BuildNOLA Profile: Marlene Wade, HAS Construction
An email promoting BuildNOLA caught the attention of Marlene Wade of HAS Construction because of “the curriculum aimed at helping small businesses compete” in areas such as bonding, insurance and estimating costs for construction, marketing and goods and services.
The New Orleans native’s career has grown and evolved over the years. “I never turn down an opportunity,” she says. She was an accountant for 25 years, including for a construction company where she met various subcontractors and learned a lot by seeing jobs “on paper,” such as a $13 million home construction project. “I also went out in the field to see the job first-hand and enjoyed it. So I thought, why not get a contractor’s license, especially because I do my own jobs around the house? I passed the exam for a commercial license in July 2015 and then got my residential license.”
BuildNOLA Filled in the Gaps
Wade then got some experience but still didn’t know estimating – a gap that BuildNOLA filled. She noted that many large prime contractors say disadvantaged and small businesses cannot perform, but Build NOLA puts them in a position to do so. “BuildNOLA stepped in and prepared us so primes cannot say that. We covered all the pieces that were needed to say, ‘Here we are, and we’re capable now.’”
Wade added that the program’s trainer/experts are people who “currently work in that field. They do that job each day, so they could bring us up to par to be competitive and get opportunities to bid on projects.”
She continued, “We did mock bids on actual jobs that the facilitator was familiar with – the costs and the actual winning bid,” lending real-world credibility to the training. “All the facilitators are easy to engage in conversation,” she added, “and they are reachable by email and phone. Even after the training I still contact them, as they said to call anytime.”
From Interior Home Painting to Full Renovations
After completing BuildNOLA, Wade started with interior house painting for various local nonprofit organizations. “Painting is something I do at home and am comfortable with, so I wanted to start with that,” she said. “I wanted to take on small projects that I could perform well and build a resume and a set of references before going on to larger jobs.”
Since then, Wade has done several home renovations, including a $186,000 project converting a double home to a single and adding a camelback; she did the electrical, painting, plumbing and roofing. She has also completed a $110,000 home renovation and another project to rehab a flooded house – she stepped in after problems arose with the first contractor and did siding, sheet work, painting, new flooring, cabinets and fixtures, as well as tying into the existing second floor plumbing and electrical.
She currently has several projects in the pipeline – contracts won on which work has not yet begun – including three painting jobs with the city. She also recently bid on another small painting job at the Century Utility plant at the airport.
Hoping to be a Prime Contractor
“I hope to take on larger contracts as a prime contractor, now that I understand how all the pieces go together,” Wade said.
Wade currently employs eight permanent workers and will hire more if needed for a new job. Like Thornton, she puts a premium on local hires, especially if she is working on a job covered by Section 3 of the law governing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Section 3 says jobs and “other economic opportunities created by federal financial assistance for housing and community development programs should, if possible, be directed toward low- and very-low income persons, particularly those who are recipients of government housing assistance.”