Wage differences: Why construction workers may not make as much on Innovation Campus projects as other WSU projects


Matt Crow

Monroe Becker, owner of Unruh House Moving Inc. prepares the trailer with original Pizza Hut building as its moved to its permanent home on Wichita State’s campus. (Sept. 18, 2017)

Although there is construction all over campus, not every construction job is treated equally.

Construction on government-owned buildings or pieces of land — including public universities — is subject to government regulations. This includes regulations on how construction companies pay their employees and on how the bid for the project is awarded.

Even though Wichita State’s Innovation Campus is being built on state-owned land, these regulations don’t apply.

“When you do work for the government, you have to go by their pay scale,” a supervisor from Crossland Construction involved with Innovation Campus said. He declined to give The Sunflower his full name.

“In this side of it, we just get paid what we get paid. Nobody sets it except for our company,” he said.

When it comes to public projects, the supervisor said, “everybody made the same wages, depending on what they did. The guy driving the skid-loader would make ‘X’ amount of dollars, no matter what he made otherwise.”

Construction workers tend to prefer working on these public projects “because they make a lot more money,” he said.

Union contractors have also been brought in to work on Innovation Campus. These contractors are subject to additional union-scale wage standards.

The supervisor said that the union-scale wages don’t apply to Crossland Construction.

“We have union contractors working here but we’re not union,” he said.

Crossland Construction doesn’t pay government or union scale to those working on Innovation Campus — both of which are higher than the pay Crossland Construction employees on Innovation Campus currently receive.

The supervisor said that working on the Wichita State campus comes with a different set of standards than off-campus construction jobs and that these standards are consistent with work on the Innovation Campus.

“WSU controls these buildings. The county bought this but WSU is going to maintain it, so they want their standards brought into these buildings because they are on their campus,” he said, referring to buildings on the Innovation Campus.

The Wichita State Innovation Alliance Board, a non-profit organization which serves as the governing entity for the Innovation Campus, allows for the Innovation Campus to operate outside of standard government regulations. The rest of Wichita State is governed by its board of trustees, which was established by the state of Kansas.

In 1967, Wichita State purchased Braeburn Golf course — the land which is now home to Innovation Campus — to provide room for campus expansion. The Wichita State Board of Trustees deeded the land to the state of Kansas, who then leased it back to Wichita State — allowing for the Innovation Alliance to sublease projects to developers and avoid the traditional competitive bidding process.

Crossland Construction is the general contractor for most Innovation Campus projects. The company is owned by Ivan Crossland Jr.

Crossland Jr. is also part of MWCB, LLC, a Wichita-based development firm that finances much of the Innovation Campus.