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Posted: July 01, 2013

Diversity Corporation of the Year finalist: Geocal

Gigi Sukin

In a line of work characteristically dominated by white males, 24 years ago Ronald Vasquez established his leading geotechnical engineering, construction and mechanical testing firm – consistently and diligently including minorities and females on his small team. And thanks to their expertise and hard work, sound recommendations and reliable test results, Geocal’s clients are confident in the firm’s decision-making ability for design and construction projects.

Geocal’s nationwide assignments range from work for the Department of Transportation and other federal government agencies to contributions to Colorado’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) expansion project.

But “Ron is not one to toot his own horn,” says his wife, Debra Vasquez, who works as a finance executive at Geocal. “It really is a team effort.”

Ethnic diversity was apparent at the onset, as Hispanic, Ethiopian and white team members made up Geocal’s initial five-person staff. “Right from the start we saw the value of diversity and a mix of backgrounds and perspectives really adding value,” Debra said.

Throughout the past 20 years, the small Geocal team – now totaling roughly 35 full-time employees – has included workers from Vietnam, Algeria, India, former countries of the USSR and others.

When it comes to hiring new talent, Debra explains that though the small business doesn’t have the luxury of bringing on individuals without experience for full training programs, “when a qualified prospect comes to us, black, white or purple … we give them a shot.”

Vasquez admitted there have been challenges on construction sites when female and minority team members arrived only to receive minimal direction – until they had proven themselves qualified and capable. Moreover, she recalled the business’ office relocation in 2001, when a former Middle Eastern employee’s signature on various forms included his surname, Hussein. The wary response from the moving team nearly left Geocal without its deliveries.

“To us, that sort of behavior is just uncalled for nowadays,” Debra said.

Geocal attempts to make its work environment as conducive to productivity and comfortable as possible for each of its workers.

“Our feeling is, if you take somebody who really wants to do the work and give them that opportunity, they develop a loyalty to you and your company, which explains our low turnover. We have people who want to work for us,” Debra said.

Debra called the state’s minority and disadvantaged business goals, “helpful,” but went on to explain that the designation can become a “Catch-22.”

“Some clients see you as a service that merely fills a quota; you’re thought of in very limited terms. So you have to use every opportunity to prove you can provide quality service and then go from there,” Debra said. “I think that’s always been our strength. We’re open-minded and realize we don’t need to have minority goals on the books because it’s in our best interest and in the best interest of our clients to be diversified.”

Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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