Since 2003, Val Solorzano has been working hard to expand her small business. Solorzano operates two businesses – Chick Of All Trades General Contractors and C.O.A.T. Flagging.
Just this year, Chick Of All Trades General Contractors, expanded into the commercial construction business after a romp with residential building. Solorazano just finished the soundwall for the I-5 Victory Project – the first commercial side project for the business. Although the bid pages in local papers are getting a bit thin, Solorzano isn't too worried.
"I'm holding my own in the boy's club," she says. "I've earned their respect in the field."
Now that the highway project is complete, C.O.A.T. Flagging will be handling five flagging contracts at the airport – managing traffic flow and escorting vehicles onto the tarmac. Solorzano is proud she won those projects – she beat out a long-established company for the job. Not as easy as it may look – flagging requires learning a long list of rules and procedures and in many cases, can involve a military-like operation with walkie talkies, coordination and timing.
Her flagging company also handled much of the traffic control on the downtown transit mall project. She said learning the ropes with big companies building the light rail provided invaluable experience for her workers and many other small contractors.
Her contracting company also just scored contracts putting up plywood boards on windows for the city (in case of breakage) and weatherizing doors for Multnomah County.
Being new and small is tough work, Solorzano says and her advice to other newcomers is to get the job done right, keep the books up and try to play the politics. She also says that getting your foot in the door with the big contractors helps.
"Be flexible," she said, and learn something from the big contractors. "They're around for a reason."