Meet Melvin Henley of PAC Leaders

DateApril 14, 2023
Melvin Henley

This article is republished with the permission of Nashville Voyager. The original article can be found here.

Hi Melvin, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?

"I am a 20-year Chicago certified Union Carpenter by trade. I graduated Valedictorian from elementary school and took carpentry for four years as my major at a vocational high school. After graduating from high school and from an accelerated program at DePaul University, I began my career as a carpenter in 2002. Over the next 15 years, I worked diligently to learn many different facets of carpentry and major components of leadership. I am a certified Journeyman with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) and has received my Foreman and Superintendent training certificates and two leadership training certifications from the UBC International Training Center. On November 21, 2017, I founded PAC (Project and Construction) Leaders, a general contracting and construction management company, as the first step to materializing my vision of a broad and positive community impact. Adopting my personal philosophies, PAC Leaders is dedicated to serving clients’ needs with the highest level of integrity, honesty through ethical behavior, attention to detail, and best industry practices. Whether servicing past commercial clients like the Salvation Army or The Chicago History Museum, completing restaurant/retail build-outs for small businesses or executing scopes of work for new construction or structural carpentry projects, this is the culture PAC Leaders maintains and promotes.

Along with delivering a quality product to our clients, my goal is to ignite the next generation with a passion for the trades. Following the plan, I added to my credentials in March 2017 by becoming a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certified instructor/performance evaluator/curriculum proctor. I have taught NCCER accredited curricula in the Roseland, Bronzeville, and Altgeld Garden Homes communities. Fueled by my passion for training, the forthcoming PAC Leadership Academy will meet the need for acutely trained tradespeople by focusing on proficiency in the trades while cultivating leadership mentalities in its mentees through a pre-apprenticeship program. As a signatory carpenter contractor, PAC Leaders has sponsored students already into an apprenticeship with the Carpenters Union. By creating an environment where students take pride in their education and the quality of their output, the Academy will become an incubator for future leaders in the skilled trades.

The third entity of the PAC Leaders brand, PAC Leaders Development Group, will spearhead PAC’s mission for community reinvestment. Positioned for real estate acquisition and new construction projects, the Development Group will focus its resources in disadvantaged areas and opportunity zones in Chicago. PAC Leaders (general contracting) and PAC Leaders Development Group will partner to tackle two major issues in Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods: the need for community development and employment. By training and employing residents from these neighborhoods, PAC will involve them in direct efforts to improve their communities.

Years of experience, lessons learned, and growth have brought the PAC Leaders brand to this point. Vision, planning, and intentional action will take them into a prosperous future. With Chicago as the backdrop, PAC is on its journey as a pioneer in a new class of prime contractors–a journey mapped out to lead PAC to success; one concerned with the prosperity of its students, subcontractors, and clients, and the further beautification of the cityscape. As we were blessed to work with Magellan Development, at the W Nashville, in the respected “Gulch”, we are poised to spread this culture nationally."

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I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?

"It has not been an easy road. We are scaling, so access to capital will always be top of mind. Next would be skilled and self-motivated labor, which is one of the reasons we became a signatory company. We hired our first w2 employees, in the heart of the pandemic last year, since our projects were deemed “essential”. One notable project/challenge was a Medical Center that we renovated, while the parking lot became a Covid-19, testing site. Right now, I believe aligning ourselves with sustainable projects and partnerships has become the newest challenge. We are prepared to travel, obviously how we ended up in Nashville."

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?

"As a company, we offer skilled labor and decades of experience to push projects forward and help stimulate our local economy. I have loved carpentry and construction for as long as I can remember. As an employer, we offer income and inspiration. I am a Certified Craft Instructor and have a passion for training. As such, I co-train a pre-apprenticeship program where we give individuals a solid foundation and prime them for entry into the unionized apprenticeship program.

We will be preferred choice amongst construction clients and an incubator for competent tradespeople and future entrepreneurs in the trades.

We are focused on shifting the culture of construction in Chicago, especially as it relates to minority-owned construction firms. The classification of Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE) is a “golden ticket” that many larger companies will use by partnering with MBE companies in order to win bids that require minority participation. In these instances, it is evident that the impetus for these collaborations is execution of a contract, not elevation of the community.

Now, this isn’t to say that our competitors do not care about the community, but the chatter within the community regarding our respective companies is much different.

People understand that we are growing in business, investing in the people, and promoting an interbusiness ecosystem centered around a culture of “learn, learn-to-teach, teach-to-teach”. We are a for-profit business, but our focus is the education, employment, and elevation of our community. We want to physically build the buildings in our neighborhoods while psychologically and financially building the members of those neighborhoods."

PAC Leaders helped rebuild one of Chicago’s last independently-owned newsstands after it was struck by a drunk driver."

"NBC did an evening news story to highlight our efforts to train/employ people from the community."

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Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?

"I love entrepreneurship and the role it plays in building families, communities, and economies. It is such an honor and a pleasure to build and improve the spaces where these visionaries carry out their business. The clients who we connect with–and, subsequently, sign contracts with–seem to share our love for community-building. Our marketing efforts are focused on putting our love for our communities front and center. And our ideal clients are community builders with the same values."