By Sean Ryan – Reporter, Milwaukee Business Journal
Apr 14, 2023

Quinn Long, owner of Clearcut Solutions in Milwaukee, likened his first big contract with Hunzinger Construction Co. as a mentorship.

Long’s relationship with Hunzinger stretches back about six years to when he met Joan Zepecki, its director of diversity and inclusion, during a National Association of Minority Contractors Wisconsin event. Zepecki provided advice that helped set Long on the path to work on Hunzinger’s future projects.

He founded Clearcut Solutions in 2019, and shortly after landed a major contract from Hunzinger to perform concrete drilling for the bases of almost 60 pieces of manufacturing equipment on Komatsu Mining Corp.’s Milwaukee campus. Long has since expanded Clearcut Solutions with four journeymen and two apprentices, and can take on more projects.

“This was one of the best work experiences I’ve had as an owner,” he said. “This project was my first contract of this scale, and it allowed me to grow my company and hire employees.”

Clearcut Solutions is now on Hunzinger’s call list, and is working with the Brookfield contractor on other projects.

Long’s experience is just one example of the positive results Hunzinger generated when it awarded $72.8 million of construction and design work on Komatsu’s campus to small or minority-owned businesses, exceeding the goal. The project also exceeded goals for participation by workers in Milwaukee’s Residents Preference Program.

Zepecki has been with Hunzinger 28 years. She has helped the company exceed those types of participation requirements on several large, attention-grabbing projects. Its success on the construction of the Third Ward’s signature streetscape, and the stadium now called American Family Field, helped prove the viability of higher participation goals. They are now standard for projects receiving city of Milwaukee funding, for example.

“It’s important, especially for projects that are publicly funded by taxpayers, that the workforce and the subcontractors reflect the wider community,” Zepecki said. “It’s fair and reasonable for an entity that is providing funding to set those kinds of goals.”

To accomplish those results, Zepecki and Hunzinger take the effort to teach minority-owned subcontractors. That includes helping them gain certifications to count toward participation goals, and teaching them to use the software that tallies their worker hours. She helped organize “Fish Fry Friday” events to build comradery between newer minority builders and their larger peers.

“It really boils down to are you making a sincere effort? Are you really providing opportunity? Are you treating people fairly, and like you would want to be treated?” Zepecki said. “It’s very simple, but shockingly, in this business the answers are not always quite what they should be.”