GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has put out a help wanted ad, essentially, for companies that can manage the river restoration project.

“They’ll be the ones who engage the contracts and subcontracts, who then will do the building, the earth moving materials,” said Grand Rapids WhiteWater President and CEO Steve Heacock.

Those jobs include everything from taking the four smaller low head dams located between Bridge and Fulton Street out, to placing rocks in just the right place to create the rapids.

The city’s Request for Qualifications, proof that they can handle the task at hand, is due by April 25.

Recommendations will be sent to the city commission sometime in June.

If the state approves recently submitted permit requests, Grand Rapids WhiteWater would like to begin work this fall. 

But the request comes during worker shortages and supply chain issues.

“We can see it being a challenge, as far as materials, to get into the river. But as far as labor, people want to work,” said Ciarra C. Adkins, JD, an analyst with the City of Grand Rapids’ Office of Equity and Engagement assigned to the river restoration Project.

“We have to create opportunities for our individuals and our companies to be able to engage on the river. So, we don’t perceive a lack of interest as far as working on the river.”

While supporters say the river restoration project will transform downtown, there’s also an effort to make sure neighborhoods far from the river benefit from the project.

“We want our community to see that we’re being very intentional about inclusion here,” said Adkins.

“My role is to have an eye for equity, diversity and inclusion for the river restoration project. That means how can we imbed equity systemically? That’s policies, contracts, community engagement, opportunities, etcetera.”

Adkins has been working with nonprofits like the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses and the West Michigan Asian American Association just to name a few, to identify contractors and other businesses who could be part of the $44.6 million river restoration efforts by letting them know what’s available and what they need to be qualified to bid for jobs.

“Specifically, woman-owned businesses, minority owned businesses, small businesses who typically don’t always get a lot of opportunities for projects this big,” said Adkins. 

“This is an opportunity for economic development and benefits for our city for many years to come,” she said. “Which is why it’s so important for us to get our local companies engaged so that they can reap those opportunities.” 

While the river restoration project is expected to transform downtown Grand Rapids by bringing recreation to the river, Heacock says it could also transform who benefits from future projects.

Companies interested in managing the project need to have their qualifications into the city by April 25.