Arcilia Acosta : Constructing Character
The arid and gritty scenery of small-town Texas is not usually where you spot a future construction mogul. Yet, it could be where you find the fundamental values that shape one.
Arcilia Acosta, President and CEO of CARCON Industries and STL Engineers, could speak to us about a world far removed from office parks and boardrooms. She could also tell you how one arguably begot the other.
“The biggest thing about our family I remember was that we were very close. I spent a lot of time growing up around a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins. We were always celebrating something as a family,” said Acosta.
Acosta, who is child number five of 10, learned early that few things were not a team effort. Lessons learned helping her mother, a catechism director in her local church for over 20 years, meant altruism early.
That zeal was so pervasive that it became a family calling of sorts. Years later, the Texas Tech Alumna recalls that, as her first taste of effective management.
“My parents were big community volunteers and that’s really where I learned leadership skills just watching them,” continued Acosta.
Her introduction to the world of construction was even closer to home with her father making that his career all his life. Much of the infrastructure in the border region of her upbringing is/was rooted in the emerging industrial plants across West Texas.
Despite the blue-collar nature of her father’s profession, the lynchpin of the family was rooted in the simple notion that achievement meant hard work and active participation.
“We were all part of student government in high school,” Acosta explained. “We all got scholarships for the first two years of college. I was always happy and always helping. I grew up in a very traditional Hispanic family and I grew up with those values.”
As with many other successful individuals in business, mentoring started almost immediately with Acosta and her sister soon making the local clergy their role models. Weekends counting the Sunday monetary donations to the church made the sisters de facto bankers in training.
Yet that experience was vital to not only being precise, but also organized. Acosta credits this early financial education to having a realistic approach to planning her future as well.
The strong paean that Acosta and her siblings enjoyed when pursuing a new undertaking only reaffirmed there was no resting on laurels.
“My mother always challenged us to do our best. She expressed the importance of remaining bilingual and to never lose sight of your dreams. She always said we could be anything that put our mind to,” Acosta said.
Decades later, Acosta is at the helm of CARCON Industries and STL Engineers. As a full services construction firm based in Dallas, Texas, offices have expanded to Midland, Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Acosta soon founded Southwestern Testing Laboratories (STL Engineers), a geotechnical engineering and construction materials testing firm, also based in Dallas.
Literally building the roads and freeways of Texas is no small feat. That is where Acosta’s 20 years of experience in providing construction and program management for industrial, transportation, transit, civil, educational and highway construction projects comes in handy.
Ironically, thoughts of entrepreneurship were not Acosta’s focus. Initial dreams of becoming a lawyer seemed the right path up until a year before college graduation. That is when the world of finance and construction once again beckoned.
What started with a job with land developer Rick Strauss unfolded into a career and company that now spans The Lone Star State.
“Not knowing he was so politically connected, he was very forward thinking and one of my responsibilities was to fly to Austin to meet with legislators for his initiatives. Within that first six months, I was immersed in a local and state political scene that I did not know existed,” Acosta said.
She did not know it at the time, but Acosta had a front row seat to a turning point in Texas politics when Latino legislators were quickly becoming the majority in the House of Representatives. Communication, perseverance and the values from growing up in a great family were her ticket to bigger and better things.
A fateful call from a former colleague soon led to an opportunity in banking where one of her areas of focus was low income housing tax credit deals in real estate where the whole state was up for grabs. Before long, Acosta would return to her roots once again.
Seven and half years later with Bank One Texas, the art of the deal was still alive and well. It was not long before Acosta knew that her future was to resurrect her Father’s small construction company, and build it here in Dallas. She wanted to build on his dream and create a business for her and her family. What happened next is the start of every entrepreneurial success story.
Two years of perfecting her business plan and preparing to ask for a bank loan, all while raising a family, led to the birth of CARCON Industries and three years later STL Engineers.
“This calculated risk was almost certain as I had met and had been working with companies like CARCON Industries for a few years,” Acosta explained. “Our area was paired with real estate lenders at the bank who worked with developers that would receive tax credits and then sell them on the syndicated market. The projects varied from renovation of buildings converted into retail on the first floor and adding senior housing for the rest of the project. I knew then that I wanted to start my own construction company and get involved in these types of projects.”
She has grown her holding company over the years with several subsidiaries with the latest providing services to the oil, gas and energy sectors. Acosta’s companies have grown over time, even she admits there is no substitute for being involved in the entire process. For that reason, she advises younger employees to learn about every aspect of their respective jobs.
January 2000 marked the official launch of CARCON, a name derived from her father’s previous construction company and an acronym for Carrasco Construction. It has come a long way from the company’s first job of painting the bathrooms at the famed Cotton Bowl. But the philosophy is still the same.
“I have built many relationships in the construction and engineering arena because of my work over the years and through my leadership and civic involvement. My goal was always to diversify my income by starting and building different subsidiaries,” explained Acosta.
Among the most ubiquitous words in the business is “vision.” In the case of Arcilia Acosta it is only half the story. In a career defined by relationship building and sustaining a professional reputation, her trajectory from lobbyist to banker to construction has not necessarily been a straight line.
With a keen eye and a knack for finding new market niches, Acosta has defined herself as a trailblazer in a market nearly devoid of Hispanic women.
Leading such a company requires a philosophy rooted in trust. According to Acosta, it acts as the cornerstone of any business deal or personal pursuit. With a company that has a growing number of subsidiaries, half the battle is finding the right person for the job. Consider that Acosta’s business Mantra.
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