Episode 1: Building character and advocating on behalf of a free and open building environment
“I don’t care how you shape it. There are people with little money, who have great character, and people with a whole lot of money with no character whatsoever.”
Tune into the first episode of Mitten Money with our guest Jimmy Greene, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan. Jimmy is a voracious reader, movie buff, Prince groupie, and an all-around passionate individual.
When asked what it means to lead an organization during these historic times, Jimmy remarked, “it means everything. I’ve been here for 13 years leading ABC’s advocacy. For me, it’s a reward back to my grandfather… I always knew whenever I was advocating on behalf of discriminatory practices against people like him back in the 60s and 70s that he was and still is on my shoulder. I feel him.”
Jimmy’s life was shaped by his grandparents, and he even goes as far as to say he was “rescued” by them. His grandfather was a hard-working independent trucker- and his grandmother, the first black businesswoman in Flint, Michigan. When talking to Jimmy, you can hear how they shaped the morals, values, and work ethic he stands for today.
Throughout this interview, themes of grit, grace, compassion, and determination emerge. After diving into this episode, we would venture to say you will feel inspired to lead from within your organization and learn why it’s important to “invest” in your community.
Connect with Jimmy:
William Zank 0:01
What’s something that most people don’t know about the Michigan ABC,
Jimmy Greene 0:04
that we are probably nonpartisan. I know that sounds strange but in this world we, we advocate on free enterprise principles we advocate for free open competition.
Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and in Michigan. Only 50% will make it five years in business on making money was really insightful focus on helping Michigan based business owners, the tough questions that will help them succeed. The way I expand my business. What options do I have for retirement. How do I move forward. Having worked with small business owners throughout his entire career and with excellent attention to detail and strong analytical skills. Play executive TriStar trustful answers to these questions and more. You can subscribe to the podcast and learn more about how William, and the TriStar trust team can guide your small business at TriStar trust.com.
William Zank 0:55
Morning Good afternoon. Welcome to the first episode of Mitten Money, this podcast will focus on helping Michigan based business owners find the answers to the tough questions that will help them succeed. This week we’re excited to have on Jimmy Greene, who is the new president of the Associated Builders and Contractors in Michigan. For those who don’t know, ABC is one of the nation’s largest trade associations with over 69 chapters nationwide, which represents over 21,000 members, without further ado, welcome Mr. Greene to Mitten Money.
Jimmy Greene 1:21
Thank you, William I appreciate the opportunity to be with you.
William Zank 1:24
Well, thank you for take some time out of your day. So tell us a little about yourself What made you initially interested in joining ABC?
Jimmy Greene 1:31
Oh wow, you know it’s funny how you go full circle you I grew up in Flint Michigan and I had a pretty dysfunctional childhood, but I was, I guess rescued, if you will, by my grandparents and my grandfather was an independent trucker, who was very independent in labor unions tried to organize him and he was fiercely opposed to that. And so he always had this marriage shop mentality and marriage shopping, just what it says marriage shopping or entrepreneurial controlling one’s own fortunes. My grandmother on my paternal side was the first black business woman in Flint, she owned and operated a funeral home. She was also a republican when it wasn’t unusual for black people to be republicans in the 50s and 60s, and she worked as a liaison for government affairs through then Governor George Romney MIT’s father. So you can see that it’s interesting how I’ve gone full circle because years later I helped run his campaign here in Michigan, when he ran for President.
William Zank 2:44
It’s very interesting and so talking about you know more recently, 2020 while it’s been a very peculiar as COVID has been a really good one with construction with residential and also commercial projects on around in the community so could you discuss what’s been behind large booming construction sure there’s
Jimmy Greene 2:58
a lot of money out there you know let’s face it rather regardless what people’s politics are people like money. And so, you know, we had a robust economy, coming in out of a recession where a lot of people were still kind of collecting their wares thoughts their strategic plans about either renovating or purchasing new or building from the ground up. So a lot of decisions were made years ago that actually came to bear in 19 and 20 for that matter, where people just pressed go on some of their building opportunities and, you know, let’s face it to we’ve got a huge infrastructure issue here in not just in Michigan but across the country. Those are Builders and Contractors as well. We tend to look at it in terms of lumber or steel but quite frankly, you know as pavement. There’s so many different rich industries and expertise in the building and contracting industry as a whole, that you can almost when you’re driving around it’s funny because I’m one of those people who likes orange cones, because orange cones means building new means contract health so I’m patient when everybody else is upset with a mob. But that’s primarily why there was this economy was rich full of money. it’s interesting because when we went into COVID, there was a shutdown is that there’s still a demand out there. And I imagine that as the vaccines become more readily available, you’re going to see a pretty robust 2021, and going into 2022 as well so there’s still pent up demand, and you can just see it in the orange cones.
William Zank 4:19
So you actually bring up a good point relating back to infrastructure spend. Do you see more 2021 in relation to infrastructure I’m sure everyone’s familiar with roads, but would you say anything else is a particular issue within Michigan with infrastructure.
Jimmy Greene 4:33
Oh yeah, let’s face it to hear something that’s interesting, you know, we have an infrastructure as relates to water the Flint water crisis, obviously, created a sort of an audit for municipalities to look at decaying audit or decaying infrastructure. So we’re starting to see some demand there. We have aging buildings too, and with money available, you’re going to see that here’s another point too, because of COVID, now you’re starting to see a different kind of build. So now people are more concerned about the heating ventilation, air conditioning side of that as COVID is spread through the air. So we’re starting to see that demand spacing. What used to work doesn’t work anymore. So now you’re starting to see school districts, for example, space out. Those are all renovations, those are all the different kinds of things that involve plumbing steel electrical so those different specialty trades all come to bear with this building so we see a industry that from the bottom up, that being rolled all the way to the penthouse is pretty impressive so we’re excited about our opportunities moving forward,
William Zank 5:31
and that definitely sounds really interesting now shifting the focus a little more within the organization that you helped lead. What are some of the benefits that you can offer for some people who are already members of the ABC.
Jimmy Greene 5:42
Well for the members of ABC it’s interesting, even for those people who aren’t we advocate on behalf of a free and open competitive environment that’s the biggest thing for us. We look at the opportunity to bid on contracts as a taxpayer, a true governance, if you will, of taxpayer monies and that to me is what any elected officials should be responsible for first, the fiduciary responsibility of your dollars my dollars in anybody who pays taxes. So we advocate on n they’re the best builder. So we certainly work in that venue as well to creating the best builders out there safely on time, those kind of things are what we advocate on behalf of the workforce. That’s another piece of this there’s a human side of this not just the infrastructure side, but we advocate for young people who want to come into the trade. So, we’ve worked with legislators on the education side to ensure that high school juniors and seniors in particular, have access out to the trade so we have a partnership there as well too. so it’s really about talent, it’s about opportunity we advocate on behalf of ex felons for example who come back out into the workplace. They’re looking for jobs we certainly want to provide opportunities for them. People who work in other industries who may be underemployed, because of discrimination. So whether that’s minorities, or LGBTQ citizens, for example, I advocate on behalf of them coming into the industry as well too so you can see, we’re a little bit more than just a building Association. We truly do impact the communities that we serve in. I always say that we’re the people who build communities but that’s because we are the community.
William Zank 7:21
And so within your new role of being president would you say some of the advocation for some of those different issues are some of your main goals or do you have any other goals you’d like to add within that.
Jimmy Greene 7:30
That’s funny I just had a conversation this morning that I have with several other alliances that we tend to work with. But again, it goes back to making it known COVID hit. We were the first industry to go back and that’s primarily because we were a template for safe workplaces, but because of that. Sometimes you get a chance to look a little bit deeper and go yeah we’re safe. Can we be safer. So advocating on behalf of new safety practices working with groups like my OSHA for example, the Department of Health and Human Services, and even crossing political lines you know look when you’re on a scaffolding 40 stories up, you’re not a Democrat or Republican, you’re just you’re a scaffold or who wants to come down safe, so you don’t have conversations about taxation and discriminate you just have conversations about coming down safe. So there’s no union or non union issue there, it really is about safer workplaces, and then that creates a safer environment for us to build in so education workforce development and business development taxation. Those are things across the board that we certainly work on behalf of and those areas. They’re really wide I just kind of gave you four big baskets, but in those baskets are a whole lot of little issues that ultimately rise to the surface
William Zank 8:39
of your interesting. What is your own philosophy on money.
Jimmy Greene 8:42
So, money for me is about safeguarding it’s about accumulation, but it’s really about character. I don’t care how you shape it there are people with little money, who have great character, and people with a whole lot of money with no character whatsoever. So money for me is really a definition of one’s character, and it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have ultimately just like character with people with no money and they go rob a bank. Well, you know what, you can say I did what I had to do but does that make your character better. He got pretty lousy character. So, that’s what money is whether you have it or not, money is that definition of character for me. What you do with it, is what I look at money as a opportunity to reveal in a person, who are you, who are you, I think money is probably the best indicator of who you are than any other tool.
William Zank 9:27
Oh sure you know and what do you think about characters who I mean you could have people it’s like the book The Millionaire Next Door so I think just using your example if you had a bad character I think it could lead to be more pompous with your money and potentially being more greedy which could make you maybe not so wealthy if things don’t turn out well.
Jimmy Greene 9:42
We’ve seen that example, time and time again, we’ve also seen counter examples of people who have great money who become Secret Santa Claus. So, people who are philanthropic, you know I always tell people this when they talk about taxing the rich and things of that nature. I’m like, be careful with that. Because when you look at these foundations that are handing out grants look at the foundations that are supporting United Way underground railroad shelter house, those donations don’t come from poor people. And that’s not a slight on poor people by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an indicator of people who have had wealth, who have had money, who contribute to ensure that agencies that support people without money, it still exists and that they are sustainable. So, it’s important for people to understand that that money doesn’t always look the way you think it looks, but every time you go and you need something, and that resource is there. Well that was supported by somebody who had means to an end,
William Zank 10:35
you have a favorite local charity that you support or a philanthropic organization.
Jimmy Greene 10:39
Shelterhouse for me. Shelter house in the Underground Railroad to homes that support and put domestic women who have been domestically abused by spouses or or men in general, although we’ve seen cases where men are actually abused as well too. But for me, I come from that past, so it’s not a volunteer isn’t for me it’s a passion, it’s it shaped my experiences, quite frankly, and so, an opportunity to give back and make sure that women have a means to an end, that they find a sense of independence is something that I’m very very passionate about. So, those to me there are lots of nonprofits that I’ve sat on boards with and helped raise money with, but those two are probably near and dear to me I lost a sister who was murdered. As a result of domestic abuse and so yeah it’s not a volunteer thing for me it’s who I am, again, like I said, Sometimes things shake your character and people get a better sense of who you are, your advocacy and your volunteers.
William Zank 11:35
Oh sure those are two wonderful organizations for myself I’m from the middle of Daria but when I initially joined TriStar Jon Pickelmanr at the bank is very involved with the Underground Railroad so I’ve found out so much about that great organization,
Jimmy Greene 11:46
I’ve been their champion for three straight years I emcee their annual event, and would have last year had it not been for COVID so I’m their, their master ceremonies for their annual fundraiser to lots of john and i worked together quite intimately on that program. It’s wonderful.
William Zank 12:00
What’s something that most people don’t know about the Michigan ABC
Jimmy Greene 12:04
that we are probably nonpartisan. I know that sounds strange but in this world we, we advocate on free enterprise principles we advocate for free and open competition we don’t make a distinction as to what political party people belong to. We are a membership Association, that’s made up, and we have union members in it, you know most people look at us as a non union organization that’s not true. There’s nothing in our mantra, or advocacy, or principles or bylaws that suggest anything of the sort. So rather your labor involved that being in the union or non union or maybe you’re independent or residential builder. I think what we do, escapes the eye because some of the other things we do are kind of like these big things so I think that’s all we are, but I spent every day in the offices of Democrats and Republican legislators both local and state and federal advocating on behalf of a free and open building competitive environment so that everybody can participate in it. We are open for Workforce Development for a wealth of folks to like I mentioned before minorities LGBT we advocate on behalf of groups that most people don’t think about or maybe they don’t see us as visible as other organizations, but we’ve partnered with more organizations that people can ever imagine.
William Zank 13:13
Well that’s great that’s great. What does it mean to you to lead an organization that has such historic ties, not only to the nation but to Michigan to.
Jimmy Greene 13:21
It means everything to me you know I’ve been here 13 years leading ABCs, advocacy. For me, it’s a reward, back to my grandfather, who didn’t have me as an advocate, my grandfather, probably would have had many more opportunities. He had a scrap metal business working in and out of Detroit. I always know whenever I was advocating on behalf of discriminatory practices against people like him back in the 60s and 70s. I always feel him on my shoulder. I always do to this day. And so for me, it couldn’t be a better honor to do the work that my grandfather. I’m the guy that wish my grandfather had you put it that way if that kind of puts it in perspective. So, when I started in banking I had a mentor who told me that he pickled it, and she was my. I loved her to death she was this English woman who sat on the throne in our branches she just commanded the fashion square Boulevard area which was really thriving and growing at the time. And she taught me a lesson you know she talked about depositing back into the community. She got me so engaged. Her Harold Evans, Henry Marsh they kept telling me, invest in the community invest in the community invest in the community, and you can understand this way because you’re in finance, she’d always say deposit deposit deposit because at some point you’re going to want to withdraw, and never ever overdraw your account, and she was talking about community so my volunteerism has been a deposit that deposit the deposit, and so on occasion I’ve had to withdraw from it, and I still feel like I still got a lot of equity in this community, and I haven’t come close to it, or dry my account yet.
William Zank 14:56
That’s a very special way of putting up. What are your thoughts on saving whether it be for retirement or other life goals
Jimmy Greene 15:02
is vital, you know, because we never know, you know, think about COVID, we’re in that environment right now think about people who lost their jobs. I can tell you right now there’s a single person right now, who was laid off. And it’s not just restaurant people are tons of people who were laid off, who could sit back now and say, dang it. I wish I’d saved a little bit more so I didn’t have to watch for a direct deposit from the unemployment office, or tend to sit back and wait for stimulus money, there’s one person I would dare anybody to point to one person who right now wouldn’t say a year ago, two years, three years or four years witness said, I probably should have put something away for these moments. Well, God bless all of us that we don’t have COVID next year. But what if we do, but there’s another thing, who knows. So you talk about saving. I mean, two years ago, this conversation probably would have been shaped completely different because it would have been about supposing, it would have been about assumptive. Not now, this is like real, we’re here, and all those people still laid off mine You probably wish they’d saved a little bit more. I don’t know anything more succinct or clear, more definitive than that right there in the world we live in, right now.
William Zank 16:14
It’s definitely good point. What are some things you like to do in your free time.
Jimmy Greene 16:20
What’s free time. voracious reader. I’m a movie buff, I want to, if there’s such a thing as reincarnation. I want to come back as a movie critic, so I could spend my days, eating popcorn and watching movies, I could watch movies all day, every day, I really could. Matter of fact, when I’m working, and I’m doing papers or anything of the sort. I’m studying things I always have a movie on in the background. Typically I watch something I’ve seen before, because then I know when to look up and never watch anything new when I’m really concentrating, so I’m a movie buff through and through. Biggest prints fan ever I probably there is anything that prints made and you think I don’t have behind me I print pictures I have more. I think it’s safe to say, and this is sad to say and embarrassing to say but since this is public. I’m truly a prince groupie, so. So those two things are probably more than anything I collect printed memorabilia and a huge movie buff.
William Zank 17:17
So I guess three things that kind of asked for that viewer to kind of put everything down, and how to get one book recommendation one movie recommendation but then also one one prints recommendation
Jimmy Greene 17:26
is a really tough question. I tell you what that, for me, the best book. If so, it was so tough because it would almost be industry driven more so than anything but I will tell you that the book that probably had the greatest influence on me was my life by Ronald Reagan. I joined the Republican Party on ronald reagan principles as my favorite president ever, and I read his book and man I just, I just fell in love with it and, and they were his notes too so these weren’t third party. He talked about where he failed he talked about what he could have done over, but he just made me so proud to be an American and more importantly more proud to be part of the Republican Party again, not so much now but then, for sure. movie that’s that’s really, really tough. It’s almost impossible to answer, but I will, I will say probably the movie, always. Most people go ha always well it’s a movie by Richard Dreyfuss and, and Holly Hunter, and it’s a movie about a firefighter, who dies, and he has to come back. And it’s funny, but there’s a part of this movie all throughout the movie you’re thinking to yourself, wow, I hope that happens, I wish that was. And then that’s buttress up against a movie that was made the same year called defending your life with Albert Brooks, which is what happens when you die, and you go to the middle ground to audition now you have to defend your life without either going up or going back down, but not going to hell. That was the best part about the movie that movie was about going back to earth and getting it right. So those two right out in the most complete godfather and all these other things yeah the great movies, but those movies that make you think, I mean I never wanted to be in the mafia. Okay, and I love the Godfather I don’t want to be the mafia because of it, but always and defending your life really made me think about me, about me, and that those two movies. Right, okay. If anybody ever tells you, their favorite Prince song and they are not a prince fan, by the way, that’s my answer to that. That’s an important, that is more impossible than the movie and the book. Oh really give you an answer. Other than that, and if they can tell you their favorite Prince song they’re not a prince fan that that is impossible. You have a time constraint.
William Zank 19:40
No that that is completely fine I feel the same way about some of my favorite musicians too so that is completely fine and so for people who want to learn more about the associated Builders and Contractors, what are some good resources for people to learn more about them.
Jimmy Greene 19:53
It’s ABC that. org. That gives you insight to our national presence and we have 69 chapters across the country, and it goes to show you that that while we have one principle we have different markets that we do, and an ABC emi.com would give you some state resources as to where repopulated issues we work on and a list of our members as well too. And so we’re up to about 25,000 members across the country as well too. So we’ve, we’ve grown considerably over this period of time so probably should have upgraded our websites.
William Zank 20:26
And just one last thing on that could you expand upon who some of your member base is not or particular people per se but particular industries you represent to
Jimmy Greene 20:34
sure we have we represent general contractors, the big general contractors and you’re broadcasting this in Midland so you like three rivers would be an ABC member for example wall gas, Jay Johnson answer heating and cooling Great Lakes construction sugar construction those local companies, right there RCL construction, those are all general contractors, for the most part, heating ventilation. People electrical contractors. We’ve got a number of insulators GE insulation for example does a lot of commercial work in there Valley electrical lazy electric and I’m just talking about in those areas in particular, in the Midland area but you branch out all across the state we got pioneer Wolverine. Huge as to many today we have 1100 members here in the state of Michigan alone, they encompass everything from flooring, all the way up to general contracting So, plumbing, there’s anything like for example at the local chapter you’re at in Midland, they teach 11 different trades there from pipe fitting to electrical sheet metal, you name it, and they teach it. So it’s a very very broad industry and we have members and all of those
William Zank 21:41
are perfect thanks for spending on that. Thank you everyone for listening to another episode of MIT money. If you haven’t already please rate review our podcasts. Additionally, please subscribe so you don’t miss when a new episode drops.
Jimmy Greene 21:51
Thank you, Jimmy. Thank you, I appreciate it.
You’ve been listening.