Lincoln Middle School: K-12 construction Q&A
Michael Sims Sits Down with Latasha McCall, LM2 Construction
Tell us about the Lincoln Middle School Project
Michael: The scope on Lincoln Middle School consisted of a partial renovation for a school that’s been closed for about 10 years. Students were transferred over to Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and then within the last three to four years it’s been only staff officing here. The district wanted to bring the students back over to the middle school to allow more room at the high school, so they decided to renovate the building. The project has been a partial demo, along with some new work including classrooms, entrances and new wings for learning.
What part have you played in on project?
LaTasha: We completed all doors, frames and hardware for the project.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge on this job?
Michael: I think the two biggest challenges were that the project was a partial demolition and the project was a Construction Manager Agency (CMA) and not Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR). The drawings noted certain areas/ items to be demoed and or salvaged, and some new materials were to be connected to existing items which created coordination issues for both demoing and new work.
LaTasha: The biggest challenge for us was coordination. We installed all the new doors, frames and hardware. The door supplier provided all doors, frames and hardware and we closely worked with them to get everything installed. That took a lot of coordination on all our parts, but we completed it successfully.
Another challenge was mastering the software. Each company uses different software. I’m new to Procore so Michael guided me through it. Now I’m a fan! Everything’s on there.
Michael: To add on to that, we got a lot of diversity involved in this project, which meant a lot of trade partners. The middle school project included around 45 scopes, which took a lot of coordination.
What has been the biggest success or your proudest moment on the project
Michael: Seeing all the people attend the ribbon cutting and being excited the middle school was reopening. Most importantly, seeing the kids coming through the school on the first day was really cool. It reminds you what you’re doing all this for, the students and the community.
LaTasha: The same, seeing the kids. And for us the success was getting through the challenges and completing our first job with McCownGordon. Every construction manager does things differently and it was great learning their processes. At the time we won this project, I didn’t know McCownGordon was going to be my mentor. During the process, the McCownGordon team provided me guidance to make sure our scope was a success.
What influenced your decision to go into the construction industry?
LaTasha: I started in the blueprinting industry 20 years ago. I realized then that if I wanted to branch out into the AEC industry, I needed to know how to read blue prints so I took several classes at the Builder’s Association. After leaving the printing industry, I worked for a couple engineering firms and general contractors. As woman of color, I felt I didn’t always get the same opportunities that men got. So, I decided that if I’m going to work this hard, I should go do this on my own.
In 2016 I started my own company. Now I work 14-hour days BUT for myself.
Michael: With my Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering, I originally wanted to sit behind a desk and design. A few of my friends had jumped in the construction industry and loved it. So, I gave it a chance and have not looked back. There’s never a dull moment in construction and there’s something to learn on every project. Whether its new process, a different design, constructability issues, different materials, scheduling/ sequencing, different teams, etc. I think that’s what drew me to construction.
Tell us a little bit about your mentor/protege program.
LaTasha: I meet with Chris Stanton monthly and during our meetings he provides guidance on issues that I may encounter during every day operations. It is great to know that I can always pick up the phone and contact them when I need assistance. Meeting with McCownGordon’s executive team and seeing what has worked for them has been very valuable. At one time Pat and Brett started where I started. It’s been a great learning experience. It’s been nice having them as my mentor as I go through growing pains.
What challenges are unique to MBE/WBE companies and how do you overcome them?
LaTasha: Since I started my business in 2016, I have had a lot of challenges. The biggest challenges have been getting opportunities on projects to prove my company’s capacities. I don’t only want to be seen as an MBE/WBE company, but as a capable contractor.
What do you see for the future of LM2?
Overall, I want to stay humble and operate my company in an ethical manner by focusing on our core services and providing our customers and other contractors with a quality project. As an owner I still enjoy going in the field a few days a week. I believe my hands-on approach keeps me in touch with my crews in the field while also allowing me to view the progress being made on each project.
In the next few years I would like to expand to other geographical areas such as Nebraska, Iowa and Texas.
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