Harry Melander: Building builders, growing our economy


Harry Melander

Drive to just about any region in our State. Look up or down, and you will see: “We are back.”

You see new mining opportunities on the Iron Range and housing developments in our urban core. You see expansion of our medical center in Rochester and new investments in our regional transit system. All are indications that “we are back.”

After suffering unemployment rates that reached Depression-year rates, the Building Trades industry is once again back in full swing. Union members are finding work, collecting paychecks and stimulating their local economies.

These have been tough years, but now we can breathe a bit easier. The majority of unions in the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council have seen worker hours increase the last two years.

You can, once again, find steady employment in the trades. Credit for that, in large part, goes out to our “Building Governor,” Mark Dayton, as well as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and friends of labor serving in the State House, Senate and throughout the local levels of government in Minnesota.

The future looks even better – not only for our current members, but for those new Building Trades members that we are seeking to recruit. This is the time that “new hands,” including women and emerging communities of color, will be the workforce that should – and can – support this industry.

We are looking for determined, hard-working Americans with professional attitudes, strong math skills and the willingness to be a part of our construction community. By 2040, 40 percent of the Metro region will be from these emerging communities. Now is the time for community leaders to encourage strong, career-minded people to consider – and enter – this great industry.

The Building Trades offer careers for all, but we want those at the head of their classes.

Last month in Tower, Minn., Building Trades members from all around our state got together for their annual meeting, setting the agenda for the upcoming year and into the future.

Among the priorities our unions set was making sure we embrace our new workforce, so that we continue to develop highly trained, skilled and safe workers who are prepared for the end of this decade and beyond.

Thanks to those Building Trades leaders who did just that. Together, we will continue to “build builders” who will make sure our industry and market share grow.

– Harry Melander was re-elected president of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council at the body’s annual convention last month. He also directs the St. Paul Building and Construction Trades.

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