September 12, 2022 Dakota Jones is HBI’s newest board member, and he has a mission
Dakota Jones, the newest member of HBI’s Board of Directors, is Director of Operations and Senior Diversity Consultant at InOrder Business Development Solutions. The company consults with businesses working with the built environment – developers, construction companies, and institutions – on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“DEI is getting more attention in construction today,” he notes. “For employers, it’s about building a capable, qualified workforce in the industry and tapping into the talent that has previously gone unacknowledged,” Jones said. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
The important thing is to bring young people into the trades, with education and early experience. “It all points to a pipeline issue,” Jones said. “It’s really important for young folks to have an awareness of what the opportunity is and how to get into it. It’s not easy to navigate the process and get connected to jobs. And it doesn’t happen organically, it’s something you have to invest in,” Jones said. “It just requires real attention, effort and intention.”
For Jones, this work is a labor of love, as it brings him closer to construction, which has always interested him. “I actually got my first job as a laborer, when I was 15,” he said. “My high school football coach got that for me,” he laughs, “to keep me out of trouble.”
From that first job, Jones has honed his passions for real estate and construction, and creating accessible opportunities like the one he benefitted from. “Prior to joining InOrder, I was doing custom home renovations by day and diversity consulting at night,” he said. With InOrder, Jones’ work and opportunity for impact extends beyond workforce diversity to include contracting opportunities for Underutilized Business Enterprises and minority businesses in particular.
Dakota first connected with Historic Boston when he managed the CREST program (Commercial Real Estate Success Training), which placed minority and female undergraduates – two groups traditionally overlooked in development and construction — in summer internships in Boston area commercial real estate companies. He was the chief contact for HBI’s CREST interns.
That connection was important. “The reason I was excited about HBI was my own carpentry experience was in historic preservation – working with 100-year-old-plus homes prior to doing custom homes renovations.”
Unbeknownst to both HBI and Dakota, a carpentry company he worked for in 2015 completed one of HBI’s prominent projects, the 1830s Alvah Kittredge House, a historic Greek Revival style residence in Roxbury, that was being rehabilitated as apartments. “They were just completing it as I joined the company,” Jones said. “I remember being in awe when I saw the columns being worked on in the shop.”
Jones said he wants to make sure as many people as possible who want to work in some element of real estate get to do that. Dakota’s father, who started as a brick mason, was a model. “He’d do work around the house, and I could see it was valuable to know how to build a deck or do drywall.” That’s when Dad wasn’t practicing as a civil rights attorney. Jones’ mom was also an attorney and was director of a nonprofit empowering young people.
“Construction has always been an important means of upward mobility for under-resourced demographics,” he said.
Jones said he’s interested in the historic buildings of Boston and in a broader look at their construction and who built them. “Boston’s original workforce included slave labor at its foundation,” he said, a topic not often addressed in the telling of Boston’s development history.
“Things changed a lot as people started getting compensation for that work,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity through HBI to elevate that story and reclaim a place for Boston’s black and brown people in an industry we helped establish. At least for me, knowing my history – my father’s and great-grandfather’s history in construction – empowered me to feel a sense of belonging here.
Jones grew up in Jamaica Plain, went to Roxbury Latin High School and majored in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College. When he’s not working, Jones spends time with his family — his wife Katie, their daughter Tallulah, and “one more on the way.” He also loves to travel and has lived elsewhere across the United States, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
“When I left Boston I didn’t think I would be back,” he said. ‘But the City has changed a lot since then and I’m happy to be back in Boston doing work I love, surrounded by friends and family I love.”