Since graduating from Milwaukee’s Lynde and Harry Bradley Technical and Trade School, Michael Cockroft has been clear about how he would be successful – he would build homes.
As a student in Bradley Tech’s construction and carpentry school, Michael participated in the NSI program, which allowed apprentices to strip an abandoned home to the studs and rehabilitate it for resale. He worked with general contractors in the program to improve schools as well, including 55th Street, Grantosa and BurbankSchools, applying his learning to real life experience. “I’ve been doing this my whole life, taking things apart and then them putting them back together. I knew I wanted to work with my hands, and I always wanted to build a house. I used to ride down Lake Drive and look at the mansions and think about building one some day, or even living in one. ”
Michael graduated from MATC with a degree in architectural technology, and took a full time position with Cross Development Groups and was the supplier and head of Workforce Diversity, where his focus was in large-scale developers and municipalities, particularly in minority and women-owned businesses. He then moved to a subsidiary, Cross Development Group, and started designing residences and managing construction projects. He later moved to TL Reese where he worked as a project manager, entrusted with new construction, property rehabilitation, clinic, and grocery construction. He was among those saluted by the Milwaukee Business Journal as one of the 40 Under 40 for 2013, honoring Milwaukee’s upcoming leaders.
Cockroft is currently the Director of Construction for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, a worldwide homeownership nonprofit organization. Milwaukee Habitat is involved in a three- to five-year commitment to building and rebuilding homes, with first-time homeowners, in the WashingtonPark area of Milwaukee. The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) plans to focus on the entirety of community development, in addition to new construction. Milwaukee Habitat now offers rehabilitation, critical repair, weatherization, preservation, and community development for the neighborhood, working with Washington Park Partners, 3rd District Police Station, ACTS Housing, Housing Resources Inc., LISC Milwaukee, Safe & Sound, Select Milwaukee, United Methodist Children’s Services, UrbanEcologyCenter and the Victory Garden Initiative.
“I’m really happy doing what I’m doing.” says Cockroft. “The NRI Initiative is in the same community that I grew up in, and I like to be able to give back.” He also mentions that, more than his initial desire to build houses, he now has the chance to build homes. “It’s refreshing to meet people who move in, to hand them the keys to their new home. It’s exciting to see a first time homebuyer, people who might not qualify for traditional home loans, get high-quality, comfortable housing.”
He is married to Shawnie Cockroft, and they are parents to three daughters. “My kids need me for my leadership and my love. And that keeps me very motivated. I want to be the best person I can be.” He says, “I think we’re the architects of our future, and our fortune.”