Joe Simmonds, a 19-year member of Local 49, has been in the construction industry since moving to Minnesota from the U.S. Virgin Islands to owning his own construction business.
“When I finished high school in Minnesota, I joined the construction industry with my father-in-law, and I also joined the National Guard and entered into their heavy equipment program,” Simmonds said.
After completing the National Guard program, he began his career as a laborer but soon had the opportunity to become a Local 49 member and grow his skills as a heavy equipment operator.
“I started off operating mostly bobcats and backhoes for a company out in Blaine that is no longer in business, and in 2009 I began working for Bolander, and that’s where I’m still at today,” he said.
Working at Bolander, Joe has worked on projects like the Minnesota Twin’s Stadium, the St. Paul Saint’s Stadium, and the Southwest Light Rail project.
“I do mostly commercial work, and I absolutely love it. This is such a fulfilling career. I love driving around with my son and telling him all of the different buildings I’ve worked on. I like the part of building something from the bottom to top,” Simmonds said.
Now that Joe has been in the industry for nearly 20 years, he is taking on a new venture in starting his own business Simmonds Contracting Services.
“Mark Ryan, the owner of Bolander, is a great owner, and I’ve started talking to him about starting my own company, and he’s been working with me and mentoring me, especially with the estimating and the office side of running a business. I have been so fortunate to work for such a wonderful company that has been supporting me through this venture,” he said.
Joe stated that he wished more people within the African American community would enter into the trades as the construction industry can offer endless opportunities to earn a good living.
“Unfortunately, there are not a lot of black heavy equipment operators. I frequently get told by others that I’m the first black operator they’ve seen running a big 349 backhoe, and I do take great pride in that, but I wish more people from my community would see that you can enter into this industry and earn a great living with benefits,” he said.
“I enjoy this career, and I hope I can show that this career has so many possibilities and inspire others to join,” he added.
For more stories like Joe’s, visit www.local49.org.