Contractor Spotlight: Tooles Contracting Group

damon-toolesTooles Contracting Group is a full service general contractor that has operated in Detroit for the past seven years. The team of estimators, schedulers, project managers and administrative employees are proud of the world-class results with their “out-of-the-box” thinking.

While most of its work is in Detroit, Tooles Contracting Group also has an office in Las Vegas and was recently nominated for an award for its outstanding work on the iconic Las Vegas Strip. Tooles Contracting Group President and CEO Damon Tooles shared with us his thoughts on contracting in Detroit.

What are some of the current projects you’re working on in and out of Detroit?
We just completed our work on the Cobo Center project. We’re currently working on the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Station, which is a new $28 million train facility in Dearborn Michigan that affects Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. We’re also currently completing 14 incinerators at the Detroit Waste and Sewage Department (DWSW) facility. Another great project in the works is the Mt. Elliott Park, which is an extension of the RiverWalk in Detroit for the Riverfront Conservancy – it’s a $12 million project.

What types of services do you provide?
We are a general contractor and deliver services related to that, as well as design-build contracting and construction management. We have self-performed services and self-perform drywall, metals and concrete.

How have you partnered with the DEGC in the past? Do you hope to continue a partnership in the future?
The DEGC is a great group to work with. We’ve had some projects with them in the past, like the Capitol Park project and the Cobo Center convention center. We look forward to continue working with them in the future.

What aspects of contracting in Detroit do you enjoy the most and why?
We’ve had the opportunity to work on some very unique and diverse projects in the city, like the DWSW project and the new Cobo Center renovations. Working on various projects throughout the automotive industry in Detroit is enjoyable. We also get to do some architectural and industrial work in the city, like the Guardian building project, a $22 million renovation of the 80-year-old building for the County. The diverse number of projects that we get the opportunity to get involved in is wonderful in Detroit.

We’ve been in Detroit for seven years and we have 37 staff members in the city. We enjoy all of the excitement that’s happening downtown. The things that DEGC is getting into is refreshing. Looking at Detroit’s growth over the past years is interesting. There used to be a time where you could go to lunch at noon and get a seat immediately. Now you have to go at 11:30 a.m. because there’s a lot of activity down there.

What was it like to be nominated for the Contractor of the Year Award by the Nevada Minority Business Development Council?
We’ve had an office in Las Vegas for five and half years. We had an opportunity to work on the strip at the New York New York casino, as well as the MGM Grand. It was very nice to be recognized as a company that was coming from halfway across the country and have the Nevada Minority Business Development Council recognize and see the work we were doing to meet their goals. It was very rewarding.

Waymon Guillebeaux
Executive VP, Project Management

CEO Spotlight: M. Kay Willingham Art in Motion

Art in Motion is a ceramic studio on Livernois Avenue where anyone can participate in workshops, attend classes, gain technical skills, enjoy private lessons and work in an open studio setting. The studio also represents artists in the Detroit community. Co-Owners M. Kay Willingham and Audrey Long popped-up the studio last May and June while participating in REVOLVE Detroit’s “Art + Retail on the Ave.” program to revitalize Detroit’s historic Livernois Avenue of Fashion. Art in Motion went on to be one of the Art and Retail Ave. winners, and its permanent presence launched during the Detroit Design Festival.

Where did you get the name Art in Motion?
I’ve worked with ceramics for a decade – selling my own personal art, doing private shows and teaching. I realized that as I move through life my pieces also represent movement, so the name was born, and it has stuck and grown into the businesses and studio that Audrey and I have today.

What made you want to expand your presence in Detroit?
I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life, and I grew up in this area near Livernois. I attended Cass Technical High School, and the University of Detroit for my undergrad in marketing and management and my graduate degree in management and psychology. Needless to say Detroit lives in my heart. Becoming involved with REVOLVE was the next step to doing what I love in the city I love.

Describe your experience with REVOLVE.
Our experience with REVOLVE can be described in one word: wonderful. It made the business change in some exciting ways going from being a pop-up to becoming permanent in the area. REVOLVE and DEGC offered us great support throughout the competition, and still remain a great contact as we continue engaging in the community.

What is your company culture?
Our doors are open to anyone.  Our artists come from a mixed and diverse culture. We’re all very passionate about art, and bettering Detroit. Think of the TV show The Voice, no one is looking at the contestants, they’re assessed based on their talents – we’re the same way. We come together in the name of art, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from or anything really – if you enjoy and are interested in art we’d love to meet you.

We also reach out to others to share our passion. We’re involved with Play with Clay for Kids, which is a program that allows us to go into schools and teach art technical skills to elementary and middle school students. It’s really rewarding to give children an opportunity to be creative and have an outlet they may not have had exposure to otherwise.

Art is truly in one’s spirit.

What’s coming up for Art in Motion?
Currently we’re working on offering additional workshops and classes for people of all ages. We want people to come for date nights, senior nights and all kinds of other occasions. Our doors are open to anyone and everyone, and we look forward to offering more of a variety of experiences for them. We are also in the process of scheduling a few private shows in January and February.

Kay Willingham
|Co-Owner

Holiday Fun Guide

We’ve all heard about the pop-up retail scene downtown, so we thought you might like to hear about a few other Detroit neighborhoods where you can find unique holiday experiences. Here are alternative ideas for where to shop local and eat well during this holiday season.

Live it up on Livernois. Detroit’s historic Avenue of Fashion is overflowing with creative activity. Shop local at Detroit Fiber Works, where you can watch fiber artists hard at work and purchase fiber art made by Detroit textile artists. Or stop by Art in Motion, a ceramics studio that offers locally made pottery and various pottery classes and workshops. (We interviewed co-owner M. Kay Willingham for our CEO Profile this month.) Be sure to check out Love Travels Imports, a boutique full of fair trade, handmade goods made by various artisans from around the world. While you’re there, pick up a special holiday treat at Good Cakes and Bakes, offering gourmet baked goods made from exclusively wholesome, organic ingredients. Co-owner and Pastry Chef April Anderson said, “We’re offering custom holiday gift baskets this season, in addition to 10 percent off all cake orders placed before December 15. We will have cookie mixes in jars for people to make at home and we will offer coffee baskets made with Chazzano Coffee for coffee lovers.”

Lift your well-being in West Village. Detroit’s West Village is all about the health of the mind, body and soul this holiday season. Eat well at Detroit’s newest vegan spot, Detroit Vegan Soul. What was once a pop-up is a permanent fixture on Agnes St. near Van Dyke, serving locals with great-tasting, high-quality, nutritious vegan soul food. Cleanse your mind and soul at Tarot & Tea through spiritual tarot cards, palm and tea leaf readings. Enjoy a hot cup of exotic tea during your readings.

Explore Southwest Detroit. Southwest Detroit is known for its rich diversity of shopping and dining experiences. It’s a perfect place to explore new cultures. For an authentic and contemporary taste of Mexico, try El Asador, which opened recently, just a few blocks off I-75 at 1312 Springwells St. Here’s a hint about the menu: lobster tacos. And it’s not just about the food in Southwest Detroit. Check out Xochi’s Mexican Imports, in the heart of the Mexicantown District at 3437 Bagley St. for truly unique holiday gift ideas.

Pursue the Pop-Ups. While Livernois, the West Village and Southwest Detroit have excellent permanent attractions this holiday season, you can still chase those unique pop-up opportunities in places such as the Northwest Detroit Holiday Market on Sat., Nov. 30, hosted by Always Brewing Detroit.  If you miss that, or even if you don’t, mark your calendar Dec. 12 for the launch of the Vanguard holiday pop-up at Woodward and Grand Boulevard.

Give yourself, your friends and family, and the city you love a gift this season by exploring Detroit’s neighborhood retail treasures.

Michael Forsyth
REVOLVE Detroit program manager

On The World Stage

The Russian mayors have come and gone. The Chinese executives did the same. The contingent from Portland was very engaged. The columnists and bloggers from Chicago, London and elsewhere all found surprises. The New York Times seems to be “discovering” something interesting, tasty or cool in Detroit every few weeks. Time magazine explored the city for an entire year. In short, the world is making its way to Detroit, and it’s not because of some calamity or scandal, or even a big event such as a Super Bowl or International Auto Show. We are on a world stage right now because of hundreds of stories, successes and interesting people that all add up to a world-class transformation.

We’ve known that for quite awhile, because we are supporting it every way we can, but there is something satisfying about spending time hearing the interest from the Russian mayors, who were here because they represent one-industry cities that need to diversify their economies. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While we talked with the Russians, Japanese public television was videotaping a story about W Industries, a company that successfully grew from auto supplier to advanced manufacturer in alternative energy, natural gas extraction, defense and aerospace.

The Chinese were here to consider business investments. They realize that Detroit is in the center of the greatest concentration of automotive research and development in the world. The constant re-invention of personal transportation is going on right around us every day.

Time magazine, of course wanted to witness bold moves from major players like Mayor Dave Bing and Quicken chairman, Dan Gilbert, but reporters from Time or its sister publications also covered entrepreneurial successes in our incubators, NextEnergy and Wayne State University’s TechTown. And they wrote about Detroit’s cheerleaders such as Slow’s Bar BQ’s Phil Cooley, City Living Detroit real estate broker Austin Black or I Am Young Detroit’s Mike Han.

As we are breaking new ground, we are also on the lookout for what we might learn from others. That’s why we have a delegate in Turin, Italy this month, reviewing the economic progress of the home city to Fiat.

The best news from all this buzz is that it is not too late to get into the game. We know of properties ripe for renovation or redevelopment, and we know the ways to support growth for startups or global companies. We have success stories, and if you are growing a business in Detroit we’d like to know yours. After all, the world is watching.

 

George W. Jackson

Jackson is president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a non-profit organization that works with businesses, government and other organizations throughout Detroit to encourage and manage economic development projects.