New Study Shows Partnership Between Michigan’s Skilled Craft Unions And The Biopharmaceutical Industry Resulted In More Than $1.1 Billion In Investment Over Six Years

Investment Yielded Nearly $26 Million in Earnings for Michigan’s Skilled Craft Union Workers


KALAMAZOO, Mich.July 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association today released an update to its first-of-its-kind report on the economic impact of the long-standing partnership between skilled craft unions and the biopharmaceutical industry in Michigan and 13 other states. The report found that Michigan building trades helped drive $1.12 billion in investment on major construction projects (over $5 million) active at any point between 2015 and 2021. During the same time period, skilled craft union worker earnings in Michigan reached more than $25 million – representing more than 906,000 hours of work – in addition to significant funding for union health insurance and pension benefits. Updated from a study between 2012 and 2017, the study shows a steady growth in investment from the biopharmaceutical industry both in Michigan and in the US – with the investment and earnings growing every year since 2015.

“This study demonstrates the value of the critical partnership between the biopharmaceutical industry and the skilled construction craft union workers in Michigan,” said Brian O’Donnell, Business Manager and Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 131. “As Michigan looks to diversify its economy, the biopharmaceutical industry – and the skilled union craft workers employed by the industry – help create that growing economic engine. Our members are proud of the work they provided to help bring an end to the COVID–19 pandemic by working on biopharmaceutical facilities that discovered and developed the vaccine. The industry relies on the skills, training, and work ethic of our members from the first ground broken to wiring the labs.”

The study was conducted by the Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES), a non-partisan network of academic researchers whose goal is to find pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market issues in the construction industry. Data for the study were provided by Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consulting firm specializing in market data on major power, energy, and industrial infrastructure projects in the United States.

Additional key findings of the report include:

  • 15 major construction projects were active in Michigan at any point during the six-year time period analyzed.
  • 14 skilled Michigan craft unions contributed an estimated 906,850 labor hours to biopharmaceutical industry construction projects over the six years, earning $25,409,944.
  • Electricians, instrumentation technicians, plumbers and pipefitters, and carpenters had the highest number of labor hours among the Michigan trades.

“We are fortunate to have these highly skilled construction and trades workers at the ready to help us develop medicines that fight deadly diseases,” said Dr. Stephen Rapundalo, President and CEO, Michigan Biosciences Industry Association (MichBio). “Along with battling COVID-19, Michigan’s bio-industry researches and creates life-saving medicines, devices and diagnostics in the quest for treatments and cures for many challenging health conditions. To do that, we must rely upon the best workers at every stage of development.”

The biopharmaceutical sector in Michigan turns to union contractors and their workers because of their long-established and highly effective training and apprenticeship programs. Building, refurbishing, and retrofitting biopharmaceutical facilities to handle next-generation research and development requires an educated, skilled, and experienced labor force.

North America’s Building Trades Unions spend more than $1.6 billion a year on apprentice and education programs throughout the country without imposing a nickel of student debt or requiring a dime of taxpayer money. Workers develop skills while on the jobsite and participate in classroom learning in the evenings. North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) sponsors comprehensive apprenticeship readiness programs (ARPs) throughout the U.S. These programs provide a gateway for local residents – focusing on women, people of color, and transitioning veterans – to gain access to Building Trades’ registered apprenticeship programs.

The full report is available at

Study Methodology

The report examined private-sector biopharmaceutical construction projects active at any time between 2015 and 2020 in 14 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, and WA). The states included in this report were selected by PILMA. The report relies extensively on data from Industrial Information Resources (IIR), a global consulting firm specializing in market data on major power, energy, and industrial infrastructure projects in the U.S. The study team identified major private-sector projects in each state and made estimates of total industry construction spending and labor demand based on IIR data. Projects that were co-developed with academic institutions, government (e.g. NIH), and hospital systems were not included in the analysis. The second part of the study integrated data from IIR and the U.S. Census Bureau to examine the economic impact of the partnership between the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and construction trades unions.

About Michigan Biosciences Industry Association

For over 25 years, MichBio has been driving bio-industry growth in Michigan by providing access to resources and information critical to success, advocating for policy decisions that support the long-term viability of the life sciences, and connecting the people, companies, and ideas necessary to create the next generation of bio-innovation.

About The Kalamazoo IBEW LOCAL 131

The International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Union was founded on November 28,1891 in St. Louis, Missouri. There were ten delegates (pictured) representing two hundred eighty six members in attendance. Henry Miller was elected as the first International President and J.T. Kelly as the first International Secretary-Treasurer. Kalamazoo received it’s charter on September 14th, 1916 and was signed by the seventh International President F.J McNulty. Kalamazoo is the fourth local to use the number 131. The first local was Columbia, South Carolina from 1900-1901, the second was Traverse City, Michigan from 1901-1908, the third was Twin Falls, Idaho (time span unknown). For more history about the I.B.E.W., click here to visit the International site.

About Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association

PILMA is a coalition of labor organizations and companies in the pharmaceutical industry who have joined forces to grow this important sector in our economy, create high-quality jobs, and promote medical innovations to cure disease. More information is available at

The Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES)

The Institute for Construction Economics Research (ICERES) is a non-partisan network of academic researchers whose goal is to find pragmatic solutions to workplace and labor market issues in the construction industry.

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