MCTAP’s leader sees plenty to build on

It's an opportunity, as Dean says, that we don't want to waste.
Willie Dean of the Minority Contractor Technical Assistance Program at 818 Albany Street in Schenectady.
Willie Dean of the Minority Contractor Technical Assistance Program at 818 Albany Street in Schenectady.

When Willie Dean looks at Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood, he sees opportunity.

On Albany Street, A $17.9 million apartment complex, named after late city councilman Joseph Allen, is taking shape. Another big project, called Hillside View, will create 58 apartments for families, seniors and veterans.

Last fall Dean was tapped to head MCTAP, a Hamilton Hill-based non-profit organization with a mission of providing minority contractors with the support and assistance they need to succeed. One of his goals is to help Schenectady residents get jobs on the construction sites in their own backyard.

“This opportunity is so unique,” Dean told me, when we met in his office on Albany Street. “We can’t let it go to waste.”

MCTAP’s mission is a worthy one.

The organization is headquartered in the heart of Hamilton Hill, a neighborhood plagued by crime, poverty and joblessness.

But there are reasons for hope.

The opportunities Dean speaks of are real enough, and a revitalized MCTAP could help an underemployed population take advantage of them. People are constantly telling me how hard it is to find skilled tradesmen and women, which makes me think we need to do a better job promoting careers in the trades. 

The Minority Contractors Technical Assistance Program has been around since the late 1990s, but until Dean stepped in its future was uncertain. Between May and October, the organization was without a leader and closure was a real possibility.

“There’s so much construction going on that I thought it was really important for (MCTAP) to become functional again,” said Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who recruited Dean to serve as president of  MCTAP. “A lot of people need work.”

Porterfield said Dean is a good fit for MCTAP because he’s organized and experienced, and also because she knew he would be willing to work for free – a necessity, given the organization’s precarious finances, which Dean, who spent his career at General Electric, hopes to rectify.  

For Dean, MCTAP’s mission is two-fold.

He wants to provide minority contractors with the guidance and expertise they need to take their businesses to the next level. He also wants to provide low-income men and women with the training they need to obtain jobs in the building trades. 

“Many of these people didn’t finish high school,” said Dean, who is calm and serious and available to anyone who walks through MCTAP’s doors. “Many had kids. Many don’t have jobs and haven’t had jobs and want to do better.”

As president of MCTAP, his goals range from helping contractors with paperwork, getting a van to help transport workers to job sites, hosting a lecture series on the building trades and finding tenants to occupy the MCTAP building’s many empty rooms.

Dean has already found two tenants. One of them is S & L Masonry, a minority-owned company that has already found work on the Hillside View project.

“We want to show other companies that are trying to start up that they can come here and make their businesses grow,” Steve Stukes, the owner of S & L, told me. “We want to get kids off the corner. I want to let people know that coming to work for my company is a great-paying opportunity, that they can take a paycheck home that will feed their families. You’ve just got to have the mindset – I can get you the skills.”

Over the years, city officials have questioned MCTAP’s effectiveness. Dean, who served as president of MCTAP in 2007, told me he resigned because the organization’s board rejected one of his proposals. Now he’s optimistic that his second stint with MCTAP will see the organization become a one-stop shop for contractors and young men and women seeking a better life.

Dean’s vision for MCTAP is worth supporting. If he achieves his goals, the entire city will benefit. More people will be employed. It will be easier to find quality contractors and employees. Residents can take pride in building up their own community. It’s an opportunity, as Dean says, that we don’t want to waste.

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Her blog is at

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