KCI Airport project sparks construction hiring boom

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The start of construction of a new terminal at KCI Airport is expected to create about 5,000 construction jobs.

Leaders of the heavy construction laborers union say they're gearing up to start training a lot more workers for this project.

There are less than 2,000 laborers in the Kansas City local that handles much of highway building and other infrastructure projects in western Missouri.

Building a new terminal at the airport involves a lot of the skills that this workforce is trained to handle: pouring concrete, installing heavy pipes  and grading pavement.

Right now, the union says nearly all of it's members are working on other projects around the metro, so it's going to need to train a lot of new workers, with a focus on bringing more women and minorities into the construction trades.

"As good a project as KCI will be, it's only going to be a four or five year project," Jason Mendenhall said, president of the Heavy Construciton Laborers union. "We need to have a sustained inroad into the minority community, the MBE (minority business enterprise) and WBE (women business enterprise) community. The reality is if I had 75 qualified highly skilled laborers, I could put them to work within the next few months, the next few weeks, no problem. We are always needing people."

An apprentice trained to work on the KCI project will start out making nearly $16 an hour with benefits that include health care, vacation and a pension.

Once you reach journeyman status the pay rate doubles to $32 an hour.

The $1.5-billion project also includes funding to transport workers from the urban core. Shuttle service is being set up to pick up workers at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue and drive them out to the project on the fringe of the city, which doesn't have very good public transit service.

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