Jim and Gina Sullivan, owners of James J. Sullivan Corporations, have been restoring buildings in the City of Poughkeepsie since 2010. They started small with a few manageable family buildings in the City of Poughkeepsie. Their projects grew larger when they gained help from a partner and friend, Dr. Sunil Gupta. With financial help from Gupta and the Community Preservation Corporation, the couple were able to fund 40 Cannon St in Poughkeepsie, a revitalization project unlike anything the couple has tackled before.
The initiative began five years ago, when they couple purchased the property in hopes of doing something special with it.
“As soon as the opportunity presented itself, we bought the building and we tried to come up with an innovative way to make the project succeed,” Jim Sullivan says.
With the help of the City of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and New York State, the duo received grant money and tax relief. Throughout the course of applying for help, the Sullivans wanted to come up with a plan to hire people locally. That’s when organizations like Dutchess County Regional Commerce, Nubian Directions, and Exodus stepped in to help the Sullivans find and hire local workers, most of whom were from Poughkeepsie. Individually, the organizations place people with mentors to guide the workers in the right direction, teach them about work ethic, and, in turn, hopefully get a stable job.
Jim Sullivan with the workers of 40 Cannon St at Spins Bowl in Poughkeepsie. Jim and Gina take the workers out to thank them for all their hard work on the project. Photo by Gina Sullivan
Over the course of the project, the couple hired about 60 locals. The workers came from all different types of backgrounds. Some workers on the project that were hired had no experience and came right out of jail. Others were hired who did have experience but went through hard times.
“Some of the workers just didn’t work out,” Jim says. “We had this one guy who was a really good carpenter, but I just couldn’t get him to be reliable. He was looking for more of a hand out instead of a hand up.”
On the other side, there were workers who did succeed and go on to better things after the project was wrapped. According to Jim, about 20 of the workers received jobs at other companies after the labor at 40 Cannon St was complete. One of those workers was James Ashley.
Ashley was on the project for 18 months. He started off demoing for $10 an hour, but by the end of the project he was making $15.50 an hour as an electrical apprentice. He later went on to find a job that paid him $20 an hour.
According to Jim, the person that hired Ashley after his time with Cannon St went on to say, “If everything you say is true then it won’t be long before you are making $25 an hour.”
Overall, the Cannon St project took about two years to complete. If the couple sub-contracted out, it would’ve taken an estimated 16 to 18 months. Yet that wasn’t what the Sullivans wanted to do.
“We are very proud that we were able to have an impact on the lives of some of these people,” Jim says. “That was worth the added time and expense. I think it lends itself to the community that we are building here with the tenants. They are the type of people that appreciate that.”