The word “play” means more than swinging on the quad spinner at the new and improved Duldida Park playground in Mountain View. The term also captures the way Alaskans relatively new to the construction industry can play a part in transforming community spaces.
The Duldida project focused on turning a decades-old park into a safer, more inclusive area for kids and families in the neighborhood. Park planners involved park users, including groups such as the Arc of Anchorage and the Boys and Girls Club, in designing and planning the project.
The goals included upgrading play equipment, resurfacing the playground and providing more open areas for diverse groups to play. The $285,000 budget came from private donors, grants and foundations.
An Associated General Contractors of Alaska group known as Emerging Leaders got involved when it asked the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department how it could help with a community project.
“We wanted to include a literacy and diversity component,” said Taylor Keegan, a park planner with the Municipality of Anchorage, “so we decided to move forward with the idea of sandblasting the word ‘play’ into the plaza in multiple languages. We have over 100 languages in the Anchorage School District. Based on cost and feasibility, we went with the top 20 languages in the schools, plus Alaska Native languages.”
Sean Hickel of Roger Hickel Contracting Inc. took it from there. A participant in the Emerging Leaders group, he started making calls to contractors with the expertise to build the templates and do the sandblasting work.
Hickel got involved in AGC of Alaska through his work with his father’s company and believes Emerging Leaders can bring in more people new to the industry. The group welcomes anyone with two to 18 years in the construction field.
The idea, he said, is to help people new to the field get training, connect with others and participate in community projects that develop their capabilities.
ACG of Alaska started the group in 2014 to draw people employed by general contractors, suppliers, engineers, architects and the construction trade, Hickel said, with the goal of providing them “education and training, networking opportunities and advice from people who have been in the construction trade for a long time.”
AGC of Alaska has over 650 businesses as members, according to Lauren Sharrock, AGC membership director and a member of Emerging Leaders. “Despite economic ups and downs, our numbers have remained at roughly that number for the last five years,” she noted, “and we’re proud to boast that over half of our members have been with us for longer than 10 years.”
About 100 people in the construction industry have participated as Emerging Leaders, she added. Participants don’t pay a membership fee, but they can get involved in social and education events, some of them for a small fee, and share in the Emerging Leaders training track of the AGC of Alaska conference.
The group also supports community projects, whether by planting trees for the city, sponsoring a family through the Salvation Army or putting the “play” into a Mountain View Park.
Hickel considers his involvement in Emerging Leaders and AGC of Alaska as invaluable and believes anyone working in the state’s construction industry benefits from the group’s work, even more so during tough economic times.
AGC of Alaska offers its members online plans, political advocacy, education and training, publications, public relations and other services, he said. “But besides all of that, AGC provides its members with a sense of community, and the value you receive from networking with peers in your industry is irreplaceable.”
Dale Houston, president of H&K Sheetmetal Fabricators, had never worked with Emerging Leaders until the Duldida project, but he had worked with Roger Hickel Contracting.
When he got the call from Hickel to help, he jumped on board. “I’m community-minded,” he said. “They emailed the words over to me, we put them into AutoCAD and I cut them into metal with my plasma machine.”
DAMA Industrial used those tem-plates to sandblast the word “play” into concrete.
Making the “play” element of the project happen involved a true collaboration between Emerging Leaders, AGC, its member businesses DAMA and H&K, and the city’s park and recreation department.
“I lived my first six years in Mountain View and was born and raised in Anchorage,” said Mike Anderson, president of DAMA. “Doing this project was a great thing.”
Anderson talks about Hickel and the other Emerging Leaders as “kids” because they’re in their 20s and 30s, but he considers them peers and the future of the industry.
“I’ve always been involved with AGC,” he explained. “Some of the main leaders now were emerging leaders back then. It’s always been a good organization. It’s the construction field’s future.
Dawnell Smith is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.