In September of 2019, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Rockford Construction announced the hiring of Kent Jackson to join its top leadership team at the company’s downtown Detroit office. Serving as vice president, Jackson’s responsibilities include overseeing business development, pre-construction, project management, and other initiatives and services.
Jackson, a Detroit native, is excited to use his 25-year plus experience and expertise in construction, to help Rockford empower his hometown through creative and innovative construction, management and business development endeavors.
“A large part of my responsibility is to help Rockford identify opportunities and help the company better connect with clients, potential clients, businesses and communities in Metro Detroit,” said Jackson. “In essence, I’m here to help grow the footprints of Rockford Construction.”
Jackson is elated by the volume of construction projects Rockford’s leadership team is currently overseeing in the Motor City, to include the former Standard Accident Insurance Company building, located at 640 Temple St., just west of the Masonic Temple. According to Jackson, the $72 million project is a mixed-use venture that will convert the almost 100-year-old building into a 100-room hotel, complete with retail and restaurant space.
Other Rockford projects, in various stages of completion in Detroit, include the extensive interior renovation of St. Regis Hotel in Midtown; the Leland Hotel, which is being transformed to feature 340 market-rate apartments, along with commercial and retail space; The Mid, a $310 million mixed-use development that will include a luxury boutique hotel, along with luxury and affordable housing and retail space; and the $65 million transformation of the Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex at Wayne State University, which will renovate the current Hilberry Theatre and create a large state-of-the-art theatre for music, dance and arts-related events.
Another project that Jackson and other leadership team members are working on is creating a comprehensive Workforce Development plan, designed to train and subsequently identify jobs for Detroiters in the construction industry.
“Being from Detroit, I know it’s frustrating for Detroiters to see all of this work happening in their city and not be a part or benefit from the many projects,” said Jackson. “At Rockford, we’re working on initiatives to help train people and get them involved with some of the construction projects going on in Detroit and surrounding areas.”
Jackson added that training initiatives don’t have to be solely facilitated by Rockford. The company, he said, is looking at the feasibility of partnering with other groups and entities in Metro Detroit that may already have traction in job training and education. In such cases, Rockford is ready to add its level of expertise and experience in construction, which the company has accrued since its inception in 1987. Jackson said Rockford hopes to unveil its plans for training and jobs in 2020.
Jackson‘s pathway to preparing for the construction industry began auspiciously, but with another career in mind. After graduating from Redford High School, once located on the city’s far west side, Jackson attended Michigan State University (MSU), where he majored in electrical engineering. After further investigation into his major, and advice from a fraternity brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, Jackson changed his major to building construction management. In 1991, Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree from MSU.
With a building construction management degree in hand, Jackson garnered valuable experience working with two minority-owned construction companies in Detroit: Ekklesia Building Corporation and Jenkins Construction, Inc. Jackson credits executives Eddie and Aubin Williams of Ekklesia with showing him everything about how construction works. Jackson added, however, it was James Jenkins, founder, president and CEO of Jenkins Construction that elevated him to the next level.
“James Jenkins showed me the art of the deal that’s connected to the construction industry,” Jackson said. “He allowed me to be in the room to see how deals were made and contracts signed.”
From the strong foundations of Ekklesia and Jenkins Construction, Jackson held many positions, inclusive of project engineer, superintendent, project manager, senior project manager, estimator, director of pre-construction, office general manager, and vice president, among others. In addition, his portfolio of projects before Rockford Construction included Greektown Casino, Westin Book Cadillac Detroit, University of Detroit Mercy, Gateway Marketplace, and Detroit Medical Center Cardiovascular Institute.
Seeking a company that he could further evolve and soar, with unlimited opportunities in construction, Jackson, a certified LEED Accredited Professional and a State of Michigan Licensed Builder, looked to Rockford Construction to provide new and exciting challenges in the industry. The company has not disappointed.
“We are very excited to welcome Kent to our Detroit team,” Shane Napper, President of Construction at Rockford Construction, said at the time of Jackson’s hiring. “With his extensive industry knowledge and strong relationships in the metro Detroit area, Kent will substantially grow our team and business development efforts. We look forward to leveraging Kent’s expertise.”
Jackson is glad to be aboard.
“I like the spirit and clear leadership of the company,” said Jackson. “While clear, the company is not afraid to take chances. It’s a very smart and diverse company.”
“I’m happy to be with a company that believes in the city of Detroit, and not just through brick and mortar,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of the Rockford leadership team that’s dedicated to helping my hometown and the entire Metro Detroit move forward in many ways.”