Project leaders who will oversee construction of the $585 million Music City Center said steps would be taken to ensure Nashville companies carry out the bulk of work related to the 1.2-million-square-foot facility.
Marty Dickens, chair of the nine-member Convention Center Authority — an oversight body for the convention center, which gained Metro Council approval Tuesday — told The City Paper he envisions the authority creating a policy to assure local involvement during construction.
Already, at the request of Mayor Karl Dean, the authority has vowed to establish a subcommittee to ensure that “opportunities for minority participation are maximized.” That pledge came after Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., who chairs the council’s Black Caucus, raised alarm over the low number of minority- and women-owned businesses contracted during pre-development phases of the project.
The council’s overwhelming 29-9 approval of financing for the new convention center came after several council supporters cited job creation as a main factor that led to their vote.
“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs,” Councilman Greg Adkins said before voting in favor of the resolution. “This is Nashville’s stimulus package.”
But Councilman Bo Mitchell said one of his major concerns is how to ensure the jobs indeed are for Nashvillians — not workers from “Houston, Atlanta, Birmingham” or elsewhere.
“If I’m going to spend $650 million, I want some Nashvillians to go to work,” Mitchell said. “One of my main concerns that I’ve addressed to the mayor and to the Convention Center Authority is that I want contracts given to Nashville developers and contractors.”
Slated to take the reins of the convention center’s construction is a team led by Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction and Nashville-based Bell & Associates Construction.
Assuming the Metro Development and Housing Agency clears an ongoing legal battle  with developer Tower Investments over land acquisition required for the project, construction would begin with relocating a Nashville Electric Service substation before moving to site demolition and abatement, according to Keith Pyle, president of Bell & Associates.
Pyle said while some convention center opponents had suggested 70 percent of jobs would go to out-of-towners from Clark, he pointed out that in projects across the nation conducted by Bell, 80-94 percent of all jobs tend to be performed by the area’s local workforce.
“It’s not economical and it’s impractical to think that you’re going to bring workers across state lines, and house them, and feed them, and all that,” Pyle said. “You hire locally because it’s economical to do that.”