The construction industry is a cornerstone of any thriving economy, providing nearly 9 million jobs and contributing significantly to our nation’s GDP. Within Oregon alone, construction contributes nearly 5% of the annual GDP. In Washington State, construction makes up 4% of the annual GDP. With the prevalence of construction in our economy, there is a constant demand for skilled labor. Today, older generations are retiring faster than new labor can be found, creating a shortage of skilled workers and challenging the industry to find ways to promote careers in construction trades in order to recruit a new wave of talent. Nearly 91% of contractors report challenges in filling open positions. 

Filling this labor gap and creating a pipeline of skilled young workers requires collaboration between industry and educational leaders. In today’s article, we will explore the efforts that can be taken to encourage young people to join the trades.


1. Acknowledge the Skills Gap in Construction

The first step in encouraging young people to take up careers in the construction trades is acknowledging the skills gap. Many industries, including construction, are struggling with a disconnect between the skills job applicants have and the skills employers need. This issue can be mitigated by training and education, but the reality is that this must start early. Young people need to be exposed to the possibilities and advantages of careers in the trades, something that can only happen if industry and education take a joint approach to the problem.

2. Industry Involvement in Preparing Youth for the Trades

Partnerships with Schools

Industries can engage directly with educational institutions to provide hands-on experience to students. Apprenticeship programs, guest lectures, or “day in the life” sessions can be extremely effective ways of introducing students to the trade. Real-world experience allows students to understand the application of the skills they are learning, making their education feel more relevant.

Sponsorships and Scholarships

Companies can also offer scholarships for trade school tuition or provide the necessary tools and materials for training. This financial assistance removes a significant barrier for many young people who might otherwise not consider such a path due to economic constraints. The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship is one local program working to help bridge the gap between workers and the trades. Awarded more than a dozen monetary awards each year to students and apprentices across the country, this scholarship has helped many find success in their careers. 

Mentorship Programs

Experienced workers in the industry can offer guidance, tips, and advice to younger generations through mentorship programs. These relationships offer invaluable support networks and contribute to skill development and professional growth. The Ace Mentorship Program is a local example of a high school after-school program that mentors youth and exposes them to careers in construction and design. 

3. Get Schools and Educational Leaders Involved

Curriculum Development

Aligning curricula with the needs of the industry is a logical first step in getting educators involved. Incorporating technical skills such as carpentry, electrical wiring, and HVAC operations is one part of the equation. These lesson plans also need to include a focus on “soft skills” like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, as they are frequently cited by employers as equally important. The Beaverton School District in Oregon has worked hard in recent years to create Career Technical Education (CTE) classes, currently offering 33 CTE programs across their high schools, including several focused on trades like carpentry.

Career Guidance

Counselors and teachers are essential in helping students set career goals and expectations and opening up possibilities. They should be equipped with the knowledge to guide students interested in more hands-on work toward relevant courses that could eventually lead them to a career in construction. 

Emphasizing the Value of Trade Careers

The narrative around vocational careers has traditionally been centered on the idea that joining the trades is a back up option. Educators play a key role in shifting this thinking and help students understand that construction can be a lucrative and fulfilling career. They offer living wage jobs without the crushing debt of many higher education programs. According to the NCCER Research Department, workers report higher levels of satisfaction with careers in construction than in all other industries.

4. Promote the Incentives for Careers in Construction Trades

Competitive Salaries

Many construction jobs offer competitive salaries without the burden of student loan debt. For instance, an experienced electrician or plumber can earn a wage comparable to some white-collar jobs. Additionally, construction workers have received steady wage increases for the last five years. This Forbes article reviewed the top-paying construction jobs, with elevator and escalator installers topping the list, followed by supervisors, pile driver operators and building inspectors. 

Job Security

The perennial demand for construction ensures a certain level of job security. Aside from the many homebuilding projects, private construction and public buildings built each year, infrastructure projects are continually underway, requiring a steady supply of skilled workers. In 2023 alone, predictions say that the construction industry must add more than a half million new workers to meet demand.  

Entrepreneurial Opportunities

The skills acquired in construction trades can eventually lead to self-employment opportunities. For example, starting a small contracting business could offer financial and personal freedom. This option could increase a worker’s ability to choose the types of projects they pursue, their salary and retirement plans. 

5. Collaborate to Grow the Work Force

The most effective strategies to grow interest in the trades will involve a cooperative approach between industry leaders and educators. Jointly developed training programs, integrated curricula, and shared resources can all contribute to a more skilled and prepared workforce. These collaborations can also lead to shared funding for essential training programs and equipment, providing the best opportunities for students to learn and apply their skills.

Final Thoughts

The challenge of preparing youth for careers in construction trades is not insurmountable, but it does require a multifaceted approach involving both industry and educational leaders. From curriculum enhancement to mentorship programs and from scholarships to real-world experience, these efforts can guide young people towards a rewarding career path that fills a societal need.

By acknowledging the skills gap, aligning education with industry requirements, and creating attractive incentives for young people, we can build a sustainable workforce for the construction industry. In doing so, we not only secure the future of the sector but also offer fulfilling, financially rewarding careers to the next generation.

“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.

Welcome to Episode 9 of the Perlo Podcast! Podcast host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by two guests from Advanced American Construction: Dee Burch, President, and Kyle Izatt, Senior Vice President. In today’s podcast, we’ll be diving into the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund, how it started, and everything it has to offer.

Elissa Looney
Podcast Host & Director of Strategic Initiatives
Dee Burch
President, Advanced American
Kyle Izatt
Senior Vice President, Advanced American

History

Advanced American Construction was founded in 1983 by Konrad Schweiger and Kent Cochran with a goal to start “a legacy of success in marine construction.” Forrest Schweiger, son of Konrad and Cindy Schweiger, was working for the company and, in 1999 at the age of 26, lost his life in a tragic construction accident. As the only son of Konrad and his wife, the team at Advanced American Construction put their heads together to discuss how they could make something good come out of such a tragic event.

To honor Forrest, Advanced American Construction formed the Forrest L. Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund. Dee Burch, President of Advanced American Construction, remarks that they formed the program with no prior experience and were shocked by how quickly the community stepped up to help.

After three years and about $25,000 in scholarships given out, Konrad Schweiger passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. The name was then changed to Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund to commemorate both Forrest and Konrad. Advanced American doubled down on making the scholarship successful, and again experienced unbelievable support from the community.

General Overview

The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund provides “annual scholarships to applicants looking to pursue careers in construction-related fields.” From students looking for a career in construction to trades workers pursuing an apprenticeship program, this fund aims to provide the necessary support to help individuals succeed in the construction industry. Over the last 22 years, the fund has awarded over 260 scholarships totaling more than $850,000.

Kyle Izatt, one of the very first scholarship winners and the now Senior Vice President of Advanced American Construction, recalls being a freshman going into his sophomore year at Central Washington University in the Construction Management undergraduate program. “I remember it as clear as yesterday,” he remarks. “We were at the Monarch Hotel, and you couldn’t count the people in the audience, even though it was a smaller audience than what it is today. Business partners, subs, suppliers, competitors, the unions, friends, colleagues, and a lot of Konrad and Cindy’s friends and family came to support. I was hit with this momentum and the bare roots of what our industry is. It’s giving back, it’s helping, it’s building people up.”

After graduating and continuing to attend the scholarship’s banquet dinners, Kyle started giving back to the program that gave him so much to get him started in his career. Kyle was the first recipient that contributed back to the scholarship and, according to Dee, this triggered something in him to get Kyle to join Advanced American Construction. In 2005, Kyle went to work for Advanced American Construction and transitioned onto the selection committee where, 23 years later, he believes it is their obligation to be a part of the Fund and come up with new ideas to keep building up the program and supporting as many individuals as possible.

“We have a lot of momentum going into the next couple of years and I’m really excited about where the future of this can go. The opportunities are endless, there is no ceiling,”

Benefits of The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund

According to Elissa, one of the unique aspects of the program is that it’s not just about the money. Although it does come with the financial support, applicants also have the opportunity to make lasting industry connections, gain hands-on career development, and indicate potential interest in internships. Here at Perlo Construction, we had the pleasure of connecting with a scholarship recipient last year that went on to intern at Perlo this summer and even won the scholarship again this year.

This program, however, is not just for students. Advanced American Construction has always advocated that if you’re going to a trade school or going into the craft, this a scholarship you can apply for. “Believe it or not, it’s really difficult to get people to apply for scholarships,” explains Dee. “We put a lot of effort into educating people that it’s not just union apprentices, but non-union apprentices that can apply as well.” This year, 5 out of the 15 scholarship winners were apprentices, and the 2 of the top 3 winners were apprentices. According to Dee, that statistic is unprecedented, and is something he thinks is the key to unlocking other avenues and expanding the scholarship further to aid people in other fields in the construction industry.

Elissa notes that although people generally understand how challenging it can be for students to get through school financially, it is less understood how challenging it is for people starting out in the trades, especially when apprentices are working and making money. In reality, apprentices have about four weeks a year where they attend school for their trade unpaid. On top of the cost for various certifications, they are also required to find projects where apprentices are accepted, which aren’t always common. Therefore, apprentices must travel extensively throughout the region to find work, often having to deal with short-term housing and travel costs. Dee states that “going through an apprenticeship program can be incredibly challenging, but apprentices are the future.”

What Metrics Are Important to Succeed?

Uniquely, the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund puts the most emphasis on the individual and what they can achieve, bring to the table, and how they can contribute. This program is not about who has the highest grades, but about giving back to those who need a helping hand and the support to progress in their careers. Increasingly, there is a diverse group of applicants and students with different histories and backgrounds. The number of recipients who have stayed the course of the scholarship program and have gone on to achieve incredible success is a testament to the people that believed in them and supported them throughout their journeys.

Final Thoughts

The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is a great opportunity for both union apprentices and college students pursing engineering degrees with the intention to join the construction industry. A big thank you to Dee Burch and Kyle Izatt for sitting down with us to discuss the Fund and all it has to offer!

Looking for more information on the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund? Be sure to visit Advanced American Construction at https://www.advanced-american.com/scholarship/

If you’ve been following along these last few weeks, you’ve already read the first three in our four-part Year in Review series for 2021. If you missed them, you can find them in our Newsroom here:

As the year officially comes to a close, today we’ll wrap up the last in our four-part series. We’ll celebrate and explore more about Perlo’s community involvement and accolades in 2021.


The Perlo Community in 2021

Here at Perlo, we work hard to maintain a positive, inclusive and fun culture for our people to be a part of. This includes giving back to our people, our community and our industry. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us to find new and unique ways to maintain our award-winning company culture. Still, in 2021, we have done just that. In July, our office staff returned full time to the office, utilizing social distancing and mask policies to keep all of our workers safe. We have worked collectively to create a jovial atmosphere, amid a lot of hard work, through small group meetings, a book club, small gatherings for happy hours, and more.

In March of this year, we adapted our Fiscal Year-End celebration for 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic to be a drive-through event. Employees drove through our parking lot and stopped at various stations to receive their annual performance bonuses, special treats and a yearbook. Among the year’s chaos, Perlo continued to hold internal company events. One of our most popular included the Perlo Turkey bowl, an outdoor flag football event held just before Thanksgiving.

In addition, 2021 at Perlo featured:

  • Office employee block parties
  • Jobsite tours for all staff members
  • Christmas ornament and tree decorating
  • Halloween Costume Party
  • Office and Superintendent Holiday Luncheon
  • Ugly Holiday Sweater Walk

Perlo Cares Program

This year, our Perlo Cares team members volunteered more than 336 philanthropy hours of time with 7 different organizations, including Store to Door, Adopt-a-road, The Angels in the Outfield, and more. Charitable giving of goods as well as sponsorships and direct donations are a large part of our philanthropic efforts each year. Some of our giving has included:

320 turkeys given out to employees and community groups before Thanksgiving

Over 400 coats and toys collected by Perlo and donated to The Angels in the Outfield Holiday Store

Loan of generators during the winter storm in February to power the Parrott Creek Ranch facility

We also made direct donations to:

Company Growth

Perlo has been on a growth trajectory for many years, and 2021 has been busier than ever. As we’ve grown, we have searched high and low to find the best talent to add to our team. So far this year, we have hired 37 new office staff or superintendents and 156 field crew members. We continue to seek additional candidates for project managers, project engineers, estimators and superintendents. If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our careers page and apply today! 

2021 Company Accolades

We are proud to have achieved a variety of awards from industry groups this year, including multiple Development of the Year awards, the 100 Best Companies award, and more. Several individuals also received recognition, including:

DJC’s
Hard Hat Safety Award

Chris McInroe
Project Director

PBJ’s
Forty Under 40 Award

Elissa Looney
Director Strategic Initiatives

PBJ’s
Phenoms & Icon Award

Chris Gregg
Sr. VP of Operations

DJC’s
Building Diversity Award

Todd Duwe
VP of Business Development

As a company, we are proud to have received the following awards:

  • CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Runner-Up (Mahlum TI)
  • CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Finalist (Columbia Distributing)
  • CAB, SIOR, NAIOP Development of the Year Winner (Portland Meadows)
  • CICP 2021 Law Enforcement Partner Award Winner
  • DJC 2021 Top Project of the Year Winner (Columbia Distributing)
  • DJC 2021 Oregon’s Reader Rankings Best General Contractor (Rank #1)
  • Oregon Business’ 2021 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon (Rank #8)
  • Oregon Business’ 2021 100 Best Green Companies to Work for in Oregon (Winner)
  • Oregonian 2021 Top Workplaces (Rank #7)
  • PBJ 2021 Fastest Growing Private Companies (Rank #124)
  • PBJ 2021 List of Middle Market Companies (Rank #8)
  • PBJ 2021 Commercial Contractors List (Rank #15)
  • PBJ 2021 Philanthropy Award (Rank #37)
  • PBJ 2021 Healthiest Employers in Oregon 100-499 Employees (Top 15)

This year held its fair share of trials and tribulations. However, our people at Perlo succeeded in making it an incredible and memorable year by keeping culture and company growth at the top of our priorities. This year has set a new standard for success, and we look forward to 2022 and all it has to bring.  

This week we’re highlighting the work of Parrott Creek Child & Family Services. Perlo has been a sponsor of this organization for several years and believes in the work that they do within our community.  We discuss their work today with Parrott Creek’s Executive Director, Simon Fulford, who has been working in his position for the last 2.5 years. 

Prior to Parrott Creek, Simon worked for the Oregon Youth Authority as a Senior Strategic Policy Analyst and spent the prior 28 years in the non-profit sector, consistently working with organizations that service at risk or vulnerable populations, and predominately with children and youth.


Can you give us an overview of what Parrott Creek does?

Parrott Creek was founded in 1968 and was established by a citizen led bond measure in Clackamas County, Oregon.  This allowed for the purchase of 80 acres of woodland and a farmhouse to create the non-profit, with a mission to provide support and guidance to youth in the juvenile justice system. 

Residential treatment for youth has been the core of the work of Parrott Creek, and it has been operated on the Clackamas property ever since.  Over the years, we’ve also added and grown a number of community-based programs and our services now include outpatient behavioral health treatment, independent living programs for foster youth, and our suite of Children and Mothers’ programs. These services work with family members with substance misuses problems where their children are at risk or have been removed from their homes.  We help them access treatment programs and guide them through support and housing services to aid in reunification with their kids. This includes helping them practice their parenting skills and remain drug free until they can access permanent housing of their own.

How is the program funded now?

About 80% of our funding comes through government contracts, either statewide through Oregon, or local programs through Clackamas County.  About 20% comes from private donors, supporters and sponsorships.

When the government pays for things, it’s rock bottom dollar – they pay the least amount to get the bare minimum or the least amount for the most of what they can get.  As an example, our government contracts don’t pay for a birthday cake for the child having a birthday party with their mum, perhaps for the first time in their life.  The private support really comes into play by providing all of the additional elements of programs that government contracts just don’t pay for, like enrichment activities, sports, and cultural engagements. The government really only pays for a roof over their head and required “case management”, not the items that can make a huge impact on that family for the long term. 

Are your funding sources stable?

The government funding is relatively stable, but where they fall short is with regard to two things: for example, we signed a new 5 year contract with a government agency that has no inflation or cost of living increases built in over that term.  So ultimately, we end up with a 2 – 4 % cut per year. Secondly, as many who work in social services know, the contract models don’t really enable organizations to provide the service in the way that we know it should be provided.  They contract on capacity but they pay on utilization, so the non-profit is always left subsidizing any unused capacity. 

For instance, you’re contracted to have ten beds available at any time, but if you only have eight kids in those beds, you’re carrying the extra two beds of capacity without actually being paid for it. To relate it back to the construction industry, it would be like a company having to lease 5 bulldozers for a job, but only getting paid to lease 4 of them and carrying the cost of the fifth one on their own.

How are referrals made to Parrott Creek for participants in your programs?

Overall, we work with children and families who are pretty deeply involved in our systems of care for one reason or another. They come to us through one government agency or another. Many of them are referred through child welfare systems, which means social services is involved because of concerns about safety, exposure to violence or trauma, or something of that nature. The government determines that we can help provide the best, or most needed, services to them.

At the same time, we are building towards developing an outpatient treatment service that would be more available to private referrals, so that, for instance, parents struggling with their children would be able to call us for help.  It’s not something we’re ready for yet, but it’s something we’re building towards.

Why do you see that there is a need for your services?

There’s a need for our services on different levels.  On one level, human beings are, sadly, fallible.  They make mistakes.  When they’re traumatized, they often get into generational cycles of traumas, where a trauma that a parent experiences gets replicated or repeated with their children, either by themselves or the situation that they’re in. As a society, we haven’t always done the best job of intervening in trauma, helping them heal and not repeating that behavior further down the road.

Additionally, people have trouble accessing minimum wage jobs and housing.  We have issues in this country with economic inequality, and all of those factors make it so that people struggle, have challenges and don’t have opportunities that some of us benefit from.  Those issues can compound on each other and snowball until one challenge causes another one, and then a third one, etc.

For example, a parent is referred to us because they’re struggling with addiction and social services is threatening to remove their child from their care. So, the parent works with Parrott Creek to access substance misuse treatment.  To achieve the best outcome, they should enter residential treatment, but if they do that, they would lose access to their housing.  This means that they have to choose between their best treatment option and maintaining housing. If they enter residential treatment, they likely lose their children and their housing, as well. So we’re asking them to make those impossible choices – to choose between being clean and sober and keeping their kids or affordable housing.  It shouldn’t be either or, it should be both.  We should provide them the right level of treatment to beat their addiction and keep their kids in their care and have enough support to do that.  Making someone homeless is the worst way of helping stabilize their life.

Oregon ranks 50th in the nation for drug and alcohol treatment programs and behavioral health treatment for adults, and we’re near that for children’s services, too. The government doesn’t design things this way.  It’s not intentional. It’s just that they don’t always connect the dots.  We could benefit from private sector companies that specialize in logistics, for instance, to help evaluate these programs to provide better outcomes. So that ties back to funding. While it’s relatively stable, the limiting contract models can get in the way of providing the most appropriate service that deliver life-long impacts.

What benefit does Parrott Creek provide to our community?

Our programs are often a diversion from youth going into prisons. We try to engage at risk youth with the community and keep them as far away from the ‘formal’ justice system as possible. Generally, it’s less expensive for the community for them to be at Parrott Creek than to be in a prison, and perhaps more importantly, they have better outcomes. In our program for youth with sexually inappropriate behaviors, we have nearly a 100% success rate – meaning they won’t repeat those behaviors – if they complete that treatment.

In the residential program, the re-offending rate is about half the statewide average, as compared to those who end up in correctional facilities. We also see our work as a preventive for the future of our community.  If we’re contracted to work with an adult who is struggling with addiction and we can help that parent solve their problems, we’re often able to break that cycle and prevent those same problems from being passed on to their kids.

Someone who makes a mistake and struggles with substance misuse needs support to get them back to parenting appropriately and safely.  A youth who has committed a crime needs education so that they don’t commit it again and can become a valuable member of society. Supporting and investing in programs like Parrott Creek is an investment in our future.  If we can break cycles of trauma and violence and homelessness, then we can have healthier, more wholesome, more nurturing communities, which in turn is best for all of us.

One in every two of us have family members who have experienced abuse, trauma or neglect in some way.  It might be that your sister was sexually assaulted, or your cousin has a drug addiction. Maybe you have a sibling who lost their housing and lived in their car for a few months. Literally, about 50% of the population have close family members and friends who have been touched by trauma, abuse, neglect or addiction.  So, at some level, most of us need support for these things.

https://youtu.be/_8eNyJ5MuyE

What effect have you guys seen on the community because of COVID?

We’re beginning to see the effects of what we suspected was going on but was very much hidden.  Collectively, we’re beginning to see that the acuity of abuse that kids have suffered is higher. During COVID, there were fewer referrals on child abuse hotlines, but the severity of their abuse and neglect was higher.  This is because a lot of kids fell under the radar, and it was only the real extreme cases that got reported because they ended up in the hospital or the police were involved. So we are now we’re seeing other cases emerge and the severity of abuse has increased. 

The other impact of COVID is that because everyone is fearful and a bit cautious, they’re uncertain about how much they can start doing again. A family who is struggling with addiction is always very hesitant to engage in support, and COVID has made people even more insular and not able or willing to reach out and accept help. While it’s always been a struggle to engage with families, it’s now harder because of the last year and a half.

A lot of us in the social service sector are also worried about when the eviction moratoriums expire, that families who haven’t been made homeless yet are about to lose that security.  We’re worried about what the compounding issues that might cause.  No one faults a landlord for wanting their rent, they deserve that.  But we may see a wave of homelessness, which then triggers a lot of other very negative consequences.

The other impact of COVID and this strange year economically is that the hiring and recruitment challenges of today are permeating the social services sector, as well.  We’re finding it extremely difficult to find talent.  The wages for social service employees tend to be pretty depressed and these people are already being paid at the low end of the salary bracket for very hard work.  So, we’re finding it difficult to hire new people.

What can the community do to support Parrott Creek?

Dollars always help, as most know. And there’s different ways people can help.  We’re always looking for donors to pay for the additional services where a small donation can have a big impact, such as buying a birthday cake for a child who’s never had one before, or for a youth to get engaged in a basketball program. In terms of bigger investments, we hire masters level therapists to work with our youth even though the government won’t pay for that level of care.  We know that this level of training and professional care is needed.

We also like to work with local business partners who can provide vocational training opportunities. Our kids might benefit from a visit to a place with Perlo, or a Miles Fiberglass. Maybe a tattoo parlor. We like to work with our local community businesses to show our youth the careers that they might not otherwise have imagined could be for them.

It’s also helpful when we get donations for the children and families particularly at Christmas time. We appreciate that we get quilts donated so that each youth gets a new quilt when they arrive here. The community might think about getting involved in a volunteer day to do things like landscaping, or re-painting the rooms in the housing areas, or things like that.

Tell us what your Week of Giving is all about?

Our week of giving is all about opportunities for us to share all of the work we do in much more detail.  We will release a video per day that focuses on aspects of our services and providing more insight to that. We will explain our residential, outpatient, children and mothers’ programs. It’s a way, particularly with COVID, to show the work that we do. We hope to inspire others ways to support us, either in donations, for volunteer hours or finding partners to show vocations to our youth. 

And we want to share our vision for what we want to achieve at Parrott Creek and let people know how they can partner with us and stay informed. As much as we say that our staff walks alongside our youth, we also want our community to walk alongside us and the vision that we have.

What is planned for the future of Parrott Creek?

Our big vision is to become a regional center of excellence in the service and treatment support for children and families. Here’s the bigger picture: We have a plan to rebuild our residential treatment campus just outside of Oregon City. It will include brand new buildings that are trauma informed and as carbon neutral as possible.

We aim not only to provide the best possible treatment to the youth onsite, but also to provide access to the 80 acres of land that we have. And we want to provide additional outpatient support to the community. 

We want to partner with the Native Americans that this land came from by providing those communities access and benefit to the land that we sit on. We’d also like for inner-city and BIPOC communities to access the land and our model of services.

We don’t want to settle for good enough, but to always aim for the best of what’s really needed. What’s ‘good enough’ is the minimum service that the government provides, but we don’t want that to be all we do. We want buildings that are of a quality and grade that is really the best for those children and families that need it. We want it to be the best because these families deserve that, as well as the best opportunities to thrive and recover. We want to give them the best possible opportunity to be successful in the future. We want them to feel as loved and as loving as we want all of us to be.

What is your ultimate hope for our community?

I hope that one day we aren’t needed anymore. I want to fast forward and find that organizations like Parrott Creek aren’t needed, or at least not at the scale that we currently operate at. I’d like to be able to close our living units because we’ve turned the tap off of violence and abuse and it isn’t being passed on from generation to generation any longer.

What else would you like people to know?

I’d love for people to know that they can come visit our residential site. It’s a special place to be. I also want people to know that our vision is doable – it’s doable if we all believe in it, support it, and don’t settle for good enough. We keep aiming for the best. Lastly, we are really thankful to Perlo and companies like yours for all of their contributions. Several years of really engaging and deeply supporting and investing in our work makes a big difference, and we are so grateful.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been moved by the work that Parrott Creek does for our community, you can find out more about them on their website located at www.pcreek.org/. To participate in their Week of Giving, visit www.pcreek.org/parrott-creeks-week-of-giving-for-a-year-of-impact/

Finally, we’d like to thank Simon for sharing the story of Parrott Creek with us. Thank you for all you do.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought confusion, stress and anxiety to our world earlier this year, and those elements are persisting today. In Oregon, construction was deemed an essential business, and as such, Perlo has been able to continue operations with some modifications to ensure health and safety. We are grateful that we have been able to maintain the employment of nearly 400 people, as well as hundreds of subcontracted employees working on our jobsites, and have done so safely

When it was clear that construction activity would resume, we assembled a task force to look at ways that we can best support our employees and our communities. While Perlo was fortunate to continue operating, many other businesses were either shut down, or severely restricted, and we wanted to find a way to help them. Out of this effort, our #rebuildtogether campaign was born.  

What is the #rebuildtogether campaign?

#rebuildtogether is a support and giving campaign that is designed to help the communities we live and work in during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that a collective effort to sustain and rebuild businesses hardest hit by the measures put in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 will help everyone in our economy to recover and eventually thrive. Our hope is that by providing care to our own employees and non-profit partners, as well as bringing revenue to other local businesses, we will inspire others to pitch in, help where each of us can and come out of this pandemic stronger on the other side.       

The campaign has so far included efforts to provide food to both our internal employees, as well as members of the community that have no prior connection to Perlo at all. After all, there is joy in sharing a meal.  

Our internal company efforts have included, among other things, purchasing and distributing fresh produce boxes from Caruso Produce to all field and office employees at least once per month. In June, we also donated more than 15 of those produce boxes to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services, True Housing, and Sunshine Pantry in Tigard. 


The Big Idea

Externally, we sought to develop an even bigger idea, which culminated in partnering with ten locally owned restaurants to provide 50 free meals to their customers. In addition to funding the meals (up to $25 per order), Perlo provides a $250 tip to the restaurant staff, and the efforts to design and produce associated marketing materials. In this way, we hope to do our part to make sure that Perlo isn’t alone when this pandemic ends. We want all of the surrounding businesses to survive, too.

Our Restaurant Partners

Our commitment includes partnering with ten restaurants at a rate of one per week. There are an overwhelming number of restaurants in and around the Portland Metro area that can use support during this time. Our choices for partnerships were made based in part on restaurants we have used in the past for events and company lunches, spreading the effort across our region to reach communities where our employees live, and most importantly, finding restaurants that are locally owned and operated.  

Our partners to date have included:  

Cheryl’s on 12th

Located on 12th street in downtown Portland, Cheryl’s on 12th was founded by Cheryl & Ed Casey.  At the time of our partnership, they reported that more than 60% of their pre-COVID business was for corporate and special event catering – most of which ceased when businesses shut down. Perlo utilized their services for delivering lunches to many of our jobsites to show our appreciation for our field crews.  We are grateful for their participation in launching the first of our free meals program.

Stark Street Pizza

Stark Street Pizza specializes in New York style crispy crust pizza and has been serving pizza in southeast Portland since 1965. Their service was modified for curbside pick-up when the COVID restrictions occurred. Stark Street Pizza was great about taking some fun photos of their staff and customers and gave away their 50 free meals within 6 hours of opening. 

Breakside Brewery – Slabtown

With unique beers and pub style eats, Breakside Brewery in Slabtown was a partnership borne from the suggestion of one of our long-time clients, Capstone Partners. A tenant in one of their buildings, Breakside Brewery serves up good food and craft beer.  Started in 2010, Breakside now has two other locations in Portland and Milwaukie, and in 2019 became one of only a handful of employee-owned breweries across the entire country. 

Cruise In Country Diner

This staple of Hillsboro serves up some of the best burgers in town!  Located on the busy corner of Farmington and River roads, the Cruise In Country Diner is locally owned and operated, and serves natural and organic meats, homemade shakes and fries, and purchases their products from local suppliers as much as possible.  The #rebuildtogether effort served up 105 burgers, including to our own Elissa Looney, Senior Manager, whose family lives near the diner. 

El Sol de Mexico – Tigard

El Sol de Mexico holds a soft spot in Perlo hearts, as it’s located just across from our previous office location on 72nd Avenue in Tigard and was a popular lunch destination within walking distance for our employees.  Serving up classic Mexican dishes, their fajitas, enchiladas and burritos can’t be beat!  Open for lunch and dinner, El Sol will also package their delicious salsa in take home containers for families to enjoy.  A few of our Perlo families dined here during the campaign giveaway, including Project Manager Adam Smelley and his family.  They reported that the cheese enchilada and beef taco combo were delicious!

Fat Moose Bar & Grill

The restaurant located furthest from our headquarters, Fat Moose Bar & Grill is a staple of Woodland, Washington. Many of our employees live in or around the Woodland area, and one of our owners, Jeff Perala, grew up with the owner of Fat Moose Bar & Grill.  With classic burgers, sandwiches and wraps, Fat Moose is a great place for meals and has a parking lot large enough to accommodate boat parking for those coming off a day of fun on the nearby lakes. 

Ancestry Brewing

With three locations, including their flagship location in Tualatin, Ancestry Brewing creates all of its product at its Tualatin location. Family owned, Ancestry crafts their own brews, with IPA’s in American, Irish, English and Belgian styles as well as seasonal and barrel aged beer. Their food menu includes delicious starters, salads, burgers and sandwiches. Perlo Office Coordinator Kelsey Kirkpatrick toured their facility with Ancestry’s Jeremy and Suzanne. 

Po’ Shines Cafe

Perhaps our most inspiring restaurant, Po’ Shines café not only provides good food to its neighborhood, it also fulfills a larger mission to supply food to hungry citizens and job skills training to inner-city youth. With more than 10,000 meals donated to the community so far, Po’ Shines has stepped up in even bigger ways during the COVD-19 pandemic. Their efforts have included feeding seniors for free during the week, and nearly 500 meals each weekend to Portland’s homeless population. 

General Manager John Tolbert reports that though some of their regular catering gigs have slowed, their regular customers have continued to show up for take-out during the shutdown, and they are grateful for that support. They have also increased their business with Multnomah county, supplying many of the meals for county run homeless shelters and food pantries. 

Po’ Shines doesn’t yet know when they will be able to reopen their culinary school for in-person classes but are researching options for virtual classes in the interim.  When they can resume, they plan to re-open the culinary school program, and will be incorporating classes for 14 – 22 year old youth who are in need of job training.  

Perlo’s Director of Business Development, Todd Duwe, says “their fried cat fish and hush puppies are one of my Blazer game go-to’s”. We may not know when we’ll be able to attend a Blazer game next, but if you’re in the mood for a little southern soul food, swing by their brick and mortar store for some takeout soon! 

Jimmy O’s Pizzeria

Owned by the dynamic husband and wife duo, Matt and Janae Petrous serve up delicious pizzas in Beavercreek, Oregon! Staunch supporters or their community, when Perlo approached them about partnering for the #rebuildtogether campaign, they immediately looked for ways they could pass on the ‘giving’ in turn.  Their generous spirit is exactly the kind of thing we want to support.  In the mood for pizza? This free food deal will be available on July 30th, so make sure to grab a pizza at Jimmy O’s on that day!

Pearl’s Place

Perlo partnered with a brand new Gladstone take-out restaurant known as Pearl’s Place. A rebirth of the well-known caterer, Two Girls Catering, Pearl’s Place is owner Pam McClung’s restaurant reinvention that was borne out of the closure of her catering business due to COVID-19. Pam had to shift her entire business strategy and has done so in a very short amount of time. A true ‘rebuild’, we are glad to support Pam’s new endeavor, and hope you’ll check them out very soon!

Where do we go from here?

Though our efforts with the weekly restaurant campaign is nearing an end, our commitment to helping rebuild our communities is not. 

In addition to continuing to support our employees and non-profit partners, we are also committed to helping our customers retrofit their physical spaces in preparation of employees returning to the office, or to provide upgrades to increase their health and safety measures as we all respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Special Projects Group has completed research into a variety of physical building changes that may help to prevent the spread of illness in commercial spaces. Our teams are prepared to engage to make any changes a building may need to help safely bring team members back to work. For more information, check out the information outlined here. If cost is an issue, please let us know. We care about our community, and will do our part to help make spaces safe for your employees. 

Our #rebuildtogether campaign continues to evolve, and we aren’t done with our work, yet. Watch this space for further announcements about ways Perlo is giving back to our community. 

A Call to Action

Undoubtedly, the way forward will take all of us working together. If you’ve been inspired by our efforts or have received free food through our #rebuildtogether campaign and are in a position to do so, we encourage you to find small ways to pay it forward to others around you. 

If we all pitch in, we will come out of this stronger on the other side and with our community businesses intact.   

There’s no question that the effects of this pandemic will be hard-hitting and long-lasting. We can give up. Or we can dig in. To get through this challenge, we’ll need to rethink, restore, and rebuild. And we’ll need to continue to pull together as a company and a community.

At Perlo, we have a strong culture of connecting our people and our communities. We believe that by doubling down on our efforts to bring everyone together, we can find a way through. In short, we believe that by helping others, we all win.

Finding our purpose.

Gayland Looney, co-owner of Perlo, believes that the best way to face our fears is to identify our purpose. In his mind, there’s no better purpose than having the opportunity to help others.

Gayland shares a story of when he was suffered a badly broken ankle on a hunting trip in the Idaho wilderness a few years ago. He remembers the fear on everyone’s faces. But what he discovered was that if he gave each person a purpose – basically a simple task of helping – people started to relax.

“I think we all need a purpose in order to deal with our fears in a productive way,” Gayland offers. “By being able to put one foot in front of the other, we feel better.”

His idea is backed by scientific research. Helping others not only provides a sense of purpose, it lowers depression, regulates our emotions, and improves our overall emotional well-being.

Finding ways to help.

There are many things each of us can do to keep “putting one foot in front of the other.” Take, for example, a recent blood drive we held for the Red Cross. 27 brave Perlo volunteers stepped up to donate their blood, ringing in a grand total of 24 pints of blood collected. These efforts were not insignificant. In fact, this amount of blood translated to potentially 72 lives saved.

Another great example of pitching in to help was an effort led by our own Kimberly Wood, Director of Corporate Risk Management. Recognizing that crew members would have a hard time tracking down masks at the onset of the crisis, she took on the herculean task of launching a massive mask sewing project. She singlehandedly created mask kits that included ready-cut materials and how-to instructions. She then recruited co-workers, including Rebecca Cook, and even Perlo family members to join the team. This crew made close to 1,000 masks in one weekend. Since then, Rebecca has expanded the mask initiative and organized another crew to create even more masks. The net result is that “Project Mask” has created enough masks for all field workers as well as family members, partners, and even clients.

Crystal Bentley, Lead Assistant Project Manager at Perlo, launched her own initiative to help out. She grew vegetable starts and then gave them away for free to people in the community. As she shares, “Being able to grow your own food is empowering. I want to show others that you can grow food anywhere.”

Pulling together to help out doesn’t have to be a huge project. Everything counts – even the small efforts such as picking up groceries for elderly neighbors or making a donation to a local non-profit.  

Inspiration from our Perlo partners.

We’re inspired by our partners who are stepping up to help out in really important ways. Here’s a peek at what some of them are doing.

Alpine Foods

A local food distributor, Alpine Foods, is filling a critical need and finding strategic ways to make a difference. Some of their community initiatives include donating food to Gleaners of Clackamas County, a non-profit that is committed to reducing hunger and waste by distributing food to low-income, senior, and disabled people throughout Clackamas County. Alpine Foods is also assisting with local school nutrition programs, supporting USDA box programs, and distributing sandwiches to the homeless in and around Portland. In addition, Alpine Foods is providing regular meals for their own internal teams.

Capstone Partners

Capstone Partners, headed up by Chris Nelson, has taken a proactive and hands-on approach to helping out where help is most needed. Chris and his Capstone team are providing immediate rent relief to his tenants, which include restaurants, shops, and other retail businesses that have been hit the hardest. This initiative provides actual rent forgiveness for a period of time to help tenants navigate their financial challenges.

Capstone has played a pivotal role in supporting United for Relief, an advocacy group comprised of business and real estate representatives that is seeking a “right to defer” rule that would stop lenders from declaring default for missed mortgage payments. Their efforts would go a long way to protect tenants during this COVID emergency. Ultimately, this rule would be a win/win for both tenants and landlords.

Stoller Family Estate

Stoller Family Estate, another Perlo partner, has gone above and beyond to reach out to vulnerable community members. They’re donating a considerable portion of sales from select wines to Meals on Wheels, an organization that has spent the past 50 years meeting the social and nutritional needs of older adults in the community.

Stoller has also launched a “Making a Case for Giving” initiative that’s a proceeds-matching program to help raise funds for non-profits in the area.

Spreading the Perlo net of support.

Every day we look for ways both big and small to build the fabric of our community. We’re supporting the efforts of Healing Arts Animal Care by loaning tall cones for signage to help safely treat animal patients outdoors. We’re continuing to provide resources to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services, a group dedicated to building stronger families and safer communities.

Perlo is contributing funds to Providence Cancer Center, along with personal donations from Gayland Looney and others, to ensure the center’s important work continues. When the center’s annual fundraising dinner had to be canceled due to COVID-19, we turned our sponsorship into a direct donation.

A big idea to help out.

To make a big difference, we’re looking at how we can create the most impact by focusing on what we do best, which of course, is to build. To capitalize on our strengths, we’re launching a new program called “#RebuildTogether.”

We’ll focus on our local restaurants through a hands-on sponsorship program. Our plan is to sponsor a total of ten local restaurants to help them through this time. They’ve been there for us, so we want to be there for them. Stay tuned for more updates on this “big idea.”

Moving forward.

As a culture and a company, Perlo will continue to strengthen its purpose by fostering connections with our families, our co-workers, and our communities. As Gayland puts it, “There’s no better way to move forward than by reaching out and helping out.”