by: Erica Byfield Updated:
ATLANTA - The developers behind a major Atlanta project have quietly launched a program to train and put people who live in one specific neighborhood to work.
The program does not have an official name but has changed at least 26 lives.
"This is something new to me," Robert Petite told Channel 2's Erica Byfield.
Petite worked in the construction field for years doing minor things but was always confined to indoor work because he didn't have certifications needed to the heavy machinery jobs longed to do.
Petite got his chance to become certified to operate heavy equipment when Jamestown Properties started construction on Ponce City Market.
Petite was brought in as a part of the company's workforce development program.
Jim Irwin, the Senior Vice President of Jamestown Construction Development, told Byfield the program has one requirement.
"You have to be able to walk to work," he said. "What it’s about is hiring local folks who needed a chance to get meaningful experience on site; to get work to get new skill sets."
Byfield discovered the neighborhood workforce development program was not something the Jamestown group planned to publicize.
Without many people knowing, for the last two years, they have hired people who live close to the depressed Boulevard corridor in northeast Atlanta trained them, helped them obtain certifications and put them to work.
"They actually shadow the skilled labors to learn from them," said Irwin.
"It's great to see families being supported by projects that are catalytic to the community," said Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall.
So far 26 have graduated from the program.
Many have gone on to get other construction jobs and some have been hired on full time by sub-contractors at the Ponce City Market site.
"When you are in the intercity most of the people are ignored, companies just normally bring the people that they have onto a project. They are not looking to hire out of the neighborhood. Jamestown has done something that’s remarkable and really beneficial," Petite said.
Jamestown Properties is paying for this entire program.
Irwin said the company did it to give back and the program will last as long as construction at Ponce City Market does.