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September 2020

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Boston Local Finds New Signatory in an 'Outkast'

The name Outkast might not conjure images of unity and solidarity, but the electrical contractor and Boston Local 103 have proven that they're a great partnership.

"They've been on our radar for quite some time," said Local 103 Business Manager Lou Antonellis. "They were very competitive with our contractors on a lot of jobs, so we opened up a dialogue with them."

Outkast has been around since the mid-90s and, like Local 103, is based in Dorchester, an area south of downtown Boston known for its diversity. Started by Paul Gray and Kevin Scarlett, cousins who come from a family of tradespeople, it grew from the two of them working out of a van on small residential projects to a large commercial and industrial contracting business — one with a reputation for quality work completed on time.

"We're a family business. We started here, we live here," Gray said. "We're very community-based."

As they were looking to grow their business, they were looking for a partner with a similar investment in the community. Enter Local 103.

"They recognize and appreciate our commitment to diversity, but also our commitment to them and their business," Antonellis said. "They are a perfect fit for Local 103."

Outkast is a Black-owned business and Local 103 has been making a concerted effort to make diversity a priority and to open its doors to the entire greater Boston community, both in terms of members and signatories.

"Local 103 wants to foster small, home-grown minority-owned businesses in the city of Boston," Antonellis said. "We believe in equal opportunity for individuals, but also for contractors. We not only firmly stand behind that, we actually work hard at it and strive to increase our Black and brown ranks."

Antonellis says the local invited Outkast to a couple of industry nights at Fenway Park last year and introduced them to some general contractors and electrical contractors who could put them at ease about joining the local.

For Gray and Scarlett, the timing was perfect. Local 103 was able to open the door to more business for them in parts of the city where they weren't yet established.

"We've gotten a lot of exposure," Gray said. "We've been able to bring our guys into places we didn't have access to before."

When Outkast became a signatory in 2019, it had about 36 employees who came with them. Since then Gray says their workforce has doubled in size and revenue is up 50%. And their employees now have access to the health and pension benefits that come with being Local 103 members.

"We've got a lot of happy guys," Gray said. "Usually in our line of work, there is no retirement."

Some of the projects Outkast has worked on with Local 103 include the Omni hotel, the Clippership Apartments redevelopment and the Mattapan Station Affordable Housing project.

"Things have been really good. We're pretty busy right now and hoping to double in size again," Gray said. "The union has been good to us."

When asked about the name, Scarlett says it has nothing to do with the famous Atlanta-based hip-hop duo of the same name. It comes from something they heard back when they were thinking about striking out on their own, that when you decide to leave, you can't come back. Maybe they can't, but they've found a new home, and one with a lot of opportunities and respect for them and their work.

"We want to empower people in our community, deliver a good product and provide good training," Gray said. "We can do all that with Local 103."

The new partnership has even garnered the attention of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

"Now more than ever, it's important every industry strengthens their commitment to diversity and inclusion," said Walsh, who is also a former head of the area's building trades. "I'm proud to see the partnership between IBEW Local 103 and Outkast Electric. This is an important step for increasing inclusion in the building trades."



Outlkast Electrical became a signatory in 2019, adding the Black-owned business to a growing roster of diverse signatories with Boston Local 103. Above, Outkast Vice President Kevin Scarlett, Local 103 Business Manager Lou Antonellis and Outkast President Paul Gray.