W. Bernard White, founder and president of White Construction, refuses to be outworked or outperformed by competitors in his industry. Since the inception of his Detroit-based company on July 31, 1989, White has led one of the region’s most progressive organizations. The company takes on projects in Detroit, but has left its construction fingerprints on Saginaw, Flint, Battle Creek and many suburban cities. In recognition of its status, Black Enterprise magazine continues to include White Construction on the publication’s list of Top 100 Black Businesses in America.
With a specialization in pre-construction services, construction management, general contracting, and design build, White Construction stays true to its motto: “Constructing your vision…since 1989.”
“For me, it’s always about working much harder than my counterparts and also trying to incorporate some smarts as I get better,” said White. “One of the major keys to my success is that I’m strictly organized in everything that I do, both in my professional life, as well as in my personal life. I feel that I do that a little better than most people in my industry.”
White Construction’s list of projects is long and impressive. A partial listing of metro Detroit projects includes Campus Martius Park, the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center’s 13th Floor Auditorium, Comerica Park, Detroit Port Authority, Detroit Lions Training Facility, Detroit Zoo, MGM Grand Casino, Youthville, Northwest Airlines Midfield Terminal, Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, and the new Cooley and Mumford high schools, as well as several construction ventures at Wayne State University, including the David Adamany Undergraduate Library.
Looking to the future, White and his company are preparing to tackle the new M-1 Rail project that will put light-rail service on Woodward Avenue. It will run from downtown to the Midtown area of the city. White Construction, which will serve as a main subcontractor to the managing construction company of Stacy and Witbeck, will build approximately 21 station stops along the Woodward corridor. “I’m really excited about the M-1 Rail project,” said White. “It’s going reignite Detroit’s progress and help the city move into the future. It’s also going to ignite businesses along the Woodward corridor. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m excited for the city of Detroit and for White Construction.”
White said, hopefully, the M-1 Rail groundbreaking will begin soon, and that the entire project should be completed in the spring of 2015. As with all projects, White Construction, according to White, will give its very best to meet and exceed all expectations of the M-1 Rail project. giving his very best in everything was how he was raised.
Born in Detroit, White, his brother and two sisters were raised by a single mother on the city’s west side where the children learned the value of hard work and the discipline needed to reach their goals in life. He fondly recalled how his grandmother, Rosa Smith, played a key role in shaping his young life. “She was a great inspiration to me as an adolescent,” White recalled. “She would make breakfast every morning before I went to school, tell me about her life in the South when she was growing up, and really encourage me to get the best education possible. My grandmother was definitely a big, big inspiration and was an instrumental part of the success that I’ve enjoyed professionally.”
Propelled by his grandmother’s constant words of encouragement and inspiration, White graduated from Chadsey High School and entered Lawrence Technological University, where in 1980, he earned a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. He graduated cum laude. Subsequently, he began working for a well-known construction management firm in the area where he honed his skills for nine years. In 1989, he stepped out on faith when he started White Construction.
White credits the late Mayor Coleman A. Young and his administration, as well as other administrations for the support given to help Black-owned businesses, such as his, in Detroit. White notes that many Black-owned firms were able “to grow and flourish” with the support received from the city and community.”
To give back to the city that has given him so much, White makes time to talk with young African-American boys and young men in Detroit Public Schools about making good life and career choices. “I love to offer myself as an example,” said White, the father of three grown children and grandfather of two grandchildren. “I came from a single-parent home and through the Detroit Public Schools. I lived in Detroit’s inner city, just like many of the young men I talk to. I offer them an alternative to just pursuing sports and rapping. I suggest to them that when they make education a priority, they will do well. I tell them that they can become an engineer, attorney, doctor, or whatever they want if they work hard and stay disciplined.”
Like many Detroit business owners, White is keeping an eyes on the series of events that are impacting the city, inclusive of its bankruptcy status. “I’m not sure about the full impact the bankruptcy will have as this is virgin ground for a large American city,” said White. “I think some city-funded projects or partly city-funded projects may be stalled or, maybe not started at all until this bankruptcy has run its course. I can only hope that this process is completed expeditiously so that the city of Detroit can begin its renewal process. There’s going to be some pain, but hopefully it won’t last very long.”
Whatever the future brings to Detroit, it’s a safe bet that White Construction will prosper, as White guides the company with the same optimism and confidence that he displayed 24 years ago, when he and his company stepped into uncharted waters as a new organization.
“We have an outstanding track record in Detroit and throughout the Southeast region,” he said. “We feel there will be opportunities for us to continue to do business in the city. We stand ready!”