HACIA Opening Doors Of Opportunity

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

The Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) is a 28-year-old, Chicago-based organization whose mission is to create equal access for minority firms in the construction industry, while also promoting the growth, quality of work, professionalism, and integrity of these businesses. "We promote equality and inclusiveness within the industry on behalf of our members," says HACIA Executive Director Cesar Santoy, AIA. "We provide our members with access to opportunities, relationships and resources."

Through comprehensive services to its members, contractor and employee outreach, training and education programs, and policy advocacy, HACIA has opened doors of opportunity for thousands of construction businesses across the Midwest.

Diversified Membership

HACIA is composed of over 250 members performing a multitude of projects — working on projects such as the ongoing O'Hare International Airport modernization program, the Block 37 development project in downtown Chicago, along with numerous Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Tollway and Chicago Department of Transportation projects.

HACIA has fought for diversity in the construction world since 1979, clearing paths of opportunity for minority- and woman-owned business enterprises.

"We promote diversity as part of HACIA's mission, and as a result our members are also diverse," says Santoy. "They are diverse in terms of trade and discipline, size and scope, and location — half of our membership is in Chicago and the other half is located outside of Chicago. We are also diverse in that we have union and non-union membership, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic membership. In addition, we have diversity in terms of the sectors — public and private. Our members perform roadway, flatwork, infrastructure, as well as institutional, commercial and residential work. This gives us a very wide platform from which to work from, and we are able to work with any owner or developer."

HACIA's Vision

HACIA sees the need to equip a growing Hispanic community with the tools necessary to seize and succeed at new business opportunities. HACIA notes that, like any group, Hispanics must constantly obtain training and education to remain at the cutting edge of the construction world. Thus, the association has established bilingual training programs, professional development activities, and a number of member services that assist Hispanics in growing their own construction-related businesses and developing powerful professional networks.

According to Santoy, HACIA believes in pushing its community beyond what have become traditional roles for Hispanics in the construction industry. He says Hispanics must seek positions of leadership in the construction field in addition to mandated set-asides and manual labor jobs. Toward this end, HACIA challenges and trains Hispanic construction firms to bid and excel as prime contractors and other top-level service providers.

HACIA encourages and provides resources for Hispanic construction workers to obtain English language skills, occupational training and certifications that will help them climb the career ladder in the construction industry. The group also encourages young people to enter into construction-related studies — engineering, architecture and construction.

"HACIA lets those students know right from the beginning that they are the next generation of builders, owners and managers within construction," says HACIA Board President Marcos Reyes. "Through the HACIA Scholarship Foundation, we have awarded over a quarter of a million dollars over the past five years to college-bound high school students and existing college students. We are starting to keep track of who those students are, and we are beginning to see a lot of them working within the industry and working for HACIA member firms."

The association also offers scholarships to post-graduate students. The Alphonse Guajardo Architectural Scholarship Fund, established in memory of the former president of HACIA, awards both academic and financial packages to Hispanic architectural students entering the University of Illinois at Chicago's (UIC) Master of Architecture program.

HACIA is pleased with its higher education initiatives, but points out that there are also vocational opportunities available for those students not wishing to attend college. "I think we have done an excellent job preparing for the next generation of professionals — architects, engineers, construction managers, etc. — to enter into the workforce," says Santoy. "But we have to start doing a better job of focusing on vocational needs — preparing our children who are not going to go to college to enter into the trades. We have an aging workforce and college is not for everyone. Working within the trades is an honorable profession which can provide economic stability and growth for entire families and communities."

HACIA's Officers

Marcos G. Reyes, founder and president of Reyes Group, Ltd., is president of HACIA. With over 20 years of industry experience, Reyes has been an integral part of HACIA over five years — serving on its board of directors and various committees.

Other HACIA officers are Miguel A. Saltijeral, president, Industrial Fence Inc. — executive vice president; John Mooncotch, president, Royal Crane Service — 1st vice president; Rafael Hernandez, partner, DEN Construction Management, LLC — 2nd vice president; Oscar Fragoso, owner, Fragoso Construction Co. — treasurer; Martha Morelos, president, Art Dose Inc. — secretary; and Dominic Delgado, president, Delgado Erectors — past president.

HACIA's board of directors also includes Joel Arce, president, Aztec Material Corp.; Francisco Carrillo, emerging markets manager, Chicago, The Home Depot; Frederico J. d'Escoto, president, d'Escoto Inc.; Javier Diaz; Victor Ignacio Dziekiewicz, president, Design Bridge, Ltd.; Jorge A. Moreno, president, CivCon Services Inc.; and Richard Pinto, president, Pinto Construction Group Inc.

Santoy, who has served three years as HACIA executive director, oversees a staff that includes Maria Mercedes Esparza, information systems manager; Neida Cintrón, event coordinator; Nancy Daikumachi, project coordinator; Juan Calhorrano, program manager; and Jackie Gomez, project director for the Small Business Transportation Resource Center (SBTRC).

Membership Support

HACIA is committed to supporting the efforts of its membership. Each month, HACIA brings together its members to discuss current industry trends and news from the organization. HACIA membership meetings also offer opportunities for members to network amongst each other, create new business relationships, and stay up to date on developments within their fields.

Throughout the year, HACIA hosts a variety of events to enhance the relationship of members and local businesses, including its annual awards banquet in February and its summer golf outing.

Future Growth

During the next decade, HACIA anticipates substantial growth in its membership. "There must be growth," says Santoy. "In northeastern Illinois, according to a 2002 census, there are 5,000 Hispanic-owned construction-related firms. That tells us there is tremendous opportunity for us to serve additional businesses."

Santoy adds, "A lot of those firms are working in the R&R (residential and remodeling) world. They are either general contractors or subcontractors working on anywhere from a few units to several hundred units a year, and they do excellent work. These are the next construction firms of the future. We want to be part of their growth."