Convention center work sets local workforce goals - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Convention center work sets local workforce goals

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The Kentucky International Convention Center will close for two years for renovations beginning Aug. 17, 2016. The Kentucky International Convention Center will close for two years for renovations beginning Aug. 17, 2016.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky International Convention Center plans to close August 17 as part of a $207 million, nearly two-year renovation and expansion project.

And while subcontractors for the work haven’t yet been chosen, project officials have set unprecedented goals for local workers and minority businesses, said Linda Edwards, the convention center’s vice president and general manager.

Plans call for 20 percent of all “workforce hours” to be done by minority-owned firms, while women-owned businesses would perform five percent. In all, the project hopes that Louisville-area residents account for 75 percent of the work – with 60 percent done by people who live in Jefferson County.

Edwards said the center will be the first state-owned facility aiming for those construction goals.

“I can tell you standing here we will achieve it or we will surpass it—but we will not be under,” she said at a Tuesday meeting of Kentucky’s capital planning advisory board in Louisville.

The goal for hiring local workers mirrors a similar push during construction of the KFC Yum! Center, which exceeded targets set by the city by hiring 63 percent of arena workers from Louisville and 84 percent from Kentucky and Indiana.

Construction manager Hunt Abel Finch Construction has held several meetings in recent months for companies interested in bidding on subcontracts. Those bids are to be opened August 2.

Edwards said the project also will be “reinventing” a construction program credited with helping recruit some workers for the arena.

The Yum! Center met its goals for workforce and minority business participation because they were closely monitored, said Joe Wise, the former business manager of the Greater Louisville Building and Construction Trades Council.

“If you catch it early, the contractors are more than wiling from my experience to catch it up,” he said.

Most of the convention center’s western facility will be torn down and rebuilt, adding 200,000 square feet of continuous exhibit hall space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. Edwards said it will be the largest ballroom in Kentucky.

The work will replace aging mechanical systems and other equipment and redesign exterior parts of the western building, creating a main entrance to the complex on 4th Street that includes open space and three stories of windows.

“We also want people that are inside it to be able to look out and experience the city as well,” said Richard Polk, principal with Lexington-based EOP Architects.

Convention center officials chose to close the facility entirely during construction, a move meant to keep the renovations on track. In all, they said, 18 of 21 trade shows and conventions scheduled to use the building during construction are staying in Louisville.

A consultant estimates that the fair board will be able to pursue 25 percent more convention business once the center is refurbished.

“It makes us way more competitive,” said Anthony Leachman, interim CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board, which operates the convention center. “Most of the other sites that we compete with have new convention centers and now we’ll join that list of cities.”

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