An ex-offender who served time for mail fraud is now hiring other former inmates for positions in ten different start-ups, including one, Work Pittsburgh, that is building modular homes in the Pittsburgh area. Daniel Bull founded Zero Six Eight as a for-profit incubator with one distinct qualification: you have to be an ex-offender or be willing to hire ex-offenders.
When Work Pittsburgh advertised for work-training jobs last year, 200 people showed. Of them, 12 were hired, 11 are ex-cons. Bull is not paid for his position, as post-gazette tells MHProNews—he is a partner at Nello Construction, which supports Zero Six Eight with tools, contacts and insurance.
Zero Six Eight derives its name from numbers that identify prisoners from the Pittsburgh area. Mr. Bull’s record will not allow him to have investors, so he has to be creative to keep the operations working. “All of the businesses we work with are partners whose contributions include a portion of the payroll,” Mr. Bull said. He compared the arrangement to a cooperative. “We can never raise private capital, so we must adapt to survive.”
Zero Six Eight bought the old Berger Industrial Park on Pittsburgh’s south side. It now houses offices, incubators and Work Pittsburgh, which has contacts to build high-end and affordable modular homes. A model in the warehouse built with tongue-and-groove cedar siding and bamboo floors is for sale for $64,000, a price that would make the company a profit.
The workers earn prevailing wages and receive benefits as carpenter trainees, and if they work for Work Pittsburgh two years, they get a modular home. While in prison, and with a business background, Bull began coaching other prisoners on possible careers when they got out.
Real estate firm Pritchard Hill Capital is now working with Zero Six Eight to build 16 modular homes on a site above Station Square. Ben Mantica, Pritchard’s founder, rented an apartment to two of the former inmates.
“We’re excited to be part of this,” said Mr. Mantica, who himself is incubating small businesses, in food service, at Smallman Galley in the Strip. “We believe in what they are doing. My partners and I are ex-Navy. I did counter-piracy off Somalia, and I see the correlation — guys who were deprived of opportunities, when piracy was the only way to make money.” ##
(Photo credit:National Association of Home Builders–modular home under construction)
Article submitted by Matthew J. Silver to Daily business News-MHProNews.