GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For some, the large-scale project to restore the Grand River’s rapids is more than just a downtown revitalization effort; it’s an opportunity.

“They’re going to be doing a lot of new construction in the river, bringing in a lot of boulders and construction material, so we’re looking forward to be able to connect with them on that,” said Edwin Fabela.

Fabela’s family owns Durango JS Trucking in Byron Center. It’s a small operation, but the river work could help the business expand.  

“They’ve got a couple trucking contracts, which is what we specialize in,” explained Fabela. “Definitely it’d be a good opportunity for us to add more trucks.”

Fabela was one of dozens of contractors who showed up to a Thursday open house at Grand Rapids Community College’s Tassell M-TEC facility. The city of Grand Rapids, Grand River Whitewater and GRCC hosted the event to talk about the work that will be generated by the $44.6 million project, which is slated to start next year.

Some of the work will be in the river on projects protecting endangered species and managing invasive species. Some of the work will be onshore, ensuring the river’s edge is accessible to the public.

“We have about 15 to 20 different subcontractor opportunities that are specialized,” said Alvin Hills IV, business developer with the Grand Rapids Diversity and Inclusion Department. “From a workforce development standpoint, it’s going to be hundreds of workers who to get in the river as well as well as work alongside (it).”

And while much of the work is a year or more away, the shortage of skilled workers has not been lost on city hall.

“GRCC is our partner in that… to make sure that we kind of create a nice seamless pipeline of opportunities both from a contractual standpoint, but also from a workforce development standpoint,” explained Hills. “We’re trying to gear up now to make sure we have as many opportunities, make sure those opportunities as accessible and that information is shared to get as many people connected to those opportunities, to help sustain our river.”

More information on the projects is available at Grand Rapids River For All and Grand Rapids Whitewater.