By Pat Shaver
CEDAR RAPIDS – When plumbers, electricians, contractors and other professionals in the building industry lend a helping hand, it often goes unnoticed.
And many of them like it that way, said Carl Sefl, who helped develop the organization The Building Pros of Eastern Iowa.
It’s a group of contractors and skilled labor unions in the area that was created to promote long-term career opportunities in the industry, and organize community service projects among groups in the skilled trade industry. It’s also there to help promote building industry successes in the area.
“We created the Building Pros of Eastern Iowa to begin to communicate to people who we are,” Mr. Sefl said. “We found that there are a lot of areas that contractors and skilled labor unions really can come together.”
There are about 15,000 to 18,000 people in the building industry locally, Mr. Sefl said.
“I can tell you that people, especially young people, for the most part, had no clue what it meant to become an electrician or a plumber,” Mr. Sefl said. Apprenticeships are offered as part of the Building Pros, where people can learn a trade, get paid and get hands on training.
The nonprofit group was established about 18 months ago. Discussions to start the group began about 2 years ago, Mr. Sefl said.
The group includes skilled trade unions, general contractors, electrical contractors, structural and reinforcing steel contractors, plumbing, pipe fitting, HVACC contractors, roofing and waterproofing contractors, specialty contractors and commercial/industrial painting and decorating contractors.
“We knew that many people in this industry, not only the unions but also on the construction side, give back to communities,” Mr. Sefl said. “And, seemingly they never want to get publicity for that.”
For example, he said, there was a group of electricians that rewired about 200 houses in Cedar Rapids after the flooding, but they didn’t want to take credit for it.
“There are many opportunities for us to do community service projects as a group of skilled trades,” Mr. Sefl said. “The first one under the Build by Pros is the His Hands Clinic. And we have a couple more in the works.”
The His Hands Free Medical Clinic, 400 12th St. SE, Cedar Rapids, moved to that location because of the new medical district. The clinic also required renovation and improvements for the relocation.
The renovation and relocation become financially overwhelming for the clinic. Dozens of professions in the industry donated work and materials to help complete the project, Mr. Sefl said.
The free medical clinic was founded in 1992. Last year it served 700 people who visited about 2,100 times. The clinic provides medical and chiropractic care along with prescription assistance and spiritual support to people who would not otherwise be able to pay for health care. The clinic also has help from about 130 volunteers throughout the year.
The Building Pros helped with leveling floors, installing new walls for the expanded services, and added electrical wiring.
The new clinic is expected to re-open in July.
Mr. Sefl noted that the group will organize more community service projects, but they will not take work away from someone in the industry.
“The Building Pros in the future will do more projects, as the community need is there and as we have the ability to put our hands to work,” he said.
“I haven’t been able to find anything similar to the Building Pros in the country. I don’t know if there is something out there but I haven’t found it,” he said. “We may be a first in the nation kind of thing. We’re creating a new culture and just beginning to let people know what we are all about.”