Concrete pour on Thor's new Headquarters in Minneapolis.
Thor Construction Concrete pour on Thor's new Headquarters in Minneapolis.

Thor Construction is pouring on the work for its new 90,000-square-foot multi-tenant office/retail complex on the Minneapolis Northside, holding to a fast-paced construction schedule aimed at opening the $36 million building in February of 2018.

Keeping pace demands the best from the project’s workforce, and the contractor has no grounds for complaint on that score. What’s more, that workforce is composed of 45% minority workers, according to Thor’s June 30 project numbers. In addition, small businesses and minority businesses have won 28% of the contracted work awarded to date from Thor, as general contractor on the project, and various subcontractor companies. The numbers exceed the established minimal goals for the project and its public-sector partner, Hennepin County.

Included groups under the “workforce diversity” umbrella classification:

  • Members of ethnic minority groups
  • Women
  • Military veterans
  • Disabled individuals

On the business side, Thor and Hennepin County are looking to facilitate contractual work with government-certified small business enterprises, minority, women and veteran-owned small business enterprises.

In the case of the workforce diversity numbers, Thor set an internal goal to achieve a 40% minority workforce rate – a number that Ravi Norman, chief executive officer of Thor Construction, explains, “showed that we set the bar much higher, in terms of diversity hiring, for our project than is the norm in the Twin Cities and most other major markets in the country. And yet, as optimistic as we were about meeting our own aggressive goal, the actual numbers to date prove that we maximize participation and inclusion instead of just trying to meet a goal. The goal is the floor!”

“That said, we now believe we can do even better, moving forward, in terms of minority hiring and business contracting,” he says.

Thor’s stature as Minnesota’s largest ethnic minority-owned company – and the 10th largest Black-owned business in the country among industrial and services companies (following a June 30 M&A truncation), according to Black Enterprise magazine – drives it to lead by example as a model for supply chain diversity in the construction and real estate services industries, says Norman.

“We are operating on a very aggressive schedule to get our new building ready for occupancy by February 2018, so we cannot afford to hire any but the most-qualified workers – and subcontractors -- to get the job done,” says Norman. “I’m proud to report that our highly diverse and highly motivated workforce has proven more than up to the task for us.”

As the first privately-owned commercial building to be constructed on the city’s Near Northside in decades, project expectations in the local community run high – both in terms of realizing the potentially transformational nature of such a project on the material and social well-being of the surrounding neighborhoods, and more mundanely, for local job growth. Thor and Hennepin County are both committed to hiring from within the Near Northside – and other areas of poverty and high unemployment within the county.

Lea Hargett, vice president of Thor Consulting.
Thor Construction Lea Hargett, vice president of Thor Consulting.

Using a zip code-based Workforce Entry Program, Thor is reaching out to hundreds of Hennepin County households to let residents know that qualified workers of any ethnic background are encouraged to apply for open positions on the Northside project, says Lea Hargett, vice president of Thor Consulting – the Thor Construction. subsidiary that is responsible for diversity and inclusion, outreach and community engagement for the Plymouth and Penn project. The program extends beyond the Northside neighborhoods, to include portions of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center as well as numerous inner-core neighborhoods on the south, east and northeast sides of Minneapolis.

The employment outreach strategy is part of what Hargett terms Thor's “good neighbor” approach to real estate development. “Our approach to real estate development reflects our values and commitment to ensuring positive impact in the community,” says Hargett.

Thor has also teamed up with several area workforce development organizations to bring apprentice workers into the project. “We’re working with programs such as Summit Academy Opportunities Industrial Center (OIC) and the Minneapolis Urban League to help provide training and support to adults, especially those with histories of long-term unemployment, who want to break into the construction industry,” says Hargett. Thor also attended a recent Build LRT networking and recruitment event and placed several pre-apprentice candidates on its list to distribute to subcontractors working on its north side project. Build LRT is a new pilot apprenticeship preparatory program that prepares long-term unemployed adults and high school graduates for careers in the construction industry.

“The construction industry nationally suffers from a severe shortage of qualified skilled workers,” notes Norman. “The industry needs to bring more minority workers into the workforce, and at Thor, we’re showing how to get that job done appropriately. We’ve built a model for constructing a productive, highly diverse workforce that can be put to use anywhere – in the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, anywhere in the country.”