#GarageMemberHighlight: Mike Willemsen, The Vecino Group Mike is from Canada, played professional hockey and fell into the construction industry in the Troy area by accident. When he started his career in Troy 10 years ago as a general contractor, he was welcomed by an incredible community of people and the industry slowly became his passion.
Mike has had an opportunity to work on some great projects locally – he helped with the Doyle middle school build, utility projects in Troy, high-tech chip factory in Utica, universities and more. He feels blessed to be part of many different types of building, but his life changed when he worked on his first affordable housing contract with Vecino, Hudson Arthaus. He fell in love with meaning behind what he was doing.
“When you’re good at something you get to do it for the right reasons,” he says. Historic rehab sparked something in his career, it became his niche. He was comfortable with what he was doing and had knowledge to be successful.
Vecino approached him to build their construction company in New York. Mike grew sick and tired of building big grey boxes for millionaires and he recognized that he had the opportunity to build spaces and community where all types of people could live and grow and he’s really proud of that.
The Vecino Group’s mission is to provide housing for greater good. Their book of business is affordable and supportive housing. They set aside a certain of percentage of units for folks with developmental disabilities, homeless vets, youth aging under foster care and more. This group is community-oriented and they partner with local assets and nonprofits to ensure it’s always reflected in their work. Before a deal goes through the company does a “gut check” before they move forward on the project.
The culture of their job sites echo the moral character of why they do what they’re doing and that provokes their employees to work harder and have an extra sense of pride. From the folks who sweep the floors to the more technical trades, when they understand the greater purpose of the building and the reason why you’re doing it, is for it’s way easier to be inspired to make something great to change the world.
At the end of the projects this group has the opportunity to meet some the people they’ve created these lives for. Mike tells a story of a time he walked into one of the units and saw a Vietnam war veteran who was sitting cross legged on the floor. He didn’t have any furniture or decor, the place was empty. This veteran was just happy that there was a window. He said those are the types of experiences that help the team remember why this is so meaningful and makes any other problems minuscule.
We’re so proud to have these folks at The Garage and to see the incredible work they are doing within our city and beyond to create an inclusive community. Stay tuned to see the beautiful 444 River lofts down the street!