In January, the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association moved to a new headquarters at 2750 Buford Highway in Brookhaven. The educational, advocacy and business development nonprofit, which represents about 200 members, is now a neighbor of the Latin American Association.
Reporter Newspapers asked GHCA Executive Director Hector Montalvo about how his organization helps the Hispanic construction industry and the reasons it moved to offices on Buford Highway, widely known as a center for Hispanic businesses and residents. For more information, see georgiahca.com.
Q: Who created the GHCA and why?
A: Hispanics make up roughly 30 percent of the workforce in the construction industry. Our mission is to develop and promote the Hispanic construction industry in Georgia. We strive to be the leading organization that empowers Hispanic achievement.
The GHCA was created by Hispanic businesses committed to the growth and development of the Hispanic construction business.
The catalyst for rebuilding the organization was a published disparity study from the city of Atlanta where Hispanic companies were not classified as minorities. The founding members felt the study did not reflect actual conditions, and in fact, there was a lack of representation of Hispanic companies in construction in the city of Atlanta. The 2015 disparity study report accurately reflects that Hispanic businesses in construction are in fact a minority.
Q: Why did the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association move to Buford Highway? Where was it located previously?
A: The GHCA was founded about four years ago, just when the construction industry was getting a pulse and resources were in short supply. As an avenue to keep cost to a minimum, one of the founding members offered to provide office space. After four years and a change in leadership, the board determined that it was time to move to an independent office.
After considering several options, we felt there was synergy between the two associations, the GHCA and the Latin American Association (LAA). The new location offered the advantage of collaboration as well as a well-known location to the Hispanic community.
Q: What are some examples of recent training programs GHCA has offered and government relations efforts it has worked on? What are the benefits for individual members as compared to member companies?
A: A key mission of the GHCA is to train and educate Hispanic construction workers so they can grow safely and profitably. To that end, the GHCA has provided training such as OSHA 10 and Strategic Planning workshops to assist small companies grow their business. A company can have various advantages, depending on the membership and also the sponsorship. An individual member has access to educational and safety programs as well as meet-and-greet activities that will allow them to establish business connections and opportunities.
Q: What are the requirements to become a member? Do members have to identify as Hispanic or can they just be supporters of Hispanic people in the industry?
A: Our organization is based on the premises of inclusiveness, so you don’t have to be Hispanic to be a member. The idea is to have an organization where win-win is the foundation in all that we do for members, companies, sponsors and the community at large.
Q: This is a boom time in the metro Atlanta construction industry. What are the particular opportunities and challenges the market presents to the workers GHCA serves?
A: For members, a platform for resources to get jobs or grow new or existing businesses. For companies, a vehicle to reach the Hispanic workforce. For the community at large, an environment for learning as well as a vehicle for advocacy.
Q: Does GHCA mostly serve recent immigrants or is there an established Hispanic construction industry here as well? How are the sometimes bitter political debates about immigration policy affecting the industry?
A: About 84 percent of immigrant construction workers came from Latin America and 62 percent of them are reported not to speak English well or at all.
Our aim is to serve the Hispanic construction industry and to be the voice for fair treatment in pay as well as working conditions.
The rhetoric on immigration is hurting the industry and, if not resolved, will be detrimental to our economic stability and vitality.