Potawatomi to hire minority contractors for hotel project

MILWAUKEE -- A new hotel planned for Potawatomi Bingo Casino could provide a big boost to minority-owned businesses.  The Forest County Potawatomi Community wants to hire minority contractors for at least 20 percent of the $150-million hotel project.

The proposed 20-floor hotel would create about 1,000 construction jobs.  The Tribe wants at least one-fifth of the demolition, construction and interior work done by minorities.

“One of the things they focus on is inclusion and diversity.  It's tough for contractors to get ahead in this economy that we live in, especially minority contractors.  We want to give them this opportunity,” Ryan Amundson, communications manager for Potwatomi Bingo Casino said.

On Monday, the Forest County Potawatomi Community held a meeting with business owners to introduce the plan.  Roughly $30 million would be awarded to minority-owned firms.

Milton Hopwood owns Hopwood Masonry, a small business with roughly nine employees. He is among the dozens of business owners who would like to cash in on the project. “We do cement.  We do blocks, bricks. It's been rough, not tough, but rough.  It's been rough, but we're surviving,” Hopwood said.

Milwaukee Common Council President Alderman Willie Hines supports the idea. “It’s important to ensure that everyone is a part of the economic growth of this particular project. That will also help with the unemployment rates that are extremely high in minority communities," Hines said.

This effort isn't new.  Potawatomi has, in the past, hired minority workers and is committed to that trend. “We're very proud of that tradition.  53 percent of the people that work here on site at the casino are of color,” Amundson said.

The hotel project still needs to be approved by the full Milwaukee Common Council.  It passed the city's Planning Commission last month, and Hines is confident the city will quickly move the project forward.

Construction is expected to start in late spring or early summer and will take about two years to complete.