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Tari Rivera – A Model for Women in Construction
It’s not often that young girls decide to follow in their father’s footsteps. At an early age, Tari S. Rivera, president of Regency Construction Services, Inc., was introduced to the construction world. Her father and grandfather worked at Floyd Browne and Associates, a civil engineering firm in her home town of Marion, OH. When the company opened a branch office in Canton, OH, her family moved with it.
Rivera was drawn to the field through her interest in math. “I was always good at math,” she said. “The classes where I excelled in college were math related.”
The Early Years
Her interest in construction was sparked while working as a student at Floyd Browne and Associates while she was in high school and college. Once Tari was in college, she interned at a local construction company where she was introduced to the aspect of teaming, which is working with groups to get something designed and constructed. “It caused me to think about the construction industry as an opportunity to have an exciting career. You are part of constructing a building and many years later you can drive by and say, I had a hand in making that happen,” she said.
Rivera eventually went to college to obtain from The University of Akron, a Bachelor of Science in Construction Technology and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) – Management.
She has worked in the construction industry for 35 years, having worked on large Cleveland projects: The Browns Stadium (now First Energy), Jacobs Field (now Progressive), and the Columbus Convention Center. With her early knowledge of the construction industry and experiences, she founded Regency Construction Services, Inc., a construction management, design build and general contracting firm on September 26, 1994. Its headquarters are in Lakewood, Ohio with an office in Columbus.
Since the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Program’s (ACE) inception, Rivera has served on the Board of Directors and her company has been a part of the ACE Cleveland affiliate. Rivera will begin serving as Board Chair July 2017.
“We started as a Lead Mentor at John Hay High School and have continued as a Lead Mentor, currently working with New Tech West,” said Rivera.
When asked why she became involved, Rivera shared that she wanted to see more women interested in her field. “When I started in this business 35 years ago, I was often the only woman on the jobsite and there were no female mentors. So, during my career, it has been important to me to encourage young women to consider engineering/construction as a career. In addition, as president of Regency, I can be a mentor to female employees, providing them the same opportunities for advancement as their male peers. ACE was a perfect fit for me and my firm to continue mentoring, educating and informing students, especially women, about the many career opportunities there are in our industry,” she continued.
Building on their support for women, Regency offers internships. “One of the ways we encourage women is to have Monica Bruaw serve as the Lead Mentor. She also manages the state’s K-12 Master Planning Program. Janelle Heinle is a civil engineering student from the University of Notre Dame. She attends ACE sessions and works with Monica and the students. These women are good role models for the young ladies,” Rivera said. “They may think, ‘I may want to do what they do. I didn't know there were women in this field."
Regency also has two female interns. Taylor McConnell is a mechanical engineering student from the University of Cincinnati. Debra Awalludin is a civil engineering student from Cleveland State University. “Our company gives them real world exposure to the industry. Debra is working on Kent State University's Bowman Hall and Terrace Hall projects. Taylor is working on the Metroparks’ Hay barn and Brecksville Nature Center projects,” offered Rivera.
Ensuring ACE’s Sustainability
When asked what endears Rivera to the ACE program, she says it’s the students’ willingness and energy to learn. “The reason I am saying that is because when they come into the session, it’s a new topic around our industry. You don't have anyone sitting on the sidelines. They immediately start working on the project, interacting with the mentors, and asking a lot of questions. There is lots of energy and a readiness to learn,” she said.
Rivera also mentions the scholarships and the industry relationships that are impacting student’s lives. As an example, University Hospitals saw the value of ACE and made an immediate impact on the program with it's $400,000 donation for student scholarships. ACE has four college partners that provide matching scholarships from Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University and The University of Akron. “Our goal each year is to fund scholarships to as many students as possible,” said Rivera. “Our internship program is new. We hope by providing internship opportunities to students, they can develop work relationships that may result in future job offers. One of the former ACE students came back last year and wrote a $1000 check to ACE because he wanted to be supportive of the program that supported him,” Rivera proudly shared.
Rivera has been pleasantly surprised at ACE’s growth. “In the short period of time we have been an affiliate, we have been able to have eight ACE programs in eight schools. For me, when you look at where we were when we began, it’s nothing short of amazing,” she exclaims.
As she begins her service as Board Chair, Rivera emphasizes maintaining the program’s quality. “Growing, broadening and deepening the program is important, but you have to make sure you maintain the quality of the program,” she said. “If we want to increase the number of schools we serve, you have to have good lead mentors and mentors. You have to constantly evaluate what you are doing, but also make sure the quality is maintained.” And that is exactily what the ACE Board is doing. This summer the ACE Board has been working with Business Volunteers Unlimited and Case Western Reserve University staff to develop its first strategic plan to create a road map and to add structure for the next few years.
Rivera is active in the construction community and lends her time and company efforts to the Construction Employers Association (CEA) where, in addition to her commitment to ACE, she serves as an At-Large-Board Member and on the diversity committee as part of CEA’s strategic plan. “We have supported the CEA in its industry mentor protégé and capacity building efforts, and we are also active with the Future Executives group,” she says. “Regency is a member of the Associated General Contractors and Contractor’s Assistance Association which provides a wonderful opportunity to stay current on industry trends,” adds Rivera.
“One of the benefits of the CEA is the representation they provide on our behalf regarding union negotiations. Several of our employees have benefited from the OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 training that is offered on a regular basis, providing us many opportunities throughout the year to keep our employees certified,” Rivera replied when asked about the benefits received from the CEA. “Classes offered like blueprint reading have been beneficial for some of our entry level employees. We also rely on the CEA to provide us guidance on safety issues and review our safety manual. The CEA also represents and updates its members relative to key legislative issues that impact our business. Lastly, the CEA’s meetings and events provide a wonderful opportunity for members to network with others in our industry,” she adds.
Rivera encourages other members to participate in the safety training and expertise provided by the CEA. She says that, “The CEA does a great job of keeping us informed of changing OSHA regulations and the impact those regulations have on our business. I would also recommend that the CEA members become active in the organization. I have learned many things about changes in our industry i.e., legislative and safety, by being a part of this group, and have found this to be beneficial in helping me run my business.”
Rivera juggles an active schedule. When she’s not busy, she loves to spend time playing golf but doesn’t play as often as she’d like. “That's why we always go to the ACE golf outing,” she quips.
She and her husband, John, are thrilled that their son has returned to Cleveland to attend Case Western Reserve University’s medical school.