FedEx Project Brings Jobs to NC’s Triad Area

Wed September 01, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

GREENSBORO, NC (AP) The FedEx cargo hub project at Piedmont Triad International Airport PTIA) is just getting started but already is bringing new jobs to an area that has lost textile and other manufacturing positions.

Vecellio & Grogan, a West Virginia-based road-building company that won two contracts for hub-related work, has hired approximately 80 people to help with grading of the site and for the relocation of Bryan Boulevard.

Truck driver Dean Hammond, said the work came along at the right time for him because he was laid off at a mechanic’s job a year ago at the Grass America cabinet hardware plant in Kernersville, NC.

Hammond said he was offered a job at another manufacturing plant, but decided that manufacturing wasn’t a secure career and took the job driving a truck.

At least three more FedEx construction contracts will be granted, generating even more jobs.

On Aug. 10, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority staff opened bids from companies seeking another share of the FedEx work.

Eight companies bid to be the general construction manager on the first phase of construction of a third runway at PTI. W.C. English Construction Co. of Lynchburg, VA, is the apparent low bidder for that work, with a bid of $8.04 million, airport officials said.

Once the runway contract is approved by the airport authority, work could begin in October.

Bernie Davis, a project manager for the construction company, said he couldn’t comment on how many people his company would hire if it receives the contract. But it’s likely that many jobs would be filled locally, he said.

Vecellio & Grogan project manager Jim Smith said about 90 percent of his company’s workers are from the Triad area. Smith said he plans to hire as many as five new workers a week until he assembles a crew of about 110 employees.

Most Vecellio & Grogan jobs pay between $9.50 and $16 an hour. Highly skilled workers, such as those who operate the huge dirt-moving cranes, can earn as much as $19 an hour, or $39,520 annually.

In reality, most workers are earning much more than the 40-hour-a-week base salary. The contractor has a 2-and-a-half-year deadline to prepare the FedEx site for construction and four years to complete the Bryan Boulevard work.

Crews are working 53 hours a week to meet those deadlines, and they’re earning overtime. But as many of the company’s local workers say the best part about the job is that they’re stable, something that’s been hard to find lately in the downtrodden local economy.

“It’s nice to wake up every morning knowing that there’s a job there for you to go to,” said Steve Woodrum of Winston-Salem, who also drives a dump truck for Vecellio & Grogan. Woodrum is a full-time firefighter in Winston-Salem and needs a second job to supplement his income.

Opponents who have gone to court to try to stop the hub received another defeat in early August when a judge decided storm-water management controls were adequate. Grading started at the 1,000-acre (404.6 ha) site earlier this year. The project is FedEx’s fifth national cargo hub and is expected to open by 2009 and create 1,500 jobs.

The $300-million sorting center already has helped attract one new firm to the area.

Rheem Manufacturing Co. said the hub is a major reason why it is moving the North American distribution operation of its air conditioning division from its Fort Smith, AK, base to a business park in Randleman. That project initially will bring 42 jobs and represents a $6-million investment.