by Floyd Gordon
There is a high demand for workers in the skilled trade and manual labor workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of construction tradesmen and women is 42 years old. In the state of California, the average retirement age is 64 years old. In the construction industry, more people are retiring than young adults are joining the industry.
Every day the margin for error in the workforce decreases little by little as industries make massive technological advances. Adversely, job opportunities such as cashiers, taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers, travel agents and many more jobs are being replaced by technology. The world is headed toward people becoming more dependent on technology. Reverting to the skilled trades in construction will be ideal in the near future, whether you aspire to be a contractor or a part of the highly paid construction workforce.
The National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) has been a staple nonprofit organization in the Bay Area since 1969, originating in Oakland, California. Their mission is to provide opportunities, advocacy and information for small Black contractors. According to the NAMC Norcal chapter, they make it a priority to “correct trade abuse.”
Developer Alan Dones, son of NAMC co-founder Raymond Dones, says: “It takes a whole ecosystem, from the top to the bottom: You have to have developers, you got to have contractors, you got to have a workforce, and you got to have everybody reinforcing each other.”
“You got to have some people that look like us that are doing this,” Dones says, “and it ain’t easy. You know, we don’t have access to the same resources everybody else has.” NAMC is the organization that is able to lobby for Black businesses coping with the uneven playing field in the construction industry.
CEO of Gordon Plastering Carl Gordon says: “As a member, NAMC has allowed me to network with various resources such as general contractors and developers that can allow small minority businesses like mine to grow. If you want to build and leave a legacy as a contractor, NAMC is who you need to be affiliated with.”
Dones says: “One of the big risks to the economy right now is that we have not been recycling our dollars. Oakland is over 60% of people of color. The economy can’t progress because we’re missing in action from the biggest wealth-generating industry, real estate development and construction. And even though we represent 60% of the population, we don’t even represent 3 or 4% of the people participating in that industry.”
This is why NAMC tries their best to host events for people in the community because they see the need to attract far more Black people into the construction industry. A lot of members of NAMC Norcal Chapter are from the communities in which they provide events to spread the word, whether it’s Oakland or San Francisco. The most recent event was a toy drive at the San Francisco Ruth Williams Bayview Opera House on Dec. 16, 2023, where they were able to donate over 400 toys to children.
In honor of Black History Month, NAMC will be hosting a construction talk at the Moxy Hotel in Oakland on Feb. 8. The event entails construction contractors spreading awareness to the obstacles and resources within this industry. There you will be able to network and gain the knowledge of the ins and outs as a contractor. The goal is to increase the number of Black people in this industry so we can keep that money in our own communities and therefore contribute to rebuilding the economy of these Black communities. It takes a village and people have to start somewhere. That somewhere is NAMC.
Note from the publisher
Dr. Willie Ratcliff, Bay View publisher and former head of the African American Contractors of San Francisco, pledges his support to this call for Blacks to reclaim the construction industry and venture into development too. “I congratulate my old friend Alan Dones and the young people who are hearing his call to come home to construction, which, before we were locked out, was the basis of the Black economy in the Bay Area.
“Blacks are master builders; we built the South and even the capital of our country. Here in San Francisco, up until the lockout in 1998, our little handful of Black contractors kept 600 Black families thriving on the money and pride that master builders earn. When that stopped, the bottom fell out and we began to turn on each other. This announcement signals the return of the spirit of solidarity that has always led us to freedom and even to prosperity!”