ABC West Michigan Craft Professional of the Year Nominee: Jorge Colon
Jorge Colon began his professional career as a kid. His father was a carpenter who worked around the neighborhood and brought Jorge along as part of his upbringing. Watching his dad interact with his community, solve people’s problems, and provide for his family made an imprint on Jorge that can be seen throughout this Craft Professional of the Year nomination.
The family connection that Jorge observed as a young person was not limited to experience with his father; he also spent a few years in junior high as apprentice to his uncle while living in Brooklyn, New York. When his family moved to Western Michigan when he was entering high school, Jorge took full advantage of the programs available to him as part of the Kent Skills Center. Taking the Woodworking and Electrician practicum as well as cooking and baking courses gave Jorge a well-rounded experience that he was able to continue in adulthood. He was also the student janitor for a time at Brookside Elementary, using his practical mind to keep the facilities in order and keep kids learning in a clean and safe environment.
As Jorge aged closer to his senior year in high school, his behavior became more rebellious. Aligning himself with a group that influenced his negative behaviors, eventually he faced dramatic consequences for terrible decisions. Jorge Colon spent several years in prison.
As intended, Jorge used this time to reflect, improve, and recover his life. He earned his General Education Degree (GED) and received a certificate in Computer Programming. Once released, he used his talents and training as a machine operator, press operator and material handler for a number of years.
Jorge had been working as a residential painter, refurbishing million-dollar estates in Florida, and then returned to live in West Michigan. His brother-in-law connected him with a job at Houseman Construction, later becoming Wolverine Building Group. The diversity of work appealed to him, starting with jobs at the rapidly growing Grand Valley State University and building new features in McDonald’s restaurants across the nation.
Jorge leading a crew of Rotary International Volunteers in building a ramp to make a home more accessible. (Jorge Colon, left)
As his construction experience grew, so did his reputation as a moral and gentle leader on the jobsite. He could be counted on to figure out a way to do something when others had been defeated by a challenge. Working on large scale, complex projects such as SkyVue Apartments, City Club, Elevation, and recently the John Ball Zoo, Jorge has a reputation for “setting up the subs” for success. “My training and experience as an electrician, with painting, and drywall, gets me to think about how everyone else needs to interact with the space as we build it,” said Jorge. “I always am thinking about the next step.”
Now with 20 years at Wolverine Building Group under his toolbelt, Jorge is known as the “Punch Master.” His work is near perfection as clients walk for a punch list, reaching to find items to revise. He has been essential to Wolverine’s multi-family segment of work and most recently been part of the construction team at John Ball Zoo, focusing on their Pygmy Hippo Habitat, which is pursuing the highest sustainable construction standard, a Living Building Challenge Materials Petal. Recently, Jorge assisted in completing the historic Blythefield Country Club renovations, just in time for its national debut as part of the LPGA Meijer Simply Give Tournament.
From nation-wide renovations to koala enclosures, Jorge Colon exemplifies “Craft Professional.” Willing to approach each project with an open mind and apply his skills to solve a problem, he is the kind of construction professional that every job needs. With patience, practice and practicality, he has turned his life into a renovation project that inspires new beginnings in those around him.