Saint Louis Construction Cooperative salutes innovation, inclusion and leadership

The Saint Louis Construction Cooperative awards recipients are (seated in the front row from left) Dennis Corrigan, CEO of Corrigan Co.; John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council; and Mike Sullivan, COO of the Cortex Innovation Community. In the back row (from left), are John Stiffler and Tom Heeger, Saint Louis Construction Cooperative co-chairs, and Jeff Aboussie, former secretary-treasurer, St. Louis Building Trades Council. – Labor Tribune photo


Focusing on innovation, labor-management cooperation and inclusion, the Saint Louis Construction Cooperative (formerly PRIDE of St. Louis Inc.) honored a community of entrepreneurial idea generation and enduring leadership in the local construction industry at its Oct. 27 Construction Awards Luncheon. Honoree’s are:

  • Dr. John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council and one of the chief drivers of the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program, was saluted with the Dick Mantia Labor Award.
  • Dennis Corrigan, CEO of Corrigan Co., the mechanical contracting firm celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, was honored with the Al Fleischer Management Award.
  • The Cortex Innovation Community was awarded the labor-management organization’s 2016 Joe Rinke Impact Award.

“We are honoring a legacy of entrepreneurial excellence in the construction industry while also saluting champions of strengthening St. Louis’ entrepreneurial and workforce development future,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council and co-chair of the Saint Louis Construction Cooperative board.


As director of training for the Carpenters Regional Council, Dr. John Gaal is one of the designers and primary drivers of the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program, which three years ago began recruiting and providing pre-apprenticeship training to women and people of color to increase their participation in the building and construction trades.

The secret of the BUD program, Gaal said, what makes it work as a recruiting tool and what makes it work for the students, is building relationships.

“There are about four people in this room that came early to the concept of bringing more women and more people of color into our industry,” Gaal said at the awards luncheon, calling out specifically Jeff Aboussie, former executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council; Don Brown, business manager of Bricklayers Local 1; Tom McNeil, business manager of Iron Workers Local 396; and Pat Kammer, president and business manager of Operating Engineers Local 513.

“The bricklayers and the operating engineers, the carpenters and the iron workers early on realized that we’ve got a lot of work that’s coming up and we need to be prepared to service our contractors, and our contractors need to be prepared to service our owners, and that’s what the owners are demanding and we have to meet those demands,” Gaal said.

Gaal gave special credit to Aboussie, who he said “took it upon himself to be a true leader and step outside the box” to promote the concept among the building trades unions.

Gaal also recognized the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE), the Missouri AFL-CIO, the United Way of Greater St. Louis, BUD Project Manager Jim Duane of St. Louis Community College and Missouri AFL-CIO Apprentice Coordinator and St. Louis County Councilman Pat Dolan (president, Sprinklerfitters Local 268) for their daily support of the BUD program.

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“This program is the best program of its type ever in this region,” Gaal said, noting the BUD program’s 80 percent graduation rate and 90 percent placement rate.

“This is very significant,” he said. “Because now there are over 50 people of color and women now in our industry that three years ago may have never had that chance.

“I accept this award but I do it in the name of everybody out here,” Gaal said, “because it’s not about me, it’s about we.”

Gaal oversees 16 federally-approved joint apprenticeship training programs and nine full service training facilities. He has an associate’s degree in construction management, a bachelor’s degree architecture, a masters in international business and a doctorate in organizational leadership.

In addition, Gaal has completed a post-doctoral project on trade union leadership at Harvard University. As a labor representative, he has served on the Missouri and St. Louis County Workforce Investment Boards and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans committee on training and education.

Gaal also used his acceptance speech to call for ongoing education and training to embrace new technologies.

“This industry is operating at a very high technology level,” Gaal said. “In order to continue to be competitive, we have to embrace the new technologies that are coming at us fast and furious. If we don’t embrace this…the bottom line is that ship has already sailed. Therefore, you could be that one person operating the technology out in the field or the three buddies that you used to work with crying over spilled milk at home. We can’t do that. We have to move forward.”

first-bank-heloc-11-17DENNIS CORRIGAN

Dennis Corrigan is the third generation of his family to lead Corrigan Co. Founded in 1896 at the dawn of indoor plumbing, Corrigan has grown to serve the complex mechanical engineering and construction needs of a variety of industries.

For more than 25 years, Corrigan has guided the firm’s award-winning and customer-focused approach serving energy and nuclear power, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, data centers, public works, commercial and other industries. Today, 16 of the 20 largest high rises in St. Louis have Corrigan-installed HVAC systems.

“My grandfather John F. Corrigan founded our company 120 years ago in north St. Louis, on land where the NGA will be building its complex” Corrigan said.

“On the wall of our conference room hangs his withdrawal card from the local union United Association of Journeymen Plumbers, Gasfitters, Steamfitters and Steamfitter Helpers. It’s dated Oct. 1, 1896. My dad always referred to it as the birth certificate of Corrigan Company. We are very proud that Corrigan Company was formed from the trades.”

Innovation and technology are changing the way buildings are built today and the way they are used, Corrigan said. Big jobs with Ameren, BJC, Centene, Monsanto, the National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), Pfizer, SSM, Washington University, research campuses, office complexes and infrastructure needs have all been announced.

“Millions of man-hours and billions of construction dollars are coming our way in the next few years,” Corrigan said. “We have a lot of great opportunities ahead, and a lot of work to do.”

Through all the changes over the years, what hasn’t changed, Corrigan said, is the need for skilled labor.

“As Labor and management, our success in the future relies on reinvesting in our apprenticeship programs, embracing technology, developing our skills and providing a safe workplace,” Corrigan said. “Knowledge transfer, mentoring, always standing ready to meet the needs of our owners will be our legacy.

“So let’s strengthen our apprenticeship programs, always work on our communication skills, preserve these good paying jobs and pass on this great industry.”

Corrigan has been highly active in improving the mechanical and construction industry locally and nationally. He is past president and current board member of the Mechanical Contractors Association, Eastern Missouri. As a board member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, Corrigan serves its government affairs committee. He is also a mentor for the AGC of Missouri Stempel Mentor-Protégé Program. His commitment to the Saint Louis Construction Cooperative includes current service on its executive committee.


Founded in 2002, the Cortex Innovation Community is a 200-acre innovation hub and technology district integrated into St. Louis’ historic Central West End and Forest Park Southeast residential neighborhoods. It is surrounded by nationally ranked universities and medical centers and abundant cultural and recreational assets.

SMG-LaborTribune-2016Ad-color-page-001The greater St. Louis community has a tremendous amount to offer, Cortex COO Mike Sullivan said, but we don’t always see it for ourselves. Instead we focus on the city’s past of “booze and shoes,” he lamented, and the 1904 World’s Fair.

“Our city is absolutely amazing, but sometimes it’s almost like we need someone from outside St. Louis to come and look at what we really have,” Sullivan said. “It’s great to look back at 1904. It’s fantastic to realize our heritage and our history. But I want to challenge all of you to look to the future and take a look at St. Louis and our community for the first time as to what assets do we have and how you can be a part of that.”

Dennis Lower, president and CEO of Cortex, saw what the region had to offer in terms of university and corporate research, a skilled workforce, infrastructure, cultural institutions, academic institutions, restaurants, recreational venues and historic neighborhoods and connected those dots, Sullivan said.

Since its inception, Cortex has completed or has under construction one million square feet of new and rehabilitated space totaling $350 million of investment and generating 2,500 technology-related jobs.

When fully implemented, the Cortex master plan projects $2.1 billion of construction, more than 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development (research, office, clinical, residential, hotel, and retail), a new MetroLink light-rail station and 13,000 permanent technology-related jobs.

We as a community can compete with any one, Sullivan said, but we have to work together as the community did to secure the new western headquarters for the NGA in St. Louis.

Giving a nod to the BUD program, Sullivan said the challenge going forward for new developments is going to be filling the inclusion requirements for contractors and new businesses, and filling the job requirements of the new business.

“We look between Cortex and the medical campus projects and the NGA project and we as a community are going to have a problem filling those positions if we don’t really get active,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got federal funding. We’ve got state funding. We’ve got local funding. And every one of them want to know what are your inclusion process and results.”

Ikea is an example of a recent project that worked because of the community working together, Sullivan said.

“They came in, they worked with SLATE. They were thrilled with their general contractor. That project came in ahead of schedule and it was absolutely amazing.

“We’ve got the momentum going,” Sullivan said. “We’ve worked real hard to get there. Please help us keep it going and it’s going to create more jobs, it’s going to create more stability, and we as a community are just getting started.”

For more information on Cortex, visit


The Saint Louis Construction Cooperative was founded in 1972 and is the oldest voluntary local construction labor-management organization in the nation. For more than 40 years, it has pioneered a collaborative approach to sustaining harmony and building cooperation among St. Louis area AFL-CIO construction craft workers, contractors, construction buyers, architects, engineers and suppliers. For more information, visit


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Mayor Slay honored with special award

ST. LOUIS MAYOR Francis Slay (center) was presented a special award for his four consecutive terms as a friend of Labor and management during which numerous building projects were started or completed. Presenting the award are (from left) former executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council Jeff Aboussie and Construction Cooperative Co-chair Tom Heeger, retired chairman and chief executive officer of ACME Constructors and ACME Erectors. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay received a special award at the Saint Louis Construction Cooperative’s awards luncheon on Oct. 27, recognizing his four consecutive terms as mayor and as a friend to Labor and management.


Jeff Aboussie, former executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council and a longtime friend of Slay, presented the award, noting all of the building projects that came into being under Slay’s tenure, including: the new Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, the soon-to-be-started National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), the renovation of the Arch grounds, the new Ikea store, all of the developments surrounding and including Cortex, the new BJC-Washington University campus renewal project, the improvements made to the SLU campus through the years and countless rehabilitations of structures.


“That’s quite a legacy,” Aboussie said, adding that it’s even more remarkable given the challenges of his four terms.


“Mayor Slay shepherded St. Louis through the tragedy of 9/11, the shock of the Great Recession and the fractures of Ferguson that we still feel each and every day. He has simply been the right person to lead St. Louis at the right time.”


Slay, in accepting the award, praised the Construction Cooperative for “making sure St. Louis is a great place to build and work,” and for working together to make St. Louis a better place.


Slay noted that St. Louis has seen nearly $2 billion in added construction in the past year and is on track to exceed that number next year.


Slay congratulated the honorees and said he was pleased with the remarks they made about the quality of the workforce and the importance of inclusion.


“With that kind of approach to doing business in our city and our region, we are going to reach even greater heights,” Slay said. “We have a lot to be proud of in our city and we compete well on a national scale on a lot of different fronts.


“We are a great city, and we can even be greater,” he said. “The more we take advantage of the diverse talent that we have in our region, the more competitive we’ll be and the better we’ll be as a city in general.”


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