights of stairs. The craftsmanship of Gist’s firm is quite literally holding Concourse together, employing 75 people in the process.
“Concourse is about 75% of our total work right now. Most of our folks are working on this project,” Gist says. “Everyone wants to see this be a success. I’m very excited to see the end results.”
Another piece of Concourse progress, albeit one not clearly visible from the ground, is the TPO roofing system installed by Medford Roofing, a Memphis based firm. TPO roofing creates what is known as a “cool roof,” or one that reflects UV rays to cut down on energy usage for the building.
When Meghan Medford, president of the woman-owned Medford Roofing, was asked how she ended up at the helm of a roofing business, she joked, “Because I’m crazy.”
Medford said she observed a complacency in the local roofing industry and a need for a more customer-oriented approach to the business. For lack of a better term, she said, “It needed a woman’s touch.”
“I am an anomaly in this business, I think,” Medford explained. “I took the contractor exam and I started Medford Roofing with my own money. Everything was in my name and I signed the checks. I’m a control freak. I just wanted to do it myself.”
Despite being afraid of heights when she first started her roofing company, Medford believes that was the only liability she had going in, and she doesn’t believe that being a woman has given her any distinct advantage over other contractors in the area.
“Being a woman contractor may have opened some doors, but there’s so much more to it than that,” she said. “There are many hoops you’re required to jump through to acquire any project, especially one of this size. And we jumped through those hoops. So it’s fine if being a woman-owned business opens doors, but I would never rely on that.”
As all these pieces combine, there is one woman making sure they combine seamlessly and efficiently. That woman is Mallory Bailey, Associate Project Manager and Project Engineer for Concourse.
“Everyone here knows me and they say ‘hey’ every single day,” says Bailey. “I walk the site at least twice, sometimes three times a week.”
Bailey is the onsite presence of another minority-owned business, Allworld Project Management, contracted by the Crosstown Development team in 2013 before construction began. She says Allworld’s initial focus was workforce development and community outreach, which is why it was important for them to be an onsite presence from the very beginning.
“Before construction, we had a lot of gentlemen and women from the community come onsite and ask for employment, so we developed a portal to gather resumes, then talked to all the different contractors here onsite to pair the two,” Bailey explains. “We were kind of the bridge to let the contractors know, ‘Hey, if you’re looking for people, instead of going off to a temporary employment agency, why don’t you come here to gather the people who have already expressed interest first?’”
Bailey feels that, under her watch, assembling members of the community is just as important as assembling the physical entity of Concourse. She says it was clear from day one that Crosstown was a symbol for Memphis and success would only come if everyone had a chance to claim a piece of the pie.
“We’re not here to renovate and hurry on to the next project. It’s not a checked box type of situation,” Bailey added. “We do our best to really bring together the resources to combine and enhance this entire area. We want the economic prosperity to not just be inside the building, but to flourish outwards.”