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Starkowicz Is Management Chair At Project BEST

Starkowicz

WHEELING — Local contractors have selected Ohio Valley Construction Employers Council Executive Director Eric Starkowicz to represent them through Project BEST.

Starkowicz has been on the job at the OVCEC since July, but he explained the last six months have been a transitional period for him and the organization. He had been working alongside former OVCEC Executive Director Jack Ramage, who officially retired at the end of 2021.

Now, contractors who are members of the Project BEST board of directors have selected Starkowicz to succeed Ramage as co-chair of Project BEST representing management. The second co-chair, Jody Bonfini of the Eastern States Regional Council of Carpenter, represents labor.

“There has been a lot of confusion between what is the OVCEC and what Project BEST,” Starkowicz explained. “Over the years, they appeared to be one organization run by the same person — Tom Cerra.

“The OVCEC represents union contractors who employ union workers. The (Eastern States Regional Council of Carpenters) represents the union labor members. Project BEST is a coalition of union and labor.”

The Project BEST office is located within the OVCEC’s office building at 21 Armory Drive in Wheeling.

Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, recently was hired by Project BEST to be its first executive director with the full-time duty of running the organization.

“The biggest change at Project BEST — other than hiring Erikka — will be a major shift in our approach,” Starkowicz said. “Before the job always was a part-time commitment of someone with other jobs.

“She has construction experience, and connections throughout the region that will reshape things. That’s why we hired someone like Erikka. She will bring new perspective, and that’s what Project BEST needs at this time.”

Starkowicz said the last six months have been “a long but fluid transition” as he came to know those in the area involved with construction.

“I wouldn’t say anything was surprising,” he said. “I have been learning all about a new area, and meeting new contractors. It (the job) has been as advertised.

“Anytime you go somewhere new there’s going to be historical things you didn’t know about, and you have to come up with ways to manage them as best as possible.”

Outlook for the Ohio Valley, development and construction in the coming months “looks great,” according to Starkowicz.

“It’s as great as members can remember,” he said. “The highway folks are enthused with the infrastructure money being infused in the state. Other members are enthused with businesses moving to our area, and the potential for development.

“We’re well-positioned coming out of the post-pandemic world. Hard times are finally going to pay off for the region. It is accessible, and other businesses will see it. It’s a great jumping off spot, and we’re very optimistic.”

He agrees more workers are going to have to be enticed to go into the construction trades.

“It’s not a secret labor has been one of the biggest strains globally, but we are confident in the work our union trades partners are doing,” Starkowicz said.

Recruiting future construction labor is going to be a focus of Storch, he said.

“I am excited to see what plans Erikka and the board will put together to do more aggressive outreach, and reach students and their families about family-sustaining careers in the construction trades,” Starkowicz said.

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