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Tampa Bay to be showcased on two blue-collar reality shows

The area will be featured on the season premieres of “Dirty Jobs” and “Undercover Boss.”
Mike Rowe helped hang pieces of rebar while working on the Pinellas County Gateway Expressway project for the season premiere of "Dirty Jobs."
Mike Rowe helped hang pieces of rebar while working on the Pinellas County Gateway Expressway project for the season premiere of "Dirty Jobs." [ Courtesy of Discovery ]
Published Dec. 22, 2021|Updated Dec. 30, 2021

TAMPA — The owners of Shelby Erectors wanted the public to know how hard their blue-collar employees work. So did the founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk.

The companies took their causes to reality television. The Florida companies are both set to be featured on different shows next month.

Each episode shows off the Tampa Bay area.

Shelby Erectors is featured on the season premiere of the Discovery channel’s Dirty Jobs, 8 p.m. Sunday.

“Our work is probably one of the toughest trades there is in the construction industry,” said Jack Nix, chief operations officer of the company that installs the steel rebar that reinforces concrete bridges. “You’re lifting heavy steel, it’s hot, it’s humid, and we’re bent over. It’s just a very physically demanding job.”

College Hunks Hauling Junk is featured on the season premiere of the CBS series Undercover Boss, 8 p.m. on Jan. 7.

“By going undercover, we were able to get the truth,” said Nick Friedman, co-founder of the junk hauling and moving company. ”The good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.”

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" working on the Pinellas County Gateway Expressway project.
Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" working on the Pinellas County Gateway Expressway project. [ Courtesy of Discovery ]

Dirty Jobs, hosted by Mike Rowe and returning to television after eight years, celebrates “hard-working men and women who have made civilized life possible,” according to Discovery.

For the premiere episode, Rowe wanted to tackle the trade of rodbusting, which is shaping the iron rods placed in cement.

So he spent a day with Shelby Erectors, the Davie company working on the Pinellas County Gateway Expressway project, an elevated roadway that will provide direct connections between U.S. 19 and I-275 and the Bayside Bridge and I-275.

“We had him installing the deck rebar on one of the bridges, and that’s some of the hardest work that we do as rodbusters,” Nix said. “And we had him start building a pier cap, which is the part of the substructure that the bridge deck sits on.”

Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk.
Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk. [ Courtesy of College Hunks Hauling Junk ]

College Hunks Hauling Junk was founded by Friedman and Omar Soliman in 2012 in Washington, D.C.

“We were driving the truck, answering the phone and hauling the junk,” Friedman said. “We had the 800 number on the back of our trucks routed to our cell phone.”

Today, headquartered out of a 50,000-square-foot property in Tampa, the company has over 200 franchise owners and 4,000 employees nationwide and more than $200 million in annual sales, according to Friedman.

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Neither founder hauls junk anymore.

“We use the office all day,” Soliman said. “We wanted to ensure that we haven’t completely lost touch with the front lines.”

They agreed to appear on Undercover Boss, which, according to CBS, “follows high-level executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own organizations.”

Related: Tampa Bay film incentives bring another movie to the area

Tampa Bay will be featured when the company’s backstory is told, but the founders then go undercover in cities where they are not as recognizable as they would be in their hometown.

Friedman said they learned lessons but couldn’t “go into specific detail because that would give away the show.”

But the founders did admit that they are not in blue-collar shape.

“We have a lot of talented movers and haulers in our organization,” Friedman said with a laugh. “Omar and I are not necessarily one of them anymore.”

Related: 10 more movies made in Tampa Bay? That’s the plan, producers say.

As for Shelby Erectors, Nix hopes viewers earn an appreciation for their work.

“We put in all the rebar steel that goes into concrete and that gets covered up,” he said. “So, we’re the unsung heroes of construction.”

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