Information provided by the Business Tribune. Read the full article here.
Local minority-owned businesses honored by the Business Diversity Institute during Minority Enterprise Development Week
Every September, the business community in Portland comes together during Minority Enterprise Development Week to celebrate the accomplishments of local minority-owned businesses and the partners that support them. As part of this year’s events on Sept. 24 and 25, the Business Diversity Institute handed out awards to honor local businesses, programs and individuals for outstanding industry efforts as well as their commitment to supporting local inclusion.
BDI Minority Business Firm of the Year: Colas Construction
When Andrew Colas was studying business at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business, his dream was to help his family’s construction business become the most respected in the Portland area.
Now, with Colas and his siblings steering the future of the company, Portland-based Colas Construction is well on its way to achieving that goal.
The minority-owned company was founded by Andrew’s father, Hermann, who migrated to the United States from Haiti. Even from the earliest days of Colas Construction, Hermann was driven to make sure his company was supporting and encouraging other minority-owned businesses.
“It’s the overall philosophy of the company — as we grow, we bring others along with us,” Colas, the company’s president and CEO, said. “Since my father started the firm, his goal was always to make sure we were able to break down barriers to help other companies get opportunities.”
The company currently employs between 75 and 85 people and has about a dozen Portland-area projects under way that represent the company’s diverse range of work.
While affordable housing is “near and dear” to the company’s heart, Colas Construction’s portfolio also includes market-rate housing projects, as well as health care and K-12 work. However, it’s the company’s work in the Lloyd District that has made recent headlines.
When Colas Construction won the award to handle a major renovation at the Oregon Convention Center, the company’s $27 million contract became the largest public contract ever awarded in Oregon to a minority-owned firm.
More recently, it was announced that 50% of work on the project had been awarded to subcontractors with COBID certifications, far exceeding the 30% goal that had been set by project owner Metro. Craig Stroud, executive director of the convention center, gives credit for that accomplishment to the strong relationships that Colas has established with local COBID firms, a group that includes emerging small businesses and minority-, women- and veteran-owned firms.
Andrew Colas is quick to give credit for success on the project to his brother, Alex, who runs the company’s special projects division and is project manager for the convention center work.
“He’s pretty much lived and breathed that project for the past 18 to 20 months,” Colas said.
The company’s family leadership ties also include Colas’ sister, Aneshka Colas-Dickson, in the roles of CFO and vice president. “She really runs the show,” Andrew Colas said
The company’s success emerging as a leader among the city’s top general contractors has been a deliberate, steady climb, according to Colas. The company carefully picked larger companies to partner with on past projects, but always kept focused on the longer-term goal.
“Our intention was always to grow, to be able to compete with the larger firms in town,” Colas said. “We’ve always been focused on finding the right market segments for our business and the right clients. It’s really important as you grow as a general contractor.”
The company is setting an example for diversity and inclusion on projects that Colas hopes other general contractors will notice and begin to replicate.
“The work we do now, we’re really looking to shape the industry and get some of the big firms out there to follow our example,” Colas said.
He offers some tips for companies looking to move toward similar goals.
“You have to spend time and invest in the growth of relationships — that’s the key,” Colas said. “You have to build trust.”
He also encourages owners and general contractors to move beyond the mindset that diversity and inclusion only apply to public projects.
“If you’re a big company, it’s about giving firms real opportunities to participate. Maybe it’s not only the (public jobs) that have requirements. Doing it early on projects and often — and when it’s not required — shows people you’re really genuine about it”
BDI Construction Company of the Year: Zavala Corp.
Hugo Zavala is having a very good month.
At the beginning of September, Zavala received a Bravo Award from the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber for his work supporting and encouraging members of the local Latinx community. Then his Portland-based company, Zavala Corp., was named the 2019 MED Week Construction Company of the Year.
For Zavala, the recognition shows what can be accomplished with a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed. Since founding Zavala Corp, in 2008, he and a dedicated team of office and field employees have grown it into a company that now provides commercial concrete foundation work for projects being handled by some of the largest general contractors in the Portland-metro area.
Zavala can trace his desire to work in construction back to when he was a boy in Mexico, dreaming of being a house builder like his father. He tackled his first solo project, a water tank for his uncle, at the age of 12.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it did hold water,” Zavala said.
After migrating to the United States in 1992, he found a job working at a plant nursery. He eventually was offered a construction job. Building methods were different than what he was used to and he was still learning English, so he started out as a laborer. However, he soon was promoted into a position as leader of a small crew.
“When I started running a project by myself, I still didn’t speak a word in English. That was a great challenge,” Zavala said. “(But) that didn’t stop me. I continued to … learn more and do more.”
By 2008, he had learned enough to start his own company. He managed to ride out the recession and by 2017 had built Zavala Corp. into a business with $6.65 million in revenue. The company now employs nearly 30 workers.
The journey hasn’t always been easy. In 2015, for example, the company was struggling financially. Zavala decided to take out a loan but was turned down by a string of banks. He was ready to close the doors of Zavala Corp., when he received a call from a bank that was willing to help him obtain a loan from the Small Business Administration.
Since then, Zavala has made the most of that opportunity. He uses his experience and success to help others as a founding board member of LatinoBuilt, a newly formed group that supports Latino contractors.
He’s also generous with advice for those looking to start their own construction-based companies, starting with his recommendation that they practice perseverance and a willingness to embrace new experiences.
“Stay open to new ideas. Network with others. Listen and learn, and help others in need of advice,” he said. “It might not be easy, but if you give it your best, do the right things and get educated, you’ll make it happen.”
Information provided by the Business Tribune. Read the full article here.