In City Bike Racks, an Opportunity For Local Employment 

The city was all set to send $25,000 off to a Minnesota company to buy a fresh batch of bike racks for installation all over Richmond.

But the line item in last year's budget caught the attention of Councilman Parker Agelasto.

"The design seemed simple enough," he says. So he wondered: "Why not make them here?"

And that's what the city ended up doing, in the process training about a dozen unemployed residents how to weld.

The first two city-made bike racks will be installed this week, says Mayor Dwight Jones' press secretary, Tammy Hawley.

The program came from a collaboration among Agelasto, the mayor's work-force development initiative, the Richmond Public Schools' Technical Center and a handful of local businesses that donated materials, space and expertise.

Hawley says it's exactly the kind of program the city wants to expand in its effort to reduce poverty.

And it turns out that welders are in high demand. Paul Dillard, a sales manager with Arcet Equipment Co., which provided welding supplies, says the graduates of the program shouldn't have much trouble finding work.

"We have our own selfish reasons for doing this," he says. "We're hundreds of thousands of welders short in this country. It's crazy. … You can go out and make some really good money.

"They're doing bike racks now. But welding, it's an addictive trade. It catches you, and one of them may end up being a business owner one day. He might have his own metal shop, making a business to hand down to his children. You never know."

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