Michael Saunders, who grew up in the neighborhood and came to Wednesday's event, said afterward that he had expected more opportunity for his construction business, Maryland Roll Off Recycling. But he received only one contract, two years ago, he said.

The EBDI's Shea said minority contractors from the neighborhood will be overseeing several coming projects, including the construction of the school, hotel and retail project and the renovation of 25 vacant rowhouses into market-rate housing.

One minority contractor said he believed EBDI already has a strong program for inclusion on the projects within the site that are in its control. But, he added, EBDI does not control hiring on all the projects.

Pless B. Jones, head of P&J Contracting Co. Inc, said his company worked on site clearance for the elementary school project. He in turn hired about a half-dozen minority subcontractors and people from the community.

"EBDI itself has one of the best programs for inclusion," he said. "When you get a job, they say hire people from the community that come through their pipeline. Some people are frustrated because they see the work going on and they don't have a job. But it takes more than just the East Baltimore project to keep people working."

Susan Woods, spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services, which is overseeing construction of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene lab, said state officials have been in close communication with state and city officials through the process of planning and constructing the facility.

"We're very surprised by the events today," she said.


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