By Ryan Velez
Despite the many issues the country is facing today, one that should be careful not to forget is last year’s crisis in Flint, Michigan. It was estimated that roughly 100,000 African-American residents were allowed to drink toxic tap water. The city declared a state of emergency, was visited by Barack Obama, and was hit with hundreds of lawsuits. Now, The Network Journal reports that there is still much work to be done to get Flint back to a proper standard, and one Black-owned business is at the front of the change.
Entrepreneur and former NBA player Jeff Grayer explains that “This is home for me and my family and I wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing as a person or as a businessman.” Grayer is the project manager of WT Stevens Construction, a minority women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) headed by his wife, Rhonda and her family. WT Stevens is one of four companies recently contracted by court order to replace over 18,000 lead corroded pipes across the city of Flint. In addition, it is the only African American-owned and locally-based company to be awarded a multi-million dollar service contract on this expansive project. The company has been in business for over 25 years and employs 25 full and part time workers.
Grayer did not share specifics on the work, but mentioned that “This is the biggest project our company has ever done and as a result of the water line contract our gross revenues have increased by about 70 percent.” He notes that around 800 water lines have been replaced so far, with him expecting to have 6,000 replaced at year’s end. At the moment, the target is to have all 18,000 lead corroded residential pipes replaced by December of 2019.
For Grayer, Flint-post water crisis is going to be primarily focused on rebuilding and reinvigorating the city, ideally with providing an entrepreneurial spark to the community. “Our company is usually the only African-American-owned business to respond to a request for proposals for various Flint city contracts even now after the court rulings related to the water crisis,” he said. “This is a major project that will ensure public safety and start rebuilding trust between the city and the community…something that has been missing awhile.”