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From 42 to 1,500

image L-R: RHCA Legal Counsel Chris Montez, The Law Firm of Christopher D. Montez PLLC; RHCA President John H. Martinez, Chairman Ruben Landa, WSP USA Inc.; RHCA VP Yolanda Tafoya; and RHCA Bussiness Strategist Julio Florez.

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Thirteen years ago, John Martinez, president of the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association (RHCA) had no idea what an impact his leadership would have on the minority community.








“When I came on board we had 42 cents in petty cash and 42 members.” Today RHCA is 1,500 members strong and growing. “I knew the association was really small when I came on board but it was a unique time. We had the work of two groups of people. We had the really seasoned contractors and we had a group of young, eager contractors, which meant we had the knowledge and the elbow grease to really grow the association. It was a magical time.”
    The RHCA originally started out as a committee of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. When it got started, Martinez helped facilitate it but construction was not his “cup of tea.” As the RHCA started getting on it’s way Martinez left the Chamber.
    Years later, Martinez returned to the Hispanic Chamber and found that the contractors were in a rut and weren’t really growing. In fact, their membership had even diminished a bit.  It was about that time that Martinez saw the housing market begin to boom. 
    “I had purchased a house for $270,000 and over night the houses next to me were selling for one million dollars. I began talking more with the contractors just to see what was going on and they offered me a job.”
    Martinez told his wife he would only be with the RHCA for a couple of years and was excited because this was going to be something new for him to learn. That was 13 years ago, and he still finds working with the contractors just as exciting today as it was when he first began.
    “Whether the market has been down or up, the association has done well because we stay true to the core of what contractors need. We are not a fancy organization.”
    Martinez realized early on that his membership was made up of tradesmen. They were good drywallers, painters and plumbers that had decided to venture out on their own.  They were good at their crafts, but they did not know a lot about running a business and what they were lacking was accounting and estimating knowledge. Most Chambers weren’t offering basic accounting or QuickBooks classes. “I went to one of the ethnic chambers that were offering seminars on exit strategies for companies with $50 million in annual revenue. In the minority community, a $50 million dollar company is a rarity. It’s less than one percent in the Dallas market.”
    With that, the RHCA began offering basic business management classes such as simple accounting, estimating, and blueprint reading classes. “They could literally take these classes 10 times and learn something new every time as their companies grew or they encountered issues that weren’t there before.”
    He also realized that Texas was leading the nation in worker’s fatalities and injuries. And although, we as Texans want our state to be number one, that is not a number one Martinez and the RHCA wanted for our great state. The association began to act as the safety department for many of their small companies, realizing that the bigger companies have people to oversee and concentrate on safety on their companies’ behalf.
    What surprised Martinez most in his role as president of RHCA is the level of relationships that they have with their members especially when they are doing very well or when they are having issues. Sometimes he thinks he should have a psychology degree. When things are going very well for the contractors they want to keep it that way and they don’t want to make mistakes. But when things are going very poorly for them, they want to know how can they get out of that problem. “I never thought that I would be the sounding board for them. I’m on the phone talking to people on behalf of our members all day long sometimes in general advocacy, but a lot of times, I may have one member needing help with another company, where both sides are our members. Working with our members one on one with 1500 members is a challenge and one of the most rewarding but also one of the most difficult aspects as my role as president.”
    Going forward, Martinez would like recognition throughout the community of the role that contractors play. “The work that they do is very difficult and dangerous while working in all types of weather. I would like people to recognize the contributions that contractors play day in and day out in building our communities.
    “There are no handouts for minority or woman-owned businesses. I’ve never known any one to get certified as minority owned or woman-owned and somebody just give them a project. You still have to go through all the hoops, you still have to bid, and you still have to build relationships.”
    When asked how he would like people to remember him and his tenure with RHCA and the legacy he has created, he says, “My biggest motivation, and I share this with the staff all the time, don’t look at the people that we are helping, look at the exponential help we are giving. Look at the son or the daughter we are helping.  Because through that growth, they’ve grown with that the company and now that child is going to college and that child’s grandchild will say, ‘you know what, I’ve never known struggle in our family, our family has always done well.’ That’s four or five generations down the road and we’ll be long gone, but we helped lay the path.”
    Regional Hispanic Contractors Association (RHCA) is trade association representing the minority sector of the construction industry. –cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net