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Group helps jobless real estate workers rebuild

For Ron Weaver, Tampa power lawyer and big wheel in local development circles, the prick of conscience came when he learned about laid-off Tampa construction workers plying Colorado shale mines for work.

As the son of a father forced by the Great Depression to drive a truck through treacherous Appalachian passes, Weaver knows all about the philosophy of feeding families first. But an open pit in Colorado seemed like an unusually bleak and frigid destination for skilled laborers accustomed to working in shirtsleeves and sunshine.

Weaver is one of the co-founders of Real Estate Lives, which seeks to find jobs for up to 300 out-of-work colleagues from the real estate industry. Its services are not just for manual laborers, but also for brokers who aren't brokering and civil engineers with nothing to engineer.

In some of these fields, it feels more like depression than recession. Florida has shed more than 70,000 construction jobs in the past year as the sickness that started in housing has bled into office and shopping center development.

The way Weaver sees it, all these people helped his law firm, with its 100 attorneys in three Florida cities, thrive during the real estate boom. Now it's his turn to return the favor.

The group's Web site, realestatelives.org, is already up and running. But before they start job placement in earnest, Weaver and his colleagues have been hitting the phones and the social circuit to scrounge up scarce employment opportunities.

Their efforts have borne fruit: at least 72 jobs, many in construction. Some positions demand a nomadic life. One cache of jobs entails repairing dikes on Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston and sinking pylons in Mobile, Ala.

The group hopes, perhaps overconfidently, that its services won't be needed after about a year. As Weaver puts it: "Our goal is to go out of business quick."

But the Web site could live on with a new name befitting more prosperous times: Real Estate Rocks.

Group helps jobless real estate workers rebuild 12/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5:14pm]
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