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If you’re looking for a career change, might LL suggest going into construction? Per the Post today: “Employment levels for construction workers in the District reached a 22-year high in August,” while the construction industry is struggling in much of the rest of the country.

“We are the hottest city in America,” Mayor Vince Gray told a room full of contractors last week.

Much of the city’s construction boom is being fueled by District government, especially the $1.5 billion planned in school construction over the next six years. On Friday, Grayhelped unveil the design for a new $120 million Ballou High School Friday. (See the video above).

The city should announce its pick for a prime contractor for Ballou either this week or next, according a spokesman for the Department of General Services. The contract will mark the unofficial kick off of fiscal 2013 city construction spending, which is budgeted at about $600 million in contracts DGS alone will award in fiscal 2013. Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Roosevelt High School are set for major renovations totaling about $180 million in construction work; the contract for a new recreation center at Barry Farm is $20 million; and there’s nearly $40 million planned in work at several of the city’s fire stations.

Last Tuesday, DGS had a summit for contractors to advise them on how they could get in on the spending. Will Mangrum, a private consultant who makes up part of the DGS’s mostly privatized procurement system, said that while the city has a “core” group of contractors it has used on past projects, there’s so much city construction planned that there’s plenty of opportunity for all.

“If you get done and you get it done quickly, on time and on budget, you know what awaits? Another opportunity with the District of Columbia” says Gray. “And if you don’t get it done on time and on budget you know what awaits? A referral to Maryland.”

But not everyone is feeling the love. Some African-American contractors feel that they are being excluded from the party, says Cardell Shelton, a general contractor and president of the D.C. Contractor’s Guild.

“There are too many of us being missed,” says Shelton, who organized a meeting of his own Saturday for contractors to talk about how to increase their share of city construction work. One solution: more political involvement.

“If we press upon them I think they’ll open doors a little better,” Shelton says of the city’s pols.