August 2015

Forest City Erectors and Local 17 — A History of Safety and Success

Forest City Erectors, Inc. is one of Northern Ohio’s most prominent steel erection contractors headquartered in Twinsburg, Ohio, located near Cleveland. Jim Mirgliotta’s journey as a young ironworker to a successful steel erection contractor was not an easy path. The foundation for Jim’s success began in 1907 before he was born. His grandparents, Phillip and Rosemary Mirgliotta, invested in the American Dream by buying ocean liner tickets bound for the United States for their five young children with the knowledge they would probably never see them again. They prayed their children would have a better life than the one they could provide in the village of Nasso on the island of Sicily and hoped they were making the right decision. Phillip and Rosemary Mirgliotta could never know what the future would bring for their children, but had to believe they were doing what was best for the Mirgliotta family, not themselves. Their sacrifice is what makes their grandson Jim Mirgliotta’s story, as an ironworker and steel erection contractor, an inspiration to all of us.

In 1951 at age 17, on the same day Jim Mirgliotta finished high school in Cleveland, Ohio, Jim decided pursuing a formal education was not for him. That evening during dinner Jim asked his father, an ironworker, if any jobs were available. The next morning Jim headed to the union hall, picked up his permit and walked onto a Ford Motor Company construction site in Brook Park, Ohio, where he was hired by H.K. Ferguson Company as an apprentice ironworker. Jim remembers his excitement primarily because he earned double time for his first day on the job. 

Jim served his apprenticeship with Local 17 (Cleveland) and spent the next several years learning all aspects of the ironworking trade from erecting structural steel to repairing bridges to ornamental ironworking. Jim’s skills and work ethic as an ironworker grew, and more opportunities became available, including an opportunity to work on the Mackinac Bridge in 1957. Jim decided the time away from his young family would not be outweighed by the excellent wages and benefits of working on the Mackinac Bridge. His wife Bette helped make his decision much easier by declaring that if he left home to work on the bridge for six months, his family would not be there when he returned. So he continued to work in Northeast Ohio. 

After several years of working for national and local steel fabricators and erectors, Jim and Bette decided to start their own steel erection company in 1959 under the name Park Iron Works. Now executive vice president of Forest City Erectors, the company he and his late wife Bette have owned and operated since 1961, Jim recounts his early days as a young ironworker and recognizes the many changes impacting the ironworking industry. On the often-strained relationship between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and steel erection contractors, Jim recognizes OSHA for improving workplace conditions and safety performance. Jim states, “I give a lot of credit to OSHA. Yes, OSHA!” 

Jim Mirgliotta has devoted much time giving back his wealth of knowledge and expertise to the ironworking industry. He has been a member of the Construction Employers Association since 1971 serving as president from 1995-1998 and has been on its board of directors since 1989. He was president of the Steel and Iron Contractors Association from 1989-2003, after which he became secretary-treasurer from 2003 to the present. Additionally, he joined the National Erectors Association, now The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC), in 1971, serving on their board as well as serving as their vice president and president. Finally, Jim has served on the IMPACT Region III Advisory Committee since its inception 12 years ago. 

During all of his participation with these associations, safety has been the common denominator. In his 61 years as an ironworker, Jim has experienced many booms, busts and everything between. The Iron Workers are fortunate to have Jim Mirgliotta as a brother ironworker, successful union contractor and an outstanding example of success in the ironworking industry. Thanks for all your hard work, dedication and sharing your inspirational story on achieving the American Dream as a union ironworker and steel erection contractor.