First Black-owned construction company in Lee County to be awarded large contract for school district project

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
tobler construction owners
Tracee and John Tobler Credit: WINK News

Construction Manager John Tobler has become the first Black person in Lee County to be awarded a large, prime construction contract for the School District of Lee County. How will they rise to the historic challenge?

It takes hard work and dedication to break barriers, to pave your own path, to be “the first.” John Tobler, president and co-owner of Tobler construction, knows that very well.

“It’s just a beautiful thing, growing up here, knowing the things that we’ve had to go through in this community and to be a part of bringing jobs back home, keeping the jobs home, and just being a part of increasing the economy right here,” he said.

John and his wife, Tracee, were born and raised in Dunbar, and that’s where they’re making history.

Tobler Construction and OAK are teaming up to rebuild Franklin Park Elementary School. Tobler is the first Black-owned construction management company to be awarded a prime contract of that size. The Franklin Park Elementary School rebuilding project is estimated to cost anywhere from $55 million to $65 million.

The Tobler/OAK Joint Venture was designed as a partnership to split power and control over the rebuilding project. To date, they’ve worked on several projects together, including Lehigh Acres Middle School.

“I think this is going to be a transformational project for the school district of Lee County, for the community of Dunbar,” said Jan-Erik Hustrulid, community outreach coordinator for the Tobler/OAK Joint Venture. “To have the boys and girls who are going to walk by that job site on the daily basis see you there, moms and dads and grandparents working on the job site, will be tremendously invaluable for them to see that so they will have a future to look forward to hopefully in construction.”

“We are moving towards that American dream, which we all so dearly want,” said James Muwakkil, president of Lee County’s NAACP Chapter.

The new building will be making history as well. It will become the School District of Lee County’s first community partnership school, meaning it will have classrooms and social services all under one roof.

“It’s not just about the children. It’s going to be about the community and finally having something beautiful,” said school board member Debbie Jordan.

The hope is, that after this contract, history will repeat itself. “Hopefully, it will open the doors to other contractors in the area, subcontractors of color that will be able to move into the spaces where we previously not been represented,” said Tracee Tobler, vice president and co-owner of Tobler Construction.

“Those kids that live right here in this community, they will see the name Tobler plastered on their building and they will know,” John said. “If he did it, I can do it.”

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