Construction And The American Dream

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

Blacks in Construction

While black Americans have a long history of serving as a labor force in U.S. construction markets, there are few resources that reach out to encourage these workers and trades people to move beyond labor into management positions.

Organized in 2002 in Dallas, the Black Contractors Association (BCA) strives to fill the shortage of qualified black male- and female-owned construction-related companies needed to fulfill government-funded and private projects with MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) and DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) goals. The organization markets over 100 black contracting firms to North Texas general contractors, public entities, developers, and project owners. They also seek to accelerate growth by developing their membership base through education, training, business development, and mentor/protégé programs.

Marvin Gooch, director of the BCA in Dallas, explained their mentor/protégé program. "All our protégé firms are skilled in their trades. They come from environments where they were skilled labor, project managers, engineers, or have experience with larger firms and developed an entrepreneurial spirit. We place them with mentors that teach them the business side of contracting — the legal aspects of contracts and forms, marketing, and safety. We help them move beyond labor into management and company ownership."

The BCA meets the third Tuesday of each month at 11:00 a.m. on the 15th floor of the Bank of America Building, 400 S. Zang Blvd. in Dallas. Their annual recruiting and membership drive just got under way October 9. A Black Contractors Association was recently organized in San Antonio.

Hispanics in Construction

In recent times, when people talk about minorities in construction, most often they are referring to Hispanics. In Texas and the rest of the Southwest, Hispanic men are not in the minority in the labor echelons of the construction industry, but they are in the minority in project management and engineering.

Some groups are working to change the demographics of Hispanics in engineering fields. The Hispanic Contractors Association of Dallas/Fort Worth (HCADFW) offers a class in project management, enabling Hispanics to achieve certification.

Another aspect of Hispanic presence in construction is the entrance of Hispanic women into the contracting market. Elizabeth Chavez is president of Ponce Contractors, Inc., an environmental firm specializing in asbestos and hazardous waste abatement and demolition. Chavez spoke this past summer at a Women's Business Conference hosted by the Hispanic Contractors Association of Dallas/Fort Worth. In her address, she said that more Hispanic women have started going to work in the construction market. It is a path mirroring sons following their fathers into the business. The families, including the older generation of grandmothers, are also supportive of the younger women entering construction, according to Chavez. "I started Ponce Contractors about three years ago. Everyone in my family for two generations has been in construction and has been very supportive of me."