Taking Texas by Storm

Texas Cordia Construction

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Texas Cordia Construction is a young, dynamic company specializing in highway and heavy civil construction. The Edinburg, Texas based general contractor boasts experience in the full range of transportation projects, but specializes in road construction.
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Fifty one percent woman-owned and led by a female president, Texas Cordia Construction is currently pursuing woman-owned business certification as well as minority owned certification. “Our company is very diverse, not only in the ownership but also in the people and the team that we have put together,” says Chief Executive Officer Yara M. Corbitt, PE. “So there is all this knowledge that we bring to the table from different experiences and different backgrounds.”

Ms. Corbitt launched Texas Cordia Construction along with Isaac Heredia, who serves as the company’s Chief of Operations. “Isaac was working for a local construction company and I was working for the Highway Department,” Ms. Corbitt remembers. “And, as time goes by, you [wonder] why am I working for the man when I can work for myself? We were able to team up and kick it off.” The company name, Cordia, is a hybrid of the founders’ surnames.

“We pretty much started with nothing,” Ms. Corbitt recalls. What the two did have was heart, a dream, and experience—and plenty of it. “I started from the ground up,” Mr. Heredia says. “My father and my brothers were all heavy equipment operators. I’ve been moving dirt ever since I was eight.” He started his career as an operator, moved up to foreman, and eventually made it all the way to project manager, overseeing up to $80 million worth of construction projects at a time.

This wide range of experience provides a deep understanding of all facets of a project, from management issues to the workers moving dirt onsite. “I can really relate to an operator when he is having trouble or when he needs to be more productive,” Mr. Heredia says.

Ms. Corbitt is a graduate of Texas A&M University. She had over eight years of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and construction management experience before launching Texas Cordia Construction. “That time helped in a variety of ways [including] how we think and how we process a project,” she says. “A lot of times we have that owner insight as to what they are looking for, what they need, what they want.”

Just six years after it was formed from scratch, Texas Cordia Construction is seeing revenues of $20 million a year and has 70 employees. Mr. Heredia credits the team’s work ethic for much of the success. “You’ve got to have that foundation.” This includes “being on the project early, pushing when we need to push, and being productive at all times.” Ms. Corbitt adds, “Isaac and I have the ‘first in, last out’ kind of mentality. It is leading by example.”

Strong relationships are another foundational component of the company. “Some of the secrets to success also include the relationships that we have built, whether it is with other contractors, subcontractors, [or] our vendors,” Ms. Corbitt says. Her and Mr. Heredia’s extensive industry experience ensured that the company had plenty of solid relationships in place from day one.

This industry experience has also afforded the ability to foresee—and prevent—problems. “That [ability] definitely goes back to the varied experience that both Isaac and I have,” Ms. Corbitt says. “A lot of his experience is in the field; he can anticipate any problems that we might encounter while doing a project. He communicates… the problems that we might potentially have, so we begin preplanning. We begin processing how we can mitigate these problems so it doesn’t happen once we get out there. We involve the team, we get those ideas put together, and we try to mitigate any issues out in the field.”

The young company has completed or is in the process of completing a wide range of successful projects. Public works make up the vast majority of this work. One large, current project involves FM 1016 in the McAllen area. The $8 million project consists primarily of reconstructing the traditional roadway with concrete paving—a whopping 16,000 cubic yards in total. “It is the first project in this area that the state has let out of this nature in years,” Ms. Corbitt says, and she predicts that there will be more of this kind in the near future. “What we are seeing on the engineering end is that a lot of the new roads and projects that are coming down in the Valley are going to be concrete paving.”

Texas Cordia Construction had to bid competitively to win the project. “Because we are so young, because we are so innovative, because of our experience and our background, we were able to land this project with a small margin to the next bidder,” Ms. Corbitt says. The project will be an ideal opportunity for the young company to “really showcase our concrete crews.”

The team is also working on the Inspiration Road project, which involves widening an existing highway into a four-lane thoroughfare. The company is currently ahead of schedule on the $7.5 million project. “At Inspiration we were really able to showcase and take advantage of our pipe crew,” Ms. Corbitt says. “We have a really strong underground utilities crew and I think that has really been what has helped us jump ahead of schedule. The project was originally slated for 23 months, but we are far enough ahead of schedule that we want to continue this momentum and finish way ahead of schedule. That is our goal.”

One of Texas Cordia Construction’s completed projects involved both Ms. Corbitt and Mr. Heredia before their company was even formed. “Isaac worked with other contractors in the past and that is where we got to know each other, working with the state,” Ms. Corbitt shares. “He was actually building a lot of plans that I was producing, either when I was working with the state or with private consultants. So we already had that communication foundation built. One of the projects that we did work together on with separate entities was FM 396. I was able to work on the plans [and] Isaac was able to work on the construction of it.”

After they teamed up, their new company took over the job. “Texas Cordia was able to come in and complete the project… It is nice to see that we both worked on the same projects throughout our history and have been able to end up together to be able to finish out a lot of these jobs and now work on new jobs together. ”

In 2010, the Texas Department of Transportation presented Mr. Heredia the Construction Award for FM396 in recognition of his exemplary performance in completing the project ahead of schedule and under budget. “That [award] is highly coveted by the highway department,” Ms. Corbitt says.

The state of the industry in the Rio Grande Valley region is strong but highly competitive. “There is a lot of work going on right now,” Mr. Heredia says. “It’s been pretty steady for the past two or three years. The market is very competitive though; you have to bid a job aggressively. If not, I don’t think you’ll land anything.” Ms. Corbitt adds, “We have seen anywhere from eight, to ten, to twelve bidders and the pricing is very, very competitive.”

The pressure does not let up once the project is won. “You have to bid it aggressive, but you also have to build it aggressive,” Mr. Heredia says. “Because if you bid it aggressive and you’re not aggressive building it, you’re going to lose money. You’re not going to go anywhere.” Texas Cordia Construction has overcome these pressures. “Overall, we manage to keep that momentum going, build these [projects] ahead of time and finish them under budget.”

The young company is eager to prepare for the future. “The plans are to keep on moving forward,” Mr. Heredia says. But, this doesn’t mean that the team has their sights set on big growth per se. “One of the things we always say is we want to grow stronger, not necessarily bigger,” Ms. Corbitt says. One way to grow stronger will be for the company to supply its own concrete and asphalt. “The future plans are to provide our own material,” says Mr. Heredia. “[We would like to] move forward in that direction so we can be a little bit more competitive.”

Launching a concrete plant is just one of the exciting plans for the company’s future.
“We always have short term goals and long term goals [and we are] trying to help the company to reach those goals,” Ms. Corbitt says. After a strong kickoff, the rapidly growing startup is ready to take the next step to make its mark on the Rio Grande Valley—and beyond.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 14, 2019, 12:00 PM EST