How One Contruction Entrepreneur Is Helping Put Detroit Back to Work

Georgia native and current Detroit resident Marcus Jones, 27, found an opportunity to help get Detroiters back to work as co-founder and director of Detroit Training Center.  Jones, originally from Atlanta, moved to Detroit, Michigan after attending graduate school at Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. He fell in love with Detroit after spending some time doing research on real estate development and neighborhood development and trying to understand how the city was going to turn itself around. Jones saw an opportunity in the city of Detroit for community cohesiveness and community redevelopment.

On Starting the Detroit Training Center

“So we started the Detroit training center in 2012. At the time I was working in Chicago but I was selling real estate in Michigan and I hooked up with these guys who were looking to expand their current business, which was a construction staffing company. I let them know that I was working with the U.S. Green Building Council and that I was working with schools across the country to help them develop sustainability curriculums. We started to talk, and again my background is in real estate, and I was like I want to do development here in Detroit. But their need, like my need, was there weren’t enough skilled people in Detroit to do the actual work. And so that’s where we got the idea that we need to start a school to get enough skilled people to do these projects. So I quit my job in Chicago, and we hit the ground running and we started the school with the money in our pockets and our bank accounts and we grew the company to what it is today. Today we’re a licensed vocational school; we’re licensed by the federal and state government and we train in the areas of Construction, Heavy Equipment, Facility Maintenance, and Landscaping. The ultimate goal for individuals in our program is to help them get jobs, get work, in areas that we train in. So we kind of grew out of just being a center that provides both federal and state licenses to a full fledge work force development provider helping people from the city get jobs in particular areas and developing long term career for people around the city. Over the last 3 years we’ve trained over 600 people.”

On Funding the Detroit Training Center

“We are a for profit organization. We all came together and put in our respective amounts in and divided up the shares and started doing business. We  got a couple of customers and from there we took the revenue that we were starting to bring in and we took that to a small community bank, the Detroit Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund. They were the ones to give us our first loan to help us do things like start paying ourselves, pay our instructors, find more materials to pay our students. Really, we’ve only taken out one loan, everything else has been revenue earned from our general course sales and workforce programs.”

“We train for both the private market, for companies that are construction or heavy equipment related. Individuals from the private market will send like 10 of their guys to us to get a specific license or certification, those companies do pay. For individuals from the city we work with the state and non-profits to put together funding to help cover the cost for the individual who might be homeless or unemployed. We have a unique program for dislocated workers or long term structurally unemployed and we create different funding mechanisms so that individual doesn’t have to pay for training out of pocket as long as they meet certain eligibility requirements they can get the training covered.”