Mayor Andy Berke acquired the Harriet Tubman property to create jobs for East Chattanooga, said Donna Williams, the city's economic and community development director.
She admonished the audience to be ready when the opportunity comes and to tell their friends to get ready.
"This has the opportunity to be outrageously successful," said Williams.
Williams spoke to more than 70 people attending the city's informational meeting about the 36-acre Harriet Tubman site.
The city bought the empty public housing development this year for $2.6 million. It intends to demolish the 440 apartments and use the land to attract industry.
City officials told residents to seek interviewing advice from Career Development Centers, prepare resumes and get jobs skills training if they need it.
The city will give potential contractors a workforce inclusion initiative. The initiative tells contractors that 80 percent of local people hired must come from the 37406 ZIP code, said James McKissic of the city's Office of Multicultural Affairs.
The city doesn't say how many workers a contractor can bring in before hiring residents, but says it will consider the number of locals hired when selecting a contractor.
McKissic gave residents a list of the workforce inclusion initiatives and upcoming meeting dates and times.The city also is talking with agencies about helping residents who qualify to get their criminal records expunged.
"Today we talked with a group who does nothing but work with ex-offenders," said McKissic. "Stay in touch. Hold us accountable."
City Assistant Engineer Dennis Malone spoke about the upcoming demolition.
Dump trucks and excavators will arrive in about six weeks and demolition could be complete by the end of February. There will be noise, but there should be no problems, he said. Contractors will water the site to keep down dust and there isn't much there that can burn, he said. Demolition work is scheduled 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Several residents asked questions after city officials spoke.
Jackie Husband asked if residents from the 37404 ZIP code will also be considered for jobs.
McKissic said 80 percent of local hires should be from 37406, but the remaining 20 percent can be from anywhere in the city.
Mary Morris, who lives in the 37406 ZIP code, asked if some East Chattanooga streets could be repaired.
"We ride bumpity-bump," she said. "I hope you take into account our streets need work."
"Is there going to be a job fair for the demolition work?" asked Nori Moss, president of the Good Neighbor Network in East Chattanooga.
The city replied that it would have a jobs fair once the contractor is selected.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6431.
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