Self-made minority contractor brings jobs and hope to lower Northeast

Posted: April 14, 2014

MICHAEL A. BROWN, who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become founder/president of Environmental Construction Services in the Far Northeast, said yesterday that he is moving his company to Oxford Circle to make it a job-providing "pillar of the community."

Brown said that in 2010 when he founded the company - which retrofits businesses to reduce their energy costs - people told him he couldn't find skilled employees in Philadelphia.

They were wrong. "In one year, I grew our company from four employees to 32 - everyone from energy auditors to union sheet metalworkers, pipe fitters and plumbers," Brown said. "I'm looking to hire another 10 to 20 people when we move to the lower Northeast. I think this is the place to do it."

That sounded good to Jared Solomon, founder of the Take Back Your Neighborhood community-improvement organization in Castor Gardens, who is running against state Rep. Mark Cohen in next month's Democratic primary for the 202nd District seat.

"Poverty is up 62 percent here since 1999," said Solomon, who got Brown interested in the lower Northeast. "Median income is down $10,000. We need jobs."

Brown said he will create internships that train young people for good jobs, and prove to disadvantaged youths that "not all minority owners are successful because they're in the music business."

Brown said he buys the ductwork that his company installs, but in moving to the lower Northeast, he wants a bigger property where he can manufacture the ductwork, creating more jobs.

Brown recalled his own youth, venturing into "the real world" to work construction, dreaming of being an engineer, "getting beat down" by people telling him, "What are you, crazy?"

He's not crazy, he said. He's an engineer. Now, he's looking for kindred souls "who won't take 'no' for an answer" to continue the journey with him.

He's looking for diamonds in the rough. Sometimes, he said, being raised in the rough is better than being raised in comfort with every need fulfilled.

"You ever see animals in the zoo, sitting around, waiting for someone to feed them, wondering, 'Is it 3 o'clock yet?' " Brown said. "Sometimes, it's better if you had to struggle, if you have a hunger about you."

He hopes to have his new plant up and running by year's end.

"My dad was in the military, working on the flight line," Brown said. "Once a year, he threw a big barbecue. Everyone came."

He said he wants to throw that same kind of barbecue in the lower Northeast for all his employees and his neighbors in the surrounding community.

"That's what I'd love to do," Brown said. He didn't say it as if it were a pipe dream. He said it as if it's going to happen.

On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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