This is the first of a three-part interview series with Derrick Wallace- Candidate in the race for Orange County Commission – District 6
Conducted by: West Orlando News Online
Date: November 25, 2013
WONO: Could you please introduce yourself? Who is Derrick Wallace?
Derrick Wallace: I’m a native of Orlando who was born in the Parramore area and attended Holden Street Elementary School for the first four years. At fifth and sixth grade, I attended Eccleston Elementary School when I moved to the Washington Shores area – all in District 6. Next, I went to Jones High School for junior high, which in those days was a seventh to twelfth school. So, I attended Jones through my sophomore, junior and senior high school years. I have lived all my life in District 6 – Parramore, Richmond Heights, Richmond Estates, Carver Shores, Pine Hills, and I currently live in the north Lake Mann area.
I graduated college Magna Cum Laude from Florida A&M University with an Accounting degree, and attended several advanced classes at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, Illinois.
WONO: After graduating you started your own business?
Derrick Wallace: Yes. In 1980, I established Construct Two Group, which initially was a glass glazing firm that grew into a full-fledged construction company serving a diverse clientele, including some of Central Florida’s most prestigious organizations.
I started off in Eatonville where I was requested by Ronald Rogers, then assistant to the mayor, to work on a rehab project and was quite successful. The company did a library project and also a water plant installation in Eatonville. These projects gave us the impetus to go on to undertake sub-contracting work and then we transitioned to general construction and construction management, with the help of John Jeniec at Great Southwest Corporation.
Initially, we worked on apartments at the University of Central Florida and did several other projects at the University. I guess the highlight of my experience was when we had the opportunity to do the Hulk and Spiderman rides at Universal Studios. Mark Watson, who is a project manager and a good friend of mine, gave me the opportunity to do these two high-tech projects. We had 18 months and successfully completed them on time.
But, I think that the most important thing to come out of the Hulk and Spiderman rides project was the significant increase in our bonding capacity. Prior to that project our bonding was about $1 million and in 18 months it increased to several million. Because of the success on the Hulk and Spiderman rides project we were given a bond line with Transamerica, for a bonding capacity of $15 million single and $30 million aggregate.
We have also completed projects with Orange County Public Schools, the largest being Jones High School. Initially it began as a renovation project and then the decision was taken to build a brand new school at a project cost of $150 million.
We are especially proud of the Jones High School project because, that’s where my mother, father, son, daughter, cousins, brother and I went to school. Other notable projects that we have done and of which I am very proud include, a $25 million DRS school at FAMU where I went to college. We have been involved in a lot of different school projects. We were also part of a team that built the Orange County Convention Center. All is all, we have been very successful over the years.
WONO: You are running for Orange County Commissioner, District 6. You are well aware of the many other names registered for the race, in fact you know some of them. What unique factors do you possess that you feel gives you a competitive advantage?
Derrick Wallace: I’m a businessman and community builder who has created jobs and hired many people over the years. One of the major challenges in District 6, is the lack of jobs for the residents. Also, I have been the Chairman of the Economic Development Commission of mid-Florida and I understand economic development. It’s not something that is new to me. I have a passion in wanting to help solve the many problems of this district which, in addition to there being a lack of jobs, there’s the too high poverty level, both of which are related. According to the Census, 35 to 45 percent of the people in 30 of the 34 precincts in the district, live in poverty. I believe there are some opportunities that can be developed to provide more jobs for the people who live there.
I am a native of Orlando. I have a large population of family and friends, demonstrated by the more than 300 attendees at my wedding, which was held at my home, recently.
Another thing that distinguishes me from my opponents is, my ability to effectively mobilize people and to foster relationships. We have over 40 volunteers working weekly in the campaign and an active campaign headquarters. Nothing can be accomplished without building relationships across different cultures in the Orange County area. As I said, I am passionate about working to make things better, especially for the people of the district and more broadly, the rest of Orange County. If I am elected from this district, I will vote countywide, so I am not a District 6 Commissioner, I am a County Commissioner.
WONO: Next year, 2014, could be a pivotal year for the future of Florida and Orange County, including District 6. As a lifelong resident, you have seen many changes, including our area being named the #1 tourist destination in the world. Despite these changes many District residents feel left out while living in the shadows of world-class theme parks and attractions. What is your message to the voters in the District who feel this way and what will change if they send you to the Orange County Commission?
Derrick Wallace: My message would be, “Now is the time for change. I need your support to make that change.” Each county commissioner has only one vote. But when you sit on the Board of the County Commission, you have an opportunity to speak frankly and to advocate on the issues – like the lack of jobs – that are important to the people whom you represent. So that there is no misunderstanding, I will represent all the residents of Orange County. As so often happens now, when you don’t articulate the concerns of the people, you are doing the residents of the community a dis-service.
If elected, I will serve as the voice for those who have been marginalized and feel excluded. I will speak up for what is right – I have always spoken up for what is right. I just think as we work together, we can make good things happen for the benefit of all. I don’t believe there has been any kind of relationship with the community. In most cases, once commissioners are elected to office, there is a disconnect with those who have elected them. In order for us to be successful as a people in District 6, I have got to have their support and they will have mine.
WONO: Let me stick with the ‘change’ theme. In the last 10 years, there have been many changes to District 6. What was once a minority business district on West Church Street, has given way to the Amway Center and several amenities to accommodate the Amway and more development is planned. Many residents are now worried that the area they knew is changing right before their very eyes. Should the residents be concerned and if so, what would you say? How would you console them?
Derrick Wallace: First, it shouldn’t be a big surprise. These things are planned out years in advance. To see Parramore being gobbled up – I think that the term is gentrified – and people being displaced without having any real concern for them and just to glibly say, ‘it’s going to be good for them,’ well it’s not good for those people.
Second, I would definitely say, there ought to be more communication upfront with the people whose lives will be affected. This does not mean that the outcome would be any different, but the truth is, nobody is saying anything. The fact of the matter is, there is a lack of affordable housing in the Parramore area and with gentrification, this would even be a bigger problem and I anticipate that the area’s African-American residents would continue to be displaced. But no one is talking about these issues.
I think the same thing is about to happen across Orange Blossom Trail. There is a group who is trying to help distressed areas around the Citrus Bowl. But what of other areas such as Ivey Lane, is that not distressed? What will happen on Bruton Avenue? Is the focus just on Tampa Avenue around the Citrus Bowl? I have noticed that there are lots of vacant property largely owned by blacks, in a black area. If there’s going to be new development of that particular property, it is my hope that there will be black involvement in the decision-making process and if they have to sell, black owners will receive a fair market price for their property.
WONO: You’re a local kid who grew up in the District, built a successful business here, including locating your corporate office on Ivey Lane, across the street from the public housing in which you grew up. Why did you do this and do you think this serves as a role model for giving back to the community?
Derrick Wallace: I did it because I believe in the Black community. To be honest I didn’t set out to be a role model. I believe we can do things here just as well as anywhere else. It means a lot to me to have my business here and to be able to grow it and hire from within the community. This is my second office, my first office was at the intersection of Old Winter Garden Road and Ivey Lane, so we haven’t moved that far. I guess we could have moved to another area, but you know, I wanted to work in the black community, just as I live in the area.
WONO: But looking back now, couldn’t what you did serve as a model for others?
Derrick Wallace: Well, that is what a lot of people say – I serve as a role model in the community because I’m very involved, especially with kids. I think we still have a long way to go; there are still some other things I can do to make more of an impact. I guess when you say role model most people think of an accomplished football or basketball player. But when you talk about a successful business that created the biggest Black construction business in the state and it is located right here, I don’t necessarily see myself like that. People think that once you have built a successful business, you don’t have issues, but frankly, you have bigger ones – they grow with the business.
WONO: Final question for this segment. Your campaign slogan is, “Building a better community for you and your family.” If elected to office, how would you go about fulfilling this in the context of District 6. In other words, what are some of the key challenges and how will you go about addressing them?
Derrick Wallace: As I touched on before, one of the biggest challenges the people in District 6 face is the lack of jobs and relatedly, skills. I’d like more training to address the skills gap. One of the things I would like to see is Jones High School functioning as a magnet program for trades. When I was growing up we used to have vocational training in certain schools. There are a lot of kids graduating with no skills at all. Everybody is not going to go to college. So, for those kids who are not going to college they should have an opportunity to learn a trade. Now, I am aware that the Orange County Public School system operates several Career & Technical Education (CTE) centers, like Orlando Tech and Winter Park Tech, but the teaching of trade-type skills needs to be more wide-spread and aligned with the demands of the job market.
So again, I would like to see schools like Jones High teaching those trade-type skills and students could be dually enrolled in such a program, while attending high school.
Regarding business opportunities, I believe there should be special programs through the county that would allow small companies to bid on projects of a certain size, once they meet the qualifications. Small companies should not have to compete with multi-million dollar companies on the same project. The problem is, big companies bid on everything and small companies get left out. I would like to see more opportunities for small businesses and more support from the county. As you know, small businesses create two-thirds of the jobs in the nation.
Security is another important issue for the community. There are too many shootings in the district and though tackling crime is a complex issue, it must be addressed. I would like to see a strengthened partnership between the community and law enforcement in Orange County as well as, expansion of Neighborhood Watch groups. There is also the matter of reinforcing positive behavior and school-wide initiatives, such as anti-bullying campaigns, which I think would help to bring down crime over the longer term. But beyond these aspects, I do believe work programs for at-risk youth would help to reduce crime, making the community safer for everyone.
WONO: Thank you, Mr. Wallace.
Derrick Wallace: Thank you, too.
MORE ON DERRICK WALLACE
Derrick Wallace is the Chairman and Owner of Construct Two Group (CTG). CTG, a construction management firm was founded in 1990. Through the leadership of Mr. Wallace, the company has grown to a medium size Florida corporation. CTG provides construction services to a diverse clientele including some of Central Florida’s most prestigious organizations.
Mr. Wallace has served as project executive on many of CTG’s projects. He is a hands-on leader who continuously challenges his project teams to provide quality services and to fulfill the needs of the surrounding community.
Mr. Wallace continues his community-minded philosophy by involving himself in many noteworthy organizations. He is currently active with 100 Black Men of Orlando, Inc. An organization established to improve the quality of life in the African American community through educational and economic opportunities.
Mr. Wallace served as Chairman of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission’s Education Foundation. In 2002, Mr. Wallace served as a Commissioner for the Orange County Transportation Commission and as Commissioner for the Governor’s Commission on Workers’ Compensation Reform. In 2001, he was appointed to serve an annual term as the first minority Chairman of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC), a private-public commission that works to attract businesses to the area and helps existing businesses expand. He has also been involved with the following boards: Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (P.R.I.D.E), Florida Chamber of Commerce, Businessforce, Central Florida Innovation Corporation, Central Florida Technology Partnership and Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.
Mr. Wallace has dedicated himself to helping other minority/women business enterprises succeed. He was a founding trustee and member of the Minority/Women Business Enterprise Alliance and the Businesses for Better Education. Recently, he served as the President of the Orange County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
– Lifetime Orlando Native
– Educated District 6 Schools
- Eccleston Elementary School
- Jones High School
Florida A & M University
BS – Accounting – Magna Cum Laude Graduate
Construct Two Group
– Certified General Contractor
St. Mark A.M.E. Church
Former Business Organizations
- First Chairman – Mayor’s Martin Luther King Commission
- Chairman – Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission
- Chairman – Goodwill Industries of Central Florida
- Chairman Central Florida Innovation Corporation,
- Chairman Central Florida Technology Partnership
- Chairman – Economic Development Commission Foundation for Education, Inc
- Chairman – Private Industry Council of Central Florida, Inc
- Board of Governors – Florida Chamber of Commerce
- President – Orange County Branch of the NAACP
- 100 Black Men of Orlando – Board of Directors and Founding Member
- Businesses for Better Education – Founding Trustee
- Minority/Women Business Enterprise Alliance – Founding Trustee
- National Association of Minority Contractors (N.A.M.C.) – Board of Directors
- Central Florida Jobs and Education Partnership, Inc. – Board of Directors
- African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida – Board of Directors
- Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce – Board of Directors
- Florida Chamber of Commerce – Board of Directors
- Orange County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- Boys and Girls Club
- St. Mark AME Church
- Commissioner, Governor’s Commission on Workers’ Compensation Reform
- Commissioner, Orange County Transportation Commission
- African American Contractor’s Alliance – Vice President
- Mayor’s Commission on the Arts – Commissioner
- The Associated General Contractors of America
- Airport Minority Advisory Council
- Partner in Education
- National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Inc.
- Associated Builders and Contractors of Central Florida
- Leadership Orlando, Class 1988-89
- Leadership Central Florida, Inaugural Class, 1995
- Leadership Florida, Class XVI, 1998
- Florida A&M University Distinguished Alumni in Business Award
- Distinguished Leadership Alumni Award from the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce – 2002
- The Community Leadership Association Distinguished Leadership Award – 2004
- Largest African American Construction Management Firm in Florida
- Orlando Business Journal’s list of Central Florida’s Golden 100-Fast 5 – 2008
- Minority Enterprise Advocate Magazine “100 Fastest Growing Businesses” – 2006
- Regional Supplier of the Year from the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Inc -2000
- #4 Ranking on Inc. Magazine’s “Inner City 100 List” for fastest growing firm – 2000
- #31 ranking on Inc. Magazine’s 500 List of fastest growing private firm – 1999
- #5 ranking on Inc. Magazine’s Inner City 100 List of fastest growing privately firm 1999
- #64 ranking on Inc. Magazine’s 500 List of fastest growing privately held companies in America – 1998
- “Small Business Person of the Year” from the North Florida Small Business Administration – 1998
- “Top 25” Small Business Award, Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce – 1998
- Walt Disney World MBE Contractor of the Year Award – 2005
- Board of Directors Award, Central Florida YMCA Black Achievers – 2002
- Regional Supplier of the Year from the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Inc – 2000
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR DERRICK WALLACE
Derrick Wallace Campaign Headquarters (Next to St. Mark A.M.E Church)
2000 Bruton Blvd
Orlando, Florida 32811
10:00am to 12:00 pm
5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
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