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Brian Johnson, Finance and Commerce, Published November 30 2009

Ballpark job opens doors

MINNEAPOLIS – When Jamillah Karon enrolled in Summit Academy OIC in the spring of 2007, she wasn’t certain exactly what the future had in store for her.

But Karon, 23, was sure of at least one thing. Most of the other young women at the orientation for Summit Academy, a nonprofit job training center in Minneapolis, wanted to go into a traditional field like nursing, she recalled.

Karon had other things in mind.

“I wanted to go against the grain,” she said in a phone interview. “I wanted to be a carpenter.”

Less than a year later, after a stint in residential construction, Karon found herself working on the future home of the Minnesota Twins. She’s employed by Minneapolis-based Tri Construction, a minority-owned contractor working on the project.

Construction manager Mortenson Construction is working with organizations like Summit Academy to find women and minority workers and subcontractors for the project, which has goals for “community participation.”

With help from people like Karon, Mortenson slightly ahead of those goals.

Through October, minority and female workers accounted for 26 percent and 6 percent of the work force, respectively. Goals were 25 percent minority and 5 percent female.

Overall, 126 disadvantaged businesses – small, female, and minority-owned businesses – have worked on Target Field. The total dollar value of those contracts is $99 million, or 32 percent of the value for all contracts.

Karon has worked on everything from forms for cement pours to door frames and countertops. When the stadium opens in spring 2010, baseball fans will find her handiwork in suites, locker rooms, bars, clubhouses and other locations.

It would be an understatement to say that she’s pleased to have the work.

“With the way this economy is – that is self-explanatory what it means to even have a job,” she said. “The job I am doing is great. I get to see the finished work, the finished millwork. I get to see everything as it comes to an end.”

Karon enjoys doing millwork because it’s a “trade within itself” that will pay dividends long after the ballpark is completed.

“Even after I retire, you never lose this,” said Karon, who has an interest in starting her own construction company someday. “There is always someone who needs a cabinet put in or a door finished. ... And all the different stuff I have done at the ballpark has opened me up to many different jobs.”

Working at Target Field has been an “amazing” experience, she said. She considers the fact that she’s leaving her mark on a stadium that will be enjoyed by baseball fans for generations to come.

“I want my great-grandkids to be able to see it one day,” she said.