Nearly 2,000 industry professionals attended the sixth annual California Construction Expo this month at the Pasadena Convention Center. With a theme of “California Moving Forward,” the event proved to be yet another successful gathering of contractors, designers, construction professionals, suppliers, and construction workers who had the opportunity to meet and network with host agencies including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Los Angeles World Airports, Port of Long Beach, Department of General Services and AGC of California.

Agency officials were on hand to answer questions about upcoming projects, and small business contractors were encouraged to network with local government.

The exhibit hall was filled with over 140 exhibitors from throughout Southern California, ranging from large and small contractors to service suppliers and vendors as well as state universities such as CSU Northridge, all of whom came out to showcase their businesses and programs.

Planned workshops focused on public works projects proposed or underway, all giving a positive outlook regarding what’s ahead for California construction. Highlights from the workshops included bidding opportunities for the $1.6 billion I-5 Widening and HOV project; the $1.7 billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project; ongoing Metro capital projects that support bus and rail operations; and the much anticipated California High Speed Rail, which is slated to start construction in September 2012 beginning in the Central Valley.

Guest speaker Michael Guillam, Southern California deputy program director at the California High-Speed Rail Authority, reported that federal and state government have already allocated $6.3 billion for the initial construction; however, funding for the project in its entirety is still being determined, and agency officials have strongly advocated for federal funding and the need to attract private participation in order to get the project through completion.
Small contractors also benefited from attending the expo. Eric Mandel, chief of the Office of Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Services at the California Department of General Services, led a panel discussion on the advantages and benefits to small business certification and local bidding preferences that the city of Pasadena offers. Panel members provided tips on how to succeed as a small business, including expanding business opportunities with local government, building relationships and learning about the different agencies, being persistent in a competitive market, and partnering with other small businesses.
The Construction Expo concluded with a luncheon featuring keynote speaker Doug Failing, executive director of highway projects at the Metropolitan Transit Authority, who addressed the future of California construction. He emphasized that California is moving forward to improve the state’s aging infrastructure and towards a better and more sustainable state.

In other AGC of California news, the ACE Mentor Program of California held its first ever ACE Summer Camp late last month, which was attended by 15 high school juniors from across the state who are interested in pursuing a career in architecture, construction and/or engineering.

The students participated in a number of field trips to job sites and training facilities and were guided through a step-by-step design-build process culminating in four unique structures – cat condos, which were then donated to a local animal rescue agency.

The AGC of California Construction Education Foundation (CEF) and AGC members were involved in this one of a kind experience in a number of ways. Among them: Teichert Construction gave a $5,000 grant to help fund the costs of the camp; Granite Construction Co. hosted the students on a tour of its new project at the Sacramento Railyards; Unger Construction Co. provided staff and transportation for the design-build projects; and the foundation did an outreach to the AGC student chapters at CSU Sacramento and CSU Chico to recruit camp counselors who participated in the camp.

Meanwhile, the foundation launched a pilot program offering an internship to an AGC student chapter leader. The program is designed to bring student chapter leadership and expertise to the foundation to evolve student chapter programs and services, as well as to provide student chapter members an additional professional opportunity to work in the industry and with AGC members.

For 2011, AGC member firm Unger Construction Co., Sacramento, provided the second part of the internship. In June 2011, CEF and Unger welcomed Meghan Bowman, senior in the construction management program at CSU Chico and immediate past president of the CSC Chico AGC student chapter. Bowman has the perfect skill set and energy to pilot this program and had a great familiarity with AGC having attended AGC member functions and trainings such as the executive leadership development training and the 2011 spring conference.

In her time at Unger Construction, Bowman has worked to update the company’s website, visited job sites and has had an incredible learning experience working with Unger staff. At the AGC Construction Education Foundation, Bowman has taken on the role of student chapter coordinator-intern and has worked to update student chapter faculty/student leadership contact information. She also developed new student chapter grant request and reporting forms, drafted a new student chapter leadership operations/best practice manual, and made recommendations for revisions to the student chapter section of the CEF website.