If you conducted a random survey of construction professionals and asked them to name the top industry words than begin with the letter “c,” crane, concrete and carpentry would likely lead the list.
Adrienne Williams’ answer wouldn’t even crack the top 50. An eight-year industry veteran who joined Balfour Beatty in 2013, Adrienne’s role revolves around a much less prevalent but incredibly important term: connection. As a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) manager, Adrienne not only promotes Balfour Beatty’s commitment to inclusion, but she also helps connect growing businesses to the people and resources they need to be successful. Having contributed to transformational infrastructure like the $798 million Horseshoe project in Dallas, Texas, Adrienne has had an incredible impact on the communities in which we live and serve.
And she’s only just getting started.
If you’d met Adrienne when she was graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington, you’d be hard-pressed to predict her future. Construction is an atypical industry for most women, but with a master’s degree in social work, Adrienne’s journey has been all the more extraordinary. Looking back, however, Adrienne can clearly identify the turning points that guided her destiny. The most pivotal was an internship with Texas State Senator, Royce West, which nurtured Adrienne’s budding interest in the relationship between business, government and society. Adrienne began her career in the public sector, honing her expertise in policy, grants and M/WBE outreach. Her first taste of construction came at Cedar Valley College, where she administrated a $1 million DBE on-the-job training program in collaboration with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). In construction, Adrienne discerned a unique opportunity to develop a more inclusive and sustainable workforce while building the critical infrastructure we depend on every day.
At Balfour Beatty, Adrienne’s work with small and historically disadvantaged businesses is best captured through the stories of individual firms she has championed. On Horseshoe, for example, Adrienne played an instrumental role in preparing Mas-Tek Engineering to navigate complex contracting and procurement requirements—a barrier to entry for many small firms on public projects. These efforts primed Mas-Tek Engineering to secure a much larger scope of work on Adrienne’s current project, Southern Gateway, a $625 million reconstruction and improvement project also located in Dallas.
QMF Steel is yet another firm that can credit Balfour Beatty with expanding its reach and influence thanks to Adrienne’s leadership. The Horseshoe project is perhaps best known for the signature arches that adorn the Margaret McDermott Bridge. QMF supplied the majority of the steel for the pedestrian rail that crosses this Dallas icon. In May 2017, QMF was named “Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year” by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Adrienne’s efforts aren’t just limited to assisting trade partners on Balfour Beatty projects. On many occasions, she’s served as what she terms a “wraparound support system” for the DBE community in Dallas. From bonding to budgeting and staffing to scheduling, Adrienne meets every request with a graceful and giving spirit. “I find myself doing a lot of referring out in addition to referring in,” says Adrienne. “It’s exciting to watch the light bulbs go off as emerging firms grasp how to best position themselves for opportunities.”
Serving in this capacity requires Adrienne to possess in-depth knowledge of the local construction marketplace. But that’s no hurdle for a community steward like Adrienne whose dedicates her time and talents to various non-profits and industry associations like the Women’s Transportation Seminar, the Association of General Contractors of Texas and the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association. A consummate ambassador for the cause of inclusion, Adrienne’s sphere of influence extends far beyond the walls of her office.
Like many working mothers, Adrienne strives to achieve an effective balance between her priorities. If you ask Adrienne, the key to her success is relatively simple—she loves what she does. And it shows. “I’m so proud to feel like I helped to play a part in the growth of small businesses and to know and understand how these companies contribute to our local and regional economy,” Adrienne praises.
As she looks towards the future, Adrienne is confident that the next generation of construction professionals will be more diverse thanks to the strong foundation companies like Balfour Beatty are building. “When you look at the economy and demographics, we know we are growing more culturally diverse, and that trend is expected to continue,” she affirms. “Our job is to continue to get the word out that construction is a great industry. We have to make transportation sexy.”
That journey continues one connection at a time.