Tell us about your company and services.
Let’s first talk about the Name Durango Works since I was raised in Southeast Chicago and have lived in Louisiana for 22 years.
Growing up in Kankakee, IL, was a town that provided my parents, who were public school educators from the Deep South, great opportunities back in 1959. However, by the time I was born, I saw how industry and opportunity moved out of Kankakee. I lived through the transition when crime and despair moved in during the 80s—personally resulting in a close friend being accidentally shot waiting to play street ball and another family friend being brutally murdered by someone mentally ill. I also saw how this crime and despair forced my parents into early retirement, not because they were not in love with public education. Instead, it was the result of teaching, in many cases, third-generation kids whose parents missed the opportunity and the WHY to take education seriously, resulting in parents with nontransferable skills and students living in poverty. Eventually, the classroom reflected the community.
Why Durango Works:
As a result, my experiencing such a beautiful city being destroyed by petty and violent crime. I was quickly motivated to become a crime fighter so cities like Kankakee could have a fighting chance to revive themselves. Once I moved to Durango in the early 1990, I came there with two things on my mind. First to become a Downhill mountain bike World Champion before I was 24 and second to become the best crime fighter in the world and work for the FBI or CIA. Well, neither of those things happened. I did win many Pro Category races in the Colorado Mountain Cup Series and placed well in some domestic World Cup races. However, over the years, my National and World Cup performance didn’t improve because of undetected distant vision problems. As a result, eventually forced me into my other passion for working with court-involved youth and communities with economic hell.
Working with Court-Involved Youth and Economic Hell In Communities: As I mentioned before, I wanted to be an FBI or CIA agent before moving to Durango. Durango was a good fit for me because it was the Mountain Bike Capitol of the World. It had affordable out-of-state tuition, but more importantly, it had small classes with a focus on braiding your learning experience with progressive community partners working on real community problems. This early exposure to working with caring faculty and a progressive organization responsible for court-involved youth quickly changed MY TRUTH of how crime was based on good and bad people, but more around the nuances of mostly good people making bad choices out of bad situations. Since that awakening in Durango, Colorado, 29 years ago, I have been focused on the people, systems, politics, finances, and industry sectors that can help those OUT living in economic hell.
How do you stay motivated in being an entrepreneur?
I love people, and I love to see people become and stay successful. Therefore I have a lot of drive to be involved with the detailed work in preparing those to take advantage of green jobs and advance manufacturing opportunities first in their backyard or in another country if they want to explore. I stay motivated by only working with others who share this core belief. I also have a very diverse group of mentors and friends that have love and wisdom- Iron sharpens Iron.
What type of experience should a client expect to have when working with you?
I am one extremely curious individually who loves to read a wide range of research and non-fiction. I also like to travel to different projects to spend quality time with the client and their community partners -asking questions and listing. On a daily basis, you will find me constantly brainstorming new solutions with my team and network of practitioners across the country. As a result, my clients will get full access to my daily engagement and curiosity. Also, my clients will get 29-plus years of actual hands-on IMPLEMENTING workforce development in economically distressed communities. I make sure to provide my clients with access to meaningful tools and research. Most importantly, my clients receive CUSTOMIZED (no cut and paste) actionable frameworks to sometimes old (e.g., ex-offenders being gainfully employed) and new workforce sector opportunities (hydrogen and carbon capture workforce development).
What does success look like for you?
Receiving phone calls talking about what we created together is helping their industry partners, and they are putting people into careers who were living in Economic Hell. I also love word-of-mouth referrals.
How do you occupy your time when you aren’t working?
Of course, family comes first. However, for me to stay engaged with national and local trends. I volunteer a lot. I am on executive committees with several national workforce development boards, The National Skills Coalition (NSC), The National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), and The School and Main Institute. I also serve on Cadence Bank’s new bank merger Implementation Committee and The National Clean Energy Workforce Alliance. I additionally serve on several local boards dealing with the petrochemical industry, nonprofit community development corporations (CDC), reentry services, and k-12 education. Somehow the church treasure, I am not sure how I got pulled into that one.
Racing and BIPOC individuals on MountainBikes: Last year, I reignited my passion for enduro racing. Some of my old affiliated sponsors, SuperCorsa Cycles, R-Bikes, Yeti Cycles, and SRAM, have stepped up to get me some help with bikes and parts. I have already won several races in the southeast and regional national races in Northeast GA. I am developing plans to work with these companies to pull together a small team of older BIPOC racers to help motivate more BIPOC men and women to get on mountain bikes in their backyards. There is a lot of great mountain biking trail development happing, particularly in the southeast united states, where we have the highest obesity rates and heart disease in the United States.
Where would you like to see your business in the next five years?
I have a couple of things in the works that I can’t talk about at this time. Stay tuned. I can say I will have a published book regarding some unidentified gaps in workforce development. But, as far as Durango Works Corp goes, Durango Works Corp. will be a Certified B Corporation with a strong team of seasoned professionals doing workforce development in a couple of areas oversees and be the first of mind for government organizations, foundations, and medium to large size industrial companies working with hydrogen, carbon capture, and energy efficiency technology. We will also keep our niche around legacy trades in the manufacturing, transportation, and construction sectors. Durango Works Corp. will also have some of the best strategies connecting these career opportunities to people who want out of their Economic Hell.
Girard J. Melancon, Ph.D.
DURANGO WORKS CORP. President/ Founder (May 2022-)