1986 Finalist
Kansas City, Missouri
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

For a number of years, Kansas City had operated a grant program for emergency home repairs for low-income families. However, as Community Development Block Grant funds diminished, the city was not able to continue the program. When the federal Emergency Jobs Program was initiated in 1983, the Mobile Construction Crew Program was implemented.

The concept was that minorities and women would be trained in the construction trades by performing minor repairs on the homes of low-income residents. In so doing, the homeowners would not only have their homes fixed, but program participants would learn the basics of construction site work. Unions supported the program as it served as a pre-apprenticeship screening, as did contractors for whom the program provided a stream of capable minority and women workers.

The Mobile Construction Crew Program is operated by the Kansas City Plan, Inc., a "hometown plan" established under federal guidelines to foster the recruitment of minorities into the building trades. Kansas City's hometown plan is one of the few remaining viable affirmative action programs in the construction industry in the country. Under a hometown plan arrangement, contractors who are signatory to the plan are not required to conduct their own affirmative action plans. Instead, a nonprofit corporation handles all the recruiting and reporting requirements. The contractors simply agree to do their hiring through the nonprofit corporation. The unions cooperate because they want to see their union contractors in a position to win major public works projects and other contracts involving government funds.

The Mobile Construction Crew Program goes one step beyond the original Kansas City plan goal in that it aims not only to move minorities into the building trade, but to move low-income minorities and women into construction. In the last full year of program operation, 22 trainees have transitioned to non-subsidized jobs, 25 trainee graduates are currently trade union members, and client services have met all local property maintenance codes. This initiative has had an immediate impact and has stimulated reinvestments in other properties within the targeted areas.