Paving the Way: How Construction Drives Economic Vitality
How can builders leverage the full strength of our communities? Join Jay Smith, President of Ajax Building Company, as he interviews Ajax’s Director of Outreach and Vendor Diversity, Ted Parker, and two members of the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, Keith Bowers and Darryl Jones. Together, they discuss the power of partnership when it comes to engaging MWDBE businesses and how these DEI efforts help drive Tallahassee-Leon County’s economic well-being.
Jay SmithPresident, Ajax Building Company
Darryl JonesDeputy Director for Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise Division, Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality
Keith BowersDirector, Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality
Ted ParkerDirector of Outreach and Vendor Diversity, Ajax Building Company
Welcome to Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group. On today’s episode, president of Ajax Building Company, Jay Smith, and Ajax’s Director of Community Outreach and Vendor Diversity, Ted Parker, sit down with members of the Tallahassee, Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, Keith Bowers and Darryl Jones.
Jay Smith (00:26):
Welcome to the STO Building Group podcast. I am Jay Smith. I’m president of Ajax Building Company, and with me today are three great friends that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a number of years and get to work with a lot in the community here in Tallahassee, Florida. But with me is Darryl Jones, Ted Parker and Keith Bowers. Gentlemen, I’ll let you each kind of introduce yourself and tell me what you’re doing today in the community. So, Darryl, I’ll start with you.
Darryl Jones (00:57):
Well, I’m Darryl Jones. I am the Deputy Director for the Tallahassee Leon County Office of Economic Vitality for Minority, Women, and Small Business enterprise programs.
Ted Parker (01:07):
Ted Parker, Director of Outreach and Freedom Diversity with the Ajax Building Company.
Keith Bowers (01:11):
And I’m Keith Bowers. I’m the director for the Office of Economic Vitality for Tallahassee, Leon County.
Jay Smith (01:16):
So, you’ve heard a lot of titles for each one of these individuals, but behind those titles are significant steps and other roles they play in the community. And with that, I want to delve in. Darryl, in addition to what you do on a daily basis, why don’t you talk about kind of the other impacts you’re doing in serving our community and the significant role of that?
Darryl Jones (01:40):
Well, I’m also a member of the Leon County School Board, and I don’t know that we’ve, the school board, had a person who perhaps brings an economic development background. But as you can imagine, that informs my advocacy as a member of the school board, particularly as we seek to amplify and fortify career and technical education programs for our Leon County School District. We realize, as economic development professionals, the importance of a strong, capable, competent, and well-trained workforce, and as a member of the school board, I use my position to make certain that I advocate for that. That we’re identifying resources, pathways, pipelines. If we’re not building bridges, we’re building boats to make certain that our children, when they graduate from our schools, are either prepared for college, and that means either a four-year institution, a two-year institution, or potentially a vocational and technical college. But armed with those credentials, they are prepared to meet the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood.
Jay Smith (02:50):
So, Keith, Director of Office of Economic Vitality, and of course, us here in the community, know what OEV does on a daily basis. Can you kind of explain what OEV means? What is it? And then tell us your roles leading up to being director of OEV.
Keith Bowers (03:07):
Sure. Well, the Office of Economic Vitality is the economic development arm for Tallahassee, Leon County, which means that we really try to focus on the inner assets that we find here in our community and create a value proposition for companies that want to move here, expand here, or even the companies that exist, to help them grow. So, we provide resources, we provide data, we provide assistance, technical assistance, but our goal is to create jobs. At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to, and we realize that if we create jobs, and we create high paying jobs, then that money just stays in our community, recycles, and we start to see our community grow organically. So, what we focus on a daily basis is trying to figure out, you know, how do we continue to move the needle for Tallahassee and do it in a way that is inclusive, so we are not, you know, focusing on one quadrant of Tallahassee, Leon County, but we’re taking a holistic look at our entire community and making sure that there’s an opportunity for economic inclusion for all four corners of our community.
Jay Smith (04:20):
That’s a tremendous explanation. Ted, leading up to being Ajax’s director of Vendor Diversity Community Outreach, you have a great story of your start as a businessman, that journey, and kind of what sets you apart, especially for today’s role. Why don’t you kind of explain that story?
Ted Parker (04:42):
Okay. Going to school here at FAM, where we are today, started in pharmacy. You’re going to these labs at two o’clock in the afternoon, coming out at eight, and I couldn’t see myself sitting and counting pills at Eckert’s or Walgreens or CVS, you know, and pass. Yeah, I couldn’t see that.
Jay Smith (05:01):
No one knows what Eckert’s is anymore <laugh>.
Ted Parker (05:05):
It was a pharmacy. But in any event, I went out and found a job. Looked at the newspaper, there was insurance. Within six months, within the summer actually, between school, I became assistant manager. I got disenchanted with that particular company, went to New York Life, got disenchanted with that particular company and went and got a real estate license and started, did a O.L. Williams trip by term and invested the difference. And during that process, I started actually teaching the real estate course, but in any event, Lee Williams, little construction, small contractor, residential guy, great little, great builder, and he was getting ready to build some stuff, and I’m in the real estate. ‘Here’s the plan. This is how we’re going to sell this product for you.’ He looks at me and says, come here, come in by tomorrow. I went, you know, he’s right down the hall.
Ted Parker (06:03):
I stopped back by, and he said, how would you like to be my superintendent? I said, man, I don’t know anything about construction. He said, I could give you a new profession. He said, I’ll give you that white truck out there and a yellow legal pad with everything you need to accomplish that day. And all I could pay you is $250 a week. That lasted maybe six months. We get to the Christmas holidays, and he has
several crews: drywall, masonry, framing. And he tells me, I’m gonna fire them all. You’re the only one I’m gonna keep, and we’re gonna subcontract everything. And I said, I don’t know if I trust him. So, I’m sitting there. This is Christmas time. Finally, it hit me. All these guys are without a job. They don’t know it yet. So, I started a company and brought them all in.
Ted Parker (07:02):
Eventually, I got to a point where I was at Guantanamo Bay building barracks, Bermuda building the PX, this is with Mangum. I was working with several large builders. I was commercial. Nobody even knew I existed, you know, in the, the regular community, but the industry did. The largest companies in Tallahassee were hiring me, and everything is beginning to function, and all of a sudden, we lose money. Lawsuits, all kinds of stuff. What’s happening? I decided to close the company down. And so then, I went back to school, and next thing I know, I am connected with Ajax. I started a new company, and from that point on, everything turned up. Ajax wanted to hire me. His brother walks up to me. Ted, I need business development. Me and Terry Cobis, I was actually… me and Terry were the first business development people ever hired by Ajax.
Jay Smith (07:58):
Keith, what’s some of those challenges that businesses, prior to you being director of OEV, you were
Keith Bowers (08:08):
Jay Smith (08:09):
Involved with Floridian small business.
Keith Bowers (08:10):
Right. Yeah. I was the regional director at the small business development center at FMU for 12 years prior to moving over to OEV, and the biggest challenge was access to capital and access to opportunities. The two go hand in hand. I mean, if the opportunity comes along and if it’s the right opportunity, then you need the capital to make it happen. And that’s where, especially with minority owned businesses, they have a challenge state. It’s a, it’s really an uphill battle for that. So, one of the things that we focus on is making sure that people are prepared when those opportunities knock on their door, that they have the wherewithal to compete and succeed. So, one of the things that we focus on is making sure that you have a sound financial record keeping, because that’s really where the rubber hits the road, and it impacts your ability to borrow money, and impacts your ability to get bonding, and it impacts your ability to manage your company. So, those are some of the tools that, you know, we really try to emphasize as we work with minority and women owned businesses who are especially interested in the construction industry.
Ted Parker (09:31):
The first thing I do, and when I meet a young entrepreneur trying to move forward in the industry, I would send them to small business development, you know, and I did that because I knew, you know, you need, he’s going to need that bond, he’s going to need the insurance, he’s going to need the contract work, and they provided it. Then there was the economics part that came in a little bit later. That was a game changer.
Jay Smith (09:55):
So, Darryl, you and I, of course, the three of you work on that outreach board, and of course now you’re directing all over OEV. The engagement and the attraction, and then the support of minority and women owned small businesses. What’s kind of some of the challenges you’re seeing today, and how do we promote and engage more minority and women owned businesses?
Darryl Jones (10:23):
Well, the beauty of the Office of Economic Vitality, like Keith has described, the great challenge is access to capital as well as opportunity. Our office provides opportunity through the procurements that are made available through the city, the county, and blueprint. But then what we add as a special nuance is the ability to help our businesses identify already existing resources in our community that can help to fortify their businesses. It’s not enough for them to qualify for the opportunity. It’s not even just enough for them to have access to capital. They’ve also got to have the capacity to be able to manage a job. So, resources like the FAMU, small Business Development Center, the Jim Moran Institute, career Source financial lenders, like the FAMU Credit Union, the Appalachian Regional Planning Resource Council. Then we also have the Black Business Investment Board. All of those resources exist in our community.
Darryl Jones (11:21):
OEV makes a point of helping to direct and guide our certified firms so that they can be able to build their businesses, to be able to respond to more than one procurement simultaneously, be able to have the financial wherewithal to be able to grow and expand their workforce and be able to create more jobs in our local economy. We realized that it wasn’t just enough to just have the resources existing or to even throw money at the problem. We had to provide the one-on-one council and guidance along with our partners to ensure that our businesses were poised for growth. That’s what I think is so important, and the fact that we now have a consolidated supplier diversity program for all three jurisdictions means that no matter where a business comes in, whether they’re serving the city, the county or blueprint with its infrastructure projects, everyone is singing from the same sheet of music, the same sets of goals, the same sets of standards, the same sets of expectations. And that helps us to provide a far more cohesive business community no matter what role you may play as either a prime subcontractor, whether you are in construction, professional services, architecture, and engineering. That’s the beauty of the Office of Economic Vitality and being able to work particularly with partners like Ajax, who share those same values of economic inclusion.
Jay Smith (12:56):
So, Keith in recruiting national brands or major employers, we’ve had a lot of success in the last few years. Especially, we have some big wins. Explain, explain to us when you’re engaging and having those initial communications, the diversity and equity inclusion side of that side, how does that engagement and, you know, at the attractiveness of having the capital region, having a major HBCU university in our community, explain kind of the significant role of that?
Keith Bowers (13:35):
Sure. It is all part of our value proposition as a community. When we’re selling Tallahassee, Leon County, one of the first things we mentioned is the diversity that exists in our community. We’re 33% African American. We have, as you mentioned, the number one HBCU in the nation. We are the most intelligent community in the state of Florida, so the workforce is there and ready. And we have a support system from a lot of different community partners. But one of the main focuses is economic inclusion. And so,
when we start to talk about bringing in Danfoss Turbocor, asking them to expand, if you’re going to expand and if you’re going to use the resources that are available through either the city, the county, or blueprint, economic conclusions are at the forefront, we have some aspirational goals.
Keith Bowers (14:31):
We’re just off the heels of our most recent updated disparity study that informs us on the policies and procedures and practices that we make as jurisdictions and as the economic development entity that OEV is, that is at the forefront of our strategic plan economic inclusion. because it is great for the entire community. It builds up the entire community. And again, it doesn’t just focus on one segment of the industry or profession. We make sure we do a good job of where those companies that are qualified and can do the work and just happen to be minority or women owned, that they get a fair chance to compete and win and grow capacity for their companies.
Darryl Jones (15:22):
Can I also add, beyond what Keith describes for firms who come from outside of our community, our office now is also being more intentional about making certain that we are making that value proposition also to local companies. Here most recently, investments in Danfoss Turbocor, investments at the airport, we’re still taking that same message of economic inclusivity to bear even with local investments that we make, our investments that we’ve made here at Florida State University, at Bragg Stadium. Right here, right behind us. So, we are taking that value proposition and we are sharing it, not only to external customers, potential clients, but we also want that to be a community value. And our, Keith is our director, has made a point of making certain that everyone across the expanse of our community understands that message. That as we lift minority and women owned businesses who are important parts of our local economy, but they’re also economic drivers, they’re also job creators. And so that type of sustainability, that type of intentionality in both messaging but in utilization is what separates our community from so many others.
Jay Smith (16:44):
Ted, when you started our diversity, equity, and inclusion program, you know, vendor diversity and community outreach at Ajax, we were starting something that was pretty new in Tallahassee for sure. And then you see how that’s grown to now, in the building we’re sitting in now the cast building here at Florida University where we had eight of 26 major subcontracts, were all African American led businesses. Kind of talk about that process, and this, you know, what you have done to engage businesses to get involved.
Ted Parker (17:24):
Well, I’ve had a lifetime of uplifting, trying to uplift. And so, your brother, he calls me in the office, and he goes, we need a MWBE program, and you’ve lived it. He says, no one should know it better than you. And then we decided to go ahead and put it together. But it was put together with my own life as a pattern. You know, I knew what it took to get to where, get somewhere in the industry. I came from a framer. Right? To working on major, the major construction projects. I had people calling me, Ted, how in the hell did you do it? And I could all I could do is say, I don’t know. You know, I just did it. But the main thing is to make sure there’s no fear.
Ted Parker (18:20):
So, I had to take the fear away, which is difficult, right? And so that was my plan to make sure no one’s afraid to try it, come out and try it. And I often got people, you know, to say, Hey man, those white folks ain’t gonna give us no work. I’ve been it twice and didn’t get anything, you know, and I had to tell them to come beyond that, you know? Cause I walked in any office I ever walked into, if I could do it, they let me do it, or I got the project, you know, somehow, you know? So then it was, I had to make sure that everybody in the company bought in, and it began to happen, right? Jay and Kevin were first, you know, they were out front with me. So, I got the president and vice president at standing beside me and we’re saying, we are going to make a difference.
Ted Parker (19:24):
And that helped. And then there was… we’re were doing projects in central Florida, and I met, I saw the different organizations, and then I started to pattern our organization by their, started to add those, in particular Dr. Johnson’s organization. And the company kept getting better. Then there’s the Structure Tone part where the head guys came in and he looked me right in the eye, he goes, we haven’t done a good job. He said, I’m gonna change that. And man, let me tell you, he changed it. And all of a sudden, STO, $12 billion annual revenue. And we have a program that’s worldwide.
Jay Smith (20:07)
So, Darryl –
Darryl Jones (20:08):
I can’t speak about what the other arms of STO do, but let me tell you what, I can tell you what Ajax has meant to our community as it relates to supplier diversity and diversity and equity issues. For greater than a decade, your companies have led from the front and providing an example of diversity and equity and inclusion programs. whether it be through mentoring, whether it be through joint venture partnerships and association with firms. The good part for us, because you have worked outside of our community as well, you’ve seen best practices that have been utilized in other communities. And then, whether it be as through your involvements with the chambers of commerce, whether it be your involvement on citizen advisory committees, this company has led from the front. And Ted Parker has been an important voice in that work for longer than a decade now.
Darryl Jones (21:15):
I know that he has been an integral part of either the city or the county’s MWSBE Citizen Advisory Committee that has helped a fashion policy that has stimulated greater utilization of minority women-owned programs. And then when he and Keith together, when he was at the Family Small Business Development Center, and he was representing Ajax, Keith and Ted were the reasons. I mean, and I don’t mean to put this and modestly, they’re the reason I have this job. Because they took what was a former city program, then the county’s program, merged them together, and when they merged them to correct together, they then sought a new director to bring both programs together. And that’s how I got in this position. But then I had the both of them to continue to advise me, because then we were going to a disparity study.
Darryl Jones (22:09):
That disparity study measured the disparity in minority women owned business utilization, which then fortified our program and made it legally defensible. But then we also had their council. he is a chair of the citizen advisory committee, Keith, and then this guy who’s traveled the expanse of the southeast,
who brought back best practices. We now have a policy that has intentionality in it, that really stimulates capacity ability for minority women owned businesses, joint ventures, associations, partnerships. Not only that, but we are also probably one of the strongest workforce development supplier diversity programs in the country because we incentivize the utilization of internships and apprentices. This has all come from the mind of this great man, this great, wise man. But what it has done, it has made our program stronger, and it has really set us forward as, when Keith talks about the value proposition that is our community economic inclusion is not just a buzzword. It is a true cornerstone value of the way we choose to govern and the way we choose to do business in this community. And that’s been because of the influence of Ajax, Ted Parker, and certainly Keith Bowers. But Ted Parker has, I mean, every step of the way he’s been championing that. And that has had an enormous impact. In fact, it is a part of a Jackson’s and Ted’s legacy to our community. Yeah.
Keith Bowers (23:33):
And, and what I like about Ted, he and I, you know, every time Ted would identify a firm that needed assistance, Ted was like, you know, don’t shy away from telling ’em the truth. They need to hear it. They need it, you know, uncut, unvarnished, <laugh>. You take a look and tell ’em what needs to happen. If they’re not willing to do it, then they’re not serious. And I can appreciate that. I can appreciate it, because Ted is right on point, because if you aren’t ready to take it to the next level, and you’re not honest with yourself, you’re just, you know, you’re just kidding yourself. You’re wasting your time, your energy, and your money in a lot of cases. But when you take the approach that Ted has instilled in us, you elevate, you get out of your comfort zone. And that’s where the growth really occurs when you’re out of your comfort zone and you’re willing to make that leap. And, you know, we provide a safety net, but you have to be willing to take that leap.
Jay Smith (24:36):
So, what have you seen, you know, again, we have the benefit of covering multiple states, and then now with being the STO Building Group, we get to see multiple parts of the country and what their, you know, best practices are. So, what are some of the best practices, I looked at both of you, you’re seeing that we want to try to emulate and enhance our programs here?
Keith Bowers (25:02):
I think one of the best practices is to mentor protege program. Ajax bought into that early on. It gives historically disadvantaged companies an opportunity to see the potential. They get the professional guidance and advice and counsel of folks that have been there. And basically, they are what you are striving to become. And then, having that relationship and doing joint ventures, you get to see in real time what it takes to get to the next level. And you’re not out there on your own. So, I think that’s probably one of the best practices that I’ve seen, because those, that mentor protege relationship doesn’t end with a project. It continues. And then as both companies grow, it runs stronger.
Darryl Jones (25:50):
Yeah. For me it would be internships and apprentices. We talk about what we know are workforce challenges in our community. Ajax has been intentional, right? First of all, Ajax, because it’s in this local community, you’re also highly, you’re very knowledgeable of the resources that we have in our community. Y’all have been intentional about taking advantage of the resources we have. You have strong relationships, not only with Lively Vocational Technical College and Tallahassee Community College, but the city created a brand-new program, TEMPO, to help persons who were returning to our
community, right, following incarceration. And were looking for work because they were able to be involved in the city’s TEMPO program that was also providing them an instruction and certificate programs. Y’all were one of the first companies to say, we’ll put them to work on our jobs and our projects here in our local community. That has been an enormous game changer. And even if the persons did not remain with your company, they were able to earn their certificate hours through your company and then subsequently be able to join the rest of the workforce market qualified, well prepared, and competent. And so, I believe that also is a game changer. And y’all, again, Keith and I agreed, Ajax has led from the front and that way.
Jay Smith (27:10):
Well, thank you. Going along that line, as you know, Darryl, we, our talent hub connection, which Ted I’ll let you explain Talent Hub, and our approach on the Tallahassee Police Department. But one of the things we wanted to do, working closely with you, Darryl, is track the number of minority and women owned small businesses in our community. And the enhancement, one, we want to engage and, you know, make sure they’re getting their opportunities on all the projects we have. But it’s growing that workforce and going through the internship program you just talked about.
Darryl Jones (27:48):
Well, to your credit, if I’m not mistaken, we started Talent Hub when you were Chair of the Chamber of Commerce. Right? And OEV partnered with the TASE Chamber of Commerce to create a platform whereby both employers and potential employees could meet in real time. Young people could be paired with already existing opportunities. I can tell you as a part of my other responsibility, I stand on graduation stages for all of our high schools here in our local community. And each kid whose hand I shake, I say, what’s next? And a number of them say they’re going to college; they’re going into the military. But a lot of our young people shrug their shoulders and say, I don’t know. They have no idea what’s next. The beauty of a platform like Talent Hub and connecting our high school students in that platform, they too can find out what’s next. Because right here in our community, there are a number of employers who are looking for young talent, for entry level positions. And there’s a whole lot of employers who are willing to even train that talent, but they want to have access to them. And what we were able to do and what the Chamber of Commerce was able to do with Talent Hub is to provide this space for them to communicate and talk and create opportunity. And that’s been a game changer in our community.
Jay Smith (29:17):
Ted, going off of that Talent Hub, so we took the thought of using Talent Hub specifically on the upcoming TASE police department, new project, kind of talked through how we partnered with OEV and several other organizations and kind of what that impact, what we’re trying to do on that project, besides our minority business and woman owned business connection that we have a goal on. Talk about, you know, our disadvantaged workforce.
Ted Parker (29:47):
Well, when I first looked at it, I realized that we had people all over town doing the same thing and they weren’t helping each other. Right?
Jay Smith (29:57):
Well, it’s called silos. Yeah. They’re just, they don’t communicate.
Ted Parker (30:00):
Yeah. And then they all had this great heart. And so, what I did, I just started going, talking to them all, as many as I could get to. And finally, I found myself with TEMPO and Career Source, and in Central Florida, we had, what’s that, St. Pete. St. Pete had a program. 10% of the work hours being set aside for folks that have been disadvantaged for, you know, you might have been incarcerated, you might have been, you know, on federal, any kind of assistance. Right? You know, public assistance in the last 12 months. And I said, man, and we had to do it. And I was concerned that we couldn’t do it, you know, at first. And it worked like a charm. People came in, they needed that help, they took it, and it all worked. So now, okay, I’m gonna put that with us. So, I got TEMPO, I got career source, I got the chambers, everybody associated with anything to do with disadvantaged workers. Right? we pulled ’em together. We tore down all the shields. Everybody just came and –
Darryl Jones (31:11):
Because you called us!
Ted Parker (31:12):
<laugh>. Yeah. We couldn’t –
Darryl Jones (31:14):
Did we have a choice?
Jay Smith (31:15):
Ted Parker (31:17):
And then, you know, then it was, then the even better break was you had the good doctor walking around through the projects with TEMPO getting kids. He was getting families. Who is that you talking to? That’s Dr. Kimball. You getting ready to go back to school? Yes ma’am. Well, I wanna go too. He was taking the parents, he was taking the boyfriends, he was pulling up, he was pulling from everywhere, man. He was underneath the curbs, you know, and the gun is pulling people out. Right. And I said, man, we gotta join him. And we did. We brought –
Darryl Jones (31:49):
And we did. And I can tell you it’s a real important part of what I’ve described as Ajax’s legacy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> the fact that a juggernaut like your company, which is one of our largest construction companies, and yet you care about every aspect and every level of the community. So, it’s not enough for you to secure the job. Then you want to put people in place at every opportunity, both entry level, unskilled, skilled. You’re hiring minority firms and women owned businesses to do the subcontracting. You’re putting people to work directly through the project. So that means that’s the impact. You know, one of the things that we do in OEV is we study economic impact. And I can imagine that for what, for lack of a better description, Keith will appreciate this, the Ajax model, in terms of being involved with workforce subcontracting and minority women owned business utilization, the economic impact is far more diverse than what we see on ordinary projects because of what we would describe as the Ajax model.
Ted Parker (33:02):
And then there was a career source. They will pay for your training, then pay the first $400 of your employment. That was another game changer. You know?
Jay Smith (33:10):
It’s tying it all together.
Darryl Jones (33:12):
Tying it. And that is what he does expertly.
Ted Parker (33:14):
Exactly. He came up with our flag. I call it our flag. We’re gonna have it out on our full one of these days. <laugh>.
Jay Smith (33:20):
So, we’ve highlighted some success stories of men are protege, workforce development that are bridging and changing the dynamics of minority and women owned small businesses being engaged in the construction industry. What are some of the things that we need to be doing earlier on to reach into elementary and middle school programs?
Darryl Jones (33:46):
Well, let me say this. Career and technical education pathways are not just for working class families. It’s an issue of aptitude and interests. I may hold a – I’m a family graduate. Proud. Matter of fact, we all are. Right? But that doesn’t mean that the children that we raise bring that same interest. Parents have to be concerned about facilitating their children’s interests and finding the options found in our school system to facilitate their children’s continuing educational maturation. And for some of our children, right? Not just children from working class families, their interests are far more diverse than just our typical ordinary college experience. And so, we’ve got to, as a community, –
Jay Smith (34:43):
Darryl Jones (34:43):
Be a part of that messaging. We’ve got to destigmatize career and technical education. Cause you and I all know that the guy who repairs our car probably may very well make more money in hour than we do. And that these are fantastic careers and professions that pay a wonderful living wage to support a person and their family. And we’ve got to help our young people to make that connection. But we’ve got, parents have got to be a part of that messaging and the business community too. We can’t wait until they get in 11th grade to talk about that. That is why, and I’m not, let me say this, I appreciate the role that Ajax plays in our schools. The schools that you adopt, the purposeful and intentional investment that you make in our schools and reading programs, adopting our kindergarten classrooms, you realize that you’ve got to make an investment in your workforce long before they walk across that graduation stage. And that type of modeling of philanthropy is important because businesses are an important part of that messaging. You’ve got to be involved, intentionally, in
Keith Bowers (36:07):
I would add, and echo everything that Darryl says, but I also think that there’s one component that we need to ensure takes place at a very young age for our kids. And that’s financial literacy. You know, making sure the kids understand the value of money, the value of credit, how disposable income works, how financial markets work, because that is so essential to them just gaining a foothold in life and not making the mistakes that a lot of us made early on.
Darryl Jones (36:48):
Who you tellin’ <laugh>, I’m still paying off my college credit cards. <laugh>.
Keith Bowers (36:52):
You know, I just think that it’s essential because, and, you know, financial literacy, for me, I always tell people, you know, it’s enough to talk about financial literacy, but it also should be coupled with giving children the resources. Because I learned how to read because somebody gave me a book. I learned how to manage money because someone gave me some money to manage. And us just talking about, you know, how to go about doing it without actually putting money in children’s hands and letting them make the mistakes and figure out. It’s much safer at an early age, you know, with, you know, dealing with a few dollars than when it gets to a point where –
Jay Smith (37:31):
You’re 25 and have two children.
Keith Bowers (37:33):
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
Jay Smith (37:35):
It’s a challenge.
Darryl Jones (37:36):
Fantastic. Yeah. You hit it spot on.
Jay Smith (37:41):
Well, gentlemen, thank you.
Keith Bowers (37:43):
Thank you too, Jay, for hosting, this was great. This was great.
Jay Smith (37:45):
For your time.
Darryl Jones (37:47):
And can I just say one last thing? On behalf of a grateful community, Ajax and its leadership and its commitment, even in these times to remain steadfast in support of diversity, economic, equity and
inclusion practices as a business, as a hallmark and a standard of operation, as an example, worth emulating. And in that regard, you are the yardstick by which other companies can be measured.
Jay Smith (38:17):
Well, thank you. We appreciate it. I think that’s a good way of ending today’s show. And thank you again for your time, your leadership, and we will keep working together to improve all businesses and give everybody that opportunity. Thank you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Keith Bowers (38:35):
Absolutely. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to Building Conversations. For more episodes like this, you can find us on Spotify, apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Audible, and the STO Building Group website.