“The project is a four- to five-year project that will create opportunities for our community to actually build and understand what these trades can do for us—make a living-wage, create our own infrastructure, start a business, and then pass the knowledge on to those after us.”
After generations of missed opportunities: “We need to take back the trades that were rightfully ours”
As the old saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” And if you work in the construction industry or have an interest in life-changing skilled trades such as plumbing, electrical, or carpentry, it’s likely your parents or grandparents did too. It was their generation who built bridges, highways and other infrastructure projects over the last century.
For many young Black and Brown men and women, the history of America’s infrastructure is their story—their heritage. This is especially true for DeAngelo Moaning, an IT Administrator and Operations Manager for Raimore Construction and third-generation Portlander. DeAngelo’s family has worked in this community for generations. His father and uncle worked on the original construction of the Moda Center and his mom has worked for Albina Head Start for the past 30 years, serving underrepresented and marginalized families within Portland’s Black community for decades.
“Young people need to arm themselves with knowledge, take back the trades that were rightfully ours to begin with and capitalize on the opportunities in front of us,” says DeAngelo.
The infrastructure of this country was built on slave labor. Black workers are the true forefathers of the trades in America. But policies from redlining to union exclusion blocked Black workers from paid work in the trades. So as history progressed, barriers were erected to keep Black workers from these well-paid jobs, and the knowledge passed down from one generation to the next generation faded.
When seeking work on major infrastructure projects, contractors of color continue to face discrimination not only on the jobsite but also within procurement and contracting practices. Compounding the issue, large construction firms often build their project and then leave town. They rarely make an intentional decision to invest in the people who live in the communities around the project. The result? A massive wealth gap—and missed opportunities.
“By working as a laborer, you can make a living wage without putting yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to get a college degree,” DeAngelo says. “As you acquire new skills like time management or people management, you can take what you learn to develop your career and start your own business.”
The I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project is taking strides toward restoring lost opportunities for generational wealth, through construction and beyond. With Raimore at the decision-making table, contractors of color will finally be given an equal playing field when bidding on projects.
“The project is a four- to five-year project that will create opportunities for our community to actually build and understand what these trades can do for us—make a living-wage, create our own infrastructure, start a business, and then pass the knowledge on to those after us,” says DeAngelo.
Looking ahead at the next five to ten years, billions of dollars will be invested in infrastructure improvements throughout Oregon, and especially in Portland.
Preparing the workforce of tomorrow starts today.
“We have to be willing to support each other and realize that this moment can transform our community, whether you decide to start as a pre-apprentice or begin a new business after years of working for somebody else,” DeAngelo says. “We need people who look like us to carry the torch. The future of our workforce, our heritage really, is in the hands of the younger generation.”