Plasterers, cement masons local moving to Woodstock

WOODSTOCK – Taking advantage of low prices, the union representing cement masons and plasterers across northern Illinois bought an industrial building just outside Woodstock. a location with potential for growth, a union official said.

Local 11 relocated its offices to 1102 Rail Drive from Lakemoor and plans to operate its apprenticeship and continuing education programs out of the 7,200-square-foot building at the Trakk Industrial Park.

The union, which represents 1,200 workers, has been training its members and potential full members since 1960, business manager Art Sturms said.

The real change is that instead of renting space throughout its territory, classes will be consolidated in the new facility, he said.

It covers nearly all of northern Illinois from as far south as Iroquois County to the Wisconsin border, excluding Cook and DuPage counties. Its territory also includes counties in Iowa and Minnesota.

While it means a longer drive for its participants, it won't be a financial burden, Sturms said, because their mileage is reimbursed.

The new, consolidated location was picked because its membership is concentrated in the collar counties. The site is also a better fit for its long-term plans, he said.

"Here we have the potential to add on once work does pick up," Sturms said, referring to the space that the 1.1-acre lot has for expansion.

"The bottom line is we bought the building because the commercial market is, as far as what the building costs... Four or five years ago we could have never bought this building for what we bought it for."

The building was purchased for $450,000 in July after being originally listed for $495,000 through Harding Real Estate. Rick Bellairs of Harding Real Estate handled the transaction.

Four or five years down the road, Sturms could see the union adding on to the facility but that is contingent on the economy improving and building steps up.

"We have no problem investing in our future," Sturms said. "We're going to be here. I don't foresee anything that could change what we're doing. People need concrete and roads built. That stuff needs to be done."

For now, a minimal amount of work needs to be done to get classrooms and hands-on concrete workshops in the back of the building ready by the time classes start in January.

The three-year program trains apprentices, preparing them to work in the industry as full members of the union. As they make their way through it, they receive 70, 80 or 90 percent of the union-negotiated wage.

It's a partnership between the union and the contractors its members work and is funded through employer contributions.

When someone is hired, a contractor asks for him to be put in the program. There are some people on a waiting list to get in, Sturms said, but most program participants are new hires or people they're looking to move into that area.

On average, between 20 and 30 apprentices go through the program each year, he said.

For more information, visit opcmialocal11.com.

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