Posted February 3rd 2010 at 9:26 am by
in Camden, Camden: Small Businesses Transform Place, Profiles

Open for Opportunity and Growing with Stimulus Funding: Marcellus Construction

Marcellus Hill has been in the construction field for over twenty years. For the last eight years, he’s owned his own construction business in Camden, NJ. Like many people, Marcellus has been struggling through the economic recession. “I started trying to get other jobs, just the economy was so bad. So I just redirected my energy into the weatherization because I got a whiff that was going on. From the paperwork I had, I said, I would go get the National Weatherization Corporation (NWC) certificate, and join a union, and govern myself in a whole circle where as though it could work out for everybody – work out for the union, work out for the people that want to join a union, and work out for homeowners.”

Marcellus is currently bidding on weatherization work around the state of New Jersey, made available through the ARRA’s expanding of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).  He has won one job in East Brunswick, NJ so far and is waiting to hear on three others. From his perspective, the stimulus can reach its goals of creating jobs and restarting the economy. “We got a lot of people out here who want to work, they just don’t get a fair share and opportunity.” But as Marcellus later explained, the stimulus is changing that.  “It’s a fairly easy trade (weatherization) to get involved in. We can train people off the street, show them how to do it, and they’ll grasp it fairly quick. Everybody gets paid $190 a day and that’s to start off. For a person to make almost $50 (thousand) a year from making $16,000 a year is a big difference. You can get an apartment, house, go buy a car, you know, just take care of your family, put food in your refrigerator.”

Potential weatherization workers wait outside a Laborers 55 recruitment session this past summer in Camden, NJ.

Marcellus plans to hire locally for the bids he wins. “My plan is to get all the guys I can get, not just from Camden, but if I’m in New Brunswick, go to New Brunswick, open up shop, give people that live in the neighborhood a shot. I get them busy in some of the work I’m doing and then get them into the union from there.” Once in the union, the new workers can take advantage of additional training and more work.

In terms of his own business, “I believe this (the stimulus) actually will be my turning point. There is a lot of funding out there and you can do a lot of things, good things, for people. And everyone can come out and stimulate the economy. And that’s what it’s built for.”

So far Marcellus gives President Obama an A+ for the stimulus package. “If it weren’t for that (the stimulus), I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. He actually set the standards.” The advice he offers to other business owners and community members? “Vote for the president again. Because without that, in another two and a half, three years, this program will go down if he doesn’t get back in office. And this is just a starting point. What a lot of our people have to do is get educated and get out there and vote.”

While some in the city say he’s a success, Marcellus is not yet ready to accept the label. “I came up poor, lived in Camden my entire life. I’m still poor. But I have a great opportunity to make an impact on the city as far as to make money for myself and to help other people make money and maybe start their own small business. But I’m not successful yet. I’m only trying and striving to be.”

For additional information about Marcellus Construction, visit their homepage.

2 responses to “Open for Opportunity and Growing with Stimulus Funding: Marcellus Construction”

  1. Robyne says:

    I am sending this to a friend in KC who is trying to build this same model. Unfortunately, they did not get ARRA weatherization funds there 🙁

  2. Leila Bozorg says:

    Gayle and Robyne,

    It’s definitely great to hear a story of how the Weatherization Assistance Program is working on the ground in Camden. Did either of you see the rather grim NYTimes article that discusses the recent report on WAP put out by the Department of Energy? The NYTimes article can be found here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/science/earth/24weatherize.html?src=twt&twt=nytimes

    And the full report from DOE can be found here: http://www.ig.energy.gov/documents/OAS-RA-10-04.pdf

    Robyne, I also wanted to let you know that, by coincidence, I am writing about the Green Impact Zone in Kansas City, Missouri as the primary case study of my own Master’s thesis. I will soon be posting — right here on the CoLab Radio blog — about the initiative, so stay tuned!