More than 20 years ago, Melvin Henley embarked on a career as a carpenter in Chicago. Today, he is the president of PAC Leaders, a commercial general contractor/construction management firm. The company is also signatory to multiple Chicago unions.
Recently, Melvin announced PAC Leaders’ associate partnership with the Chicago Fire Football Club, the city’s Major League Soccer team. "We are developing the first construction management apprenticeship program to our knowledge and have teamed up with City Colleges of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools," Melvin says. "When we told Chicago Fire about what we're doing, they loved it, as we have a shared commitment to the youth of Chicago."
Melvin's passion for positively impacting the community is also evident in another project that PAC Leaders are involved in. Two years ago, the original project was featured in Architectural Digest and other newsworthy articles for the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2021 Edition: The Available City, for creating artistic structures in vacant city lots. PAC Leaders provided the entire construction back office and onsite execution, but unfortunately were not given credit in any news media. From this endeavor, the company formed an alliance with Grow Greater Englewood, where they continue to work on similar projects, including turning a decommissioned school into a community center and revamping a city plaza that will outlet for the Englewood Nature Trail.
They also formed an alliance with the Sweet Water Foundation. This has yielded many rewards as they have worked in tandem in a few cities, and are currently featured in Venice, Italy, for La Biennale Di Venezia. The wooden structure built on the south side of Chicago was disassembled, organized in a shipping container, and delivered to Forté Maghéra. “The Biennale will feature our exhibit and many others, from May 20th through November 26th,” Melvin adds.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Melvin to learn more about his company, his unwavering commitment to his community, and his personal motto.
Tell us about the construction management program you are developing:
We are serious about giving back and just hired 10 youth apprentices in a pilot program we co-developed with City Colleges of Chicago for construction management, which we are applying to become a registered apprenticeship. Having an employer work hand-in-hand with the college, while providing on-the-job training through an apprenticeship program, strictly for construction management, has not been seen anywhere else in the country. Unions don't know how to quantify what this apprenticeship looks like, and therefore run opposition. And in Right to Work States, this would also be of minimum concern. So, our saving grace was actually identifying the program, the work process schedule, the actual work and curriculum, the offices that can be held, and the hours required for each one. I've worked on this personally, with the director of the program for city colleges.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I started as an apprentice, observing everyone I worked with. I learned from people who knew more than me. For example, I worked for Kiewit for nine years and learned a lot about safety, quality and good communication. When I became superintendent for another company, I learned how to manage schedules, workers, expectations, and I eventually took all of this knowledge and started my own company.
What sets PAC Leaders apart from others in the industry?
Our culture makes us different—we're a small, BIG company, if that makes sense. I learned from working for large companies where they have a culture that you don't mind getting up and going to work, every day. Our culture is that every person is valued. I have a vested interest in ensuring deserving ones advance to another level. For example, our VP of operations started as an office manager. The company encouraged and adjusted for her continuing education and today, she oversees many departments. So, outside of good business and quality work, the culture we have and the support we offer for growth potential is from various cultures culminating throughout my career. What drives me is seeing people feel they're appreciated, learning something, and adding value.
Do you have a motto or philosophy that you live by?
We recently trademarked my motto: "Make an #imPACt, not just noise." Also, people often ask what PAC stands for—it stands for Project and Construction. Therefore, our tagline is "We are YOUR Project and Construction leaders."
President/CEO/Founder — PAC Leaders
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