Two Black Women Are Transforming Detroit’s Construction Landscape
Detroit’s construction industry is being transformed by two Black women, Dannis Mitchell and Kimle Nailer, who are at the head of several projects moving the city forward.
Mitchell is the director of community engagement for Barton Marlow; Nailer is owner of Nail-Rite Construction Company.
The two have taken different paths, according to the Michigan Chronicle. Mitchell headed up Barton Marlow’s bid to perform work on the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings shared home, the Little Caesars Arena, after they tapped her to lead their diversity efforts. And Nailer built her company, Nail-Rite, from the ground up after a career in real estate.
As a result of her commitment to ensuring diversity within the construction field, Mitchell created a program, the Barton Marlow Bootcamp. Over time, this program evolved into a successful pilot initiative as other companies recognized its effectiveness in training and introducing young individuals to construction careers.
“Internally I asked for more resources and needed to build a team to do so,” Mitchell told the Michigan Chronicle. “I was allowed to hire several people and specifically hired young women of color to enter this space. I was very intentional about it because it allows us to go into various school districts across the country to talk about skilled trades and management jobs.”
Nailer entered the construction industry after a city auction allowed her to hold multiple properties at once, freeing her up to collect passive income as she fixed up other holdings in her housing portfolio. Living in Chicago also helped Nailer see how developing one central project like McCormick Place could free up room for additional development and nearby economic opportunities.
“Because I lived in Chicago …McCormick Place was undergoing major renovations and immediately thereafter all of the communities surrounding at skyrocket in value,” Nailer said. “So, I said, this is a great time to build.”
Nailer said she was inspired to enter Detroit’s construction scene after seeing the Little Caesars Arena development, which Mitchell helped facilitate.
“I said construction is the industry I should be in,” Nailer said. “This is an industry that can be reparations for the Black community. The wages are higher; the projects can redevelop communities. If you stabilize the income, you have more homeowners, more solid tenants, and the neighborhood stabilizes.”
Nailer and Mitchell are both working toward using construction as a way for Black Detroiters to build wealth by ensuring they have a path to participation in the construction industry from the beginning of the projects to the end of them.
They both are looking to Detroit as the vanguard of what can be possible, and Nailer believes that it can happen if the city seriously invests in uplifting its Black populace.
“The industry being exposed to the Black community and culture is my goal,” Nailer told the Chronicle. “I believe our churches should be the builders of our housing. In a one-mile radius, if churches teamed up with the City of Detroit, then they should be the community partners with the Land Bank. We can then teach the skill of construction from start to finish.”