Planning and Capital Construction staffers engage community on bond improvements

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Most Portland Community College students see their professors and the administrative staff on a routine basis. But behind the scenes, the college’s Office of Planning and Capital Construction works to oversee the vital improvements that are helping it and the various communities in its district meet the challenges of the future.

In recent months, two new staffers joined the office to assist in two key areas:

  1. Ensuring that minorities, women, emerging small businesses and service disabled veterans (MWESBSDV) get a fair share of the construction work.
  2. Bringing Portland communities and taxpayers into the conversation about how bond improvements are made.
Tyrone Henry.

Tyrone Henry (right).

First to come on board was Tyrone Henry, who has been contracted by the college to serve as the MWESBSDV outreach and diversity workforce liaison. Henry holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Relations Management from George Fox University in Newberg, and he also has valuable experience in construction. For 12 years, he and his wife were specialty contractors where they were hired for concrete work, fire caulking and construction cleanup. Prior to that, he worked with the Portland Development Commission.

“I’ve worked on both sides of the fence,” said Henry. “I have a deeper appreciation for what a minority, women and emerging small contractor would go through, especially in working and dealing with public agencies.”

The goals of both the 2008 and 2017 voter-approved bond measures include having an MWESBSDV outreach program that works to create and preserve family wage jobs. To that end, Henry said he wants to grow PCC’s program so that it serves as a resource for MWESBSDV contractors in the wider community, not just those seeking work with PCC.

Henry explained that most colleges have a diversity and inclusion person on staff, but few have a MWESBSDV manager who develops working relationships with general contractors the way Henry does.

“Most colleges will expect the general to perform good faith efforts, but that’s not enough,” he said. “You have to get in there with the general, roll up your sleeves and work to get the right MWESBSDVs to the table and shatter those good faith effort quotas.”

Most recently, Henry has channeled his organizing efforts around recent events at PCC campuses for MWESBSDV contractors, local construction companies and banks. (Read more about diversity hiring at PCC’s website.)

“I have more than 400 MWESBSDVs in my phone, and I use them to try to make the general contractor’s job easy,” Henry said. “Already I think we are making strides.”

Gina Valencia.

Gina Valencia.

Also new to the Planning and Capital Construction team is Stakeholder Engagement Manager Gina Valencia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Communications from Universidad Politecnica Salesiana in Quito, Ecuador, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Idaho State University.

Prior to moving to Portland, she worked in Wyoming in different capacities with several nonprofits and social service agencies. But despite living in her community for 14 years, Valencia said she was seen by many as an immigrant and an outsider. In contrast, Valencia has found Portland and PCC to be welcoming.

“This is a big organization — no doubt about it,” she said. “But I feel like the college is very inclusive. They are actually making huge progress in ensuring that students from all walks of life feel welcome on the campuses. Student services focuses on that. Curriculum focuses on that.”

Valencia said she enjoys learning about the different communities served by the college and the issues that residents are facing.

“For instance, at PCC’s Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center on Northeast Killingsworth, there is a strong coalition of not-for-profits and agencies that are working together to develop the character of the area and help keep the residents living there,” Valencia said. “That’s something that had I only been working at the Sylvania Campus, I wouldn’t have been able to see and to know and to learn from it.”

Valencia said despite the budget uncertainties faced by PCC, the Planning and Capital Construction office and the work of stakeholder engagement “is an opportunity to show people that there is hope, and that the hope the department brings is really a gift to the college.”

“You have to keep your partners, supporters and stakeholders involved and informed about what you do, because you are eventually going to come back to the taxpayers and say ‘This is what we’re doing. This is what your resources support.’”

Read more about the 2017 bond program at PCC’s website.

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