CARCON Industries/ STL Engineers

The construction industry has been thrown many curves in recent years. From sudden slowdowns and cautiously optimistic upturns to transitions between hard-bid and design/build – many contractors have had to form new strategies to keep up with a dynamic market.

However, for Arcilia C. Acosta, owner, president and CEO of two unaffiliated construction-based companies – CARCON Industries and STL Engineers  – the basic game plan remains unchanged. For the past 12 years, having a clear vision and maintaining a clean track record have served as her time-tested yet hard-won strategy for success.

In 2000, a few years after her father’s passing, Acosta revived his civil construction firm CARCON Construction Co., renaming it CARCON Industries and moving it from Midland, Texas, to Dallas. In 2003, she formed STL Engineers, a geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing and environmental consulting firm also headquartered in Dallas.

“My father started CARCON in 1985 but after he passed away it was dormant for a few years before I moved it to Dallas,” Acosta explains. “I started with nothing. I was really just building on my father’s dream for his company and changed the name to CARCON Industries because I had a vision of creating subsidiaries, which I did in 2003.”

As CARCON began to gain ground, Acosta saw another business opportunity to serve a niche in the construction industry. “I was looking for an STL – a geotechnical engineering company that was minority- and women-owned so that [CARCON] could meet its minority-owned and women-owned participation requirements – but there weren’t any,” she says. “There were no women-owned geotechnical engineering firms in Dallas and I realized there was a niche here so that’s why I started Southwestern Texas Laboratories (STL).”

Though they are separate entities, CARCON has hired STL for several projects and both companies share the honor of working on some of the state’s most important projects. Both are headquartered in Dallas but have done work throughout the state. CARCON opened additional offices in Houston and San Antonio in 2010. STL also has operations in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio as well as an office in Killeen, Texas.

A Moving Industry

“At CARCON, we’ve seen great success pursuing transportation projects,” Acosta explains. “We do a lot of work on projects for the North Texas Tollway Authority [NTTA], TxDOT [Texas Department of Transportation] and DART [Dallas Area Rapid Transit.] And STL has the testing and inspection contract for a large hospital at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and is performing similar services on some of the nation’s largest highway construction projects:  LBJ Express and Chisolm Trail Parkway. For a small company, we have been able to secure work and develop partnerships with large, national companies based on our quality of service.”

From 2007 to 2010, CARCON worked with joint-venture partner Archer Western Contractors to perform construction management on the DART CM/GC I Green Line, which also included a reconstruction of part of the downtown rail line. Archer Western also utilized CARCON on the DART CM/GC III and the Northwest Rail Operating Facility. CARCON has been performing work for DART for more than 10 years, starting with a small miscellaneous construction contract. It has since built bus stations and operating facilities. CARCON completes projects in the public, private and government sectors.

Most recently in September 2012, as part of a joint venture with Stacy and Witbeck, CARCON was awarded the first modern street car project in Texas – the City of Dallas Tiger Street Car.  The streetcar will run south into the Dallas Oak Cliff area and connect to downtown Dallas. “We are proud to have a strong team of designers and looking forward to working with Stacy and Witbeck,” Acosta says.

CARCON also is working at the DFW International Airport on an $800 million project as part of the joint venture team BARC (Balfour, Azteca, Russell and CARCON). As the pre-construction consultant and construction manager at-risk, BARC is responsible for the complete renovation of terminals A and C.

Tested and Approved

As CARCON continues its work at DFW this year, STL is also performing work at the international airport. “Right now, STL is testing all the materials for a huge parking garage at terminal A at DFW for American Airlines,” Acosta affirms. “We have certified technicians and inspectors observing and testing all concrete, soils, drill shafts and post-tension operations.”

The construction materials testing company has worked on several NTTA projects such as the  Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge and the President George Bush Eastern and Western Extensions. For Dallas Area Rapid Transit, STL provided quality control testing services for the CM/GC III Green Line and it has worked on several TxDOT projects over the last eight years. The company’s geotechnical engineering division has performed work for Texas A&M, the University of North Texas and Dallas County Community College. Acosta explains that the motivation to go into geotechnical engineering rather than another engineering specialty was born out of an industry need.

“STL provides geotechnical engineering services,” she says. “This is a specialty engineering practice that provides construction recommendations based on in-place soil sampling and testing. STL has sophisticated software to help analyze data for complex structures such as MSE wall global stability and other more common structure types such as drill shafts, building pads and paving surfaces.”

Earning Construction Credibility

Acosta knew success could only be accomplished if both  companies proved to be reliable partners. Acosta, who has won numerous business awards and is one of three nominated for Texas Businesswoman of the Year, admits that STL and CARCON have a unique advantage by being minority and woman-owned businesses since many projects require minority and woman-owned business participation. However, she insists that this alone is not enough to win repeat business and industry respect, especially considering the influx of out-of-state competition and the emergence of design/build work, which requires a higher construction competency. She gives credit for the success her companies have achieved to her employees.

“We have the best dedicated and hard-working employees to allow us to meet our clients’ goals and expectations,” she explains.

“You still need to have the experience and we are one of the few minority-owned companies that have worked on significant projects,” Acosta continues. “We are working at Dallas Love Field Airport, DFW Airport and the largest military hospital in the country. Regardless of what your status is, as a smaller firm, you have to be ready to compete and stand behind the work that you do.”

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