A Pedacitos Of José Costa of J.COSTA Group: Helping To Build Structures And The LatinX Community
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
When we began our search for community leaders in Central Florida, it was not long before José Costa of J.COSTA Group was mentioned as someone whose story we should share. Having personally worked in the Themed Entertainment industry for nearly 20 years, I've spent my fair share of time on construction sites and know the value and impact an experienced and culturally mindful construction/project manager has on team dynamics and overall project success.
The cultural dynamics in the construction industry share many of the inequities of other industries across the United States. LatinX people in the construction industry accounted for 20% of the national construction workforce in 2010, grew to 24% by 2019, and now account for nearly 25%, second to their white counterparts that make up nearly 59%. White men also earn more than women or men of any other race, and this gap is even larger when you factor in education level amongst all groups (source).
While I am not here to go into the many reasons these disparities exist in the construction industry, I believe that my conversation with José Costa has helped shed some light on ways that leaders can help curb gaps and inequities. More specifically, how LatinX people can collaborate with each other and make an overall positive impact on their communities.
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A Quick Overview Of José Costa's Journey
José Costa began his journey in his home country of Puerto Rico where he graduated as a Civil Engineer at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, the largest private engineering school in Puerto Rico. After working for an American-owned firm in Puerto Rico for a year after graduating, his family fell in love with the Central Florida area during a Walt Disney World vacation.
At this time, there wasn't a large LatinX population in the region, especially compared to what it is now. José's leader agreed to him transferring to the Orlando, Florida office in 1997, which José suspects was the firm's foresight into the growth of Central Florida in the years to come. Although not proficient in English, the family moved to Orlando where José relied on a Spanish-to-English translation dictionary.
In 2004, José was now an inspector for Terracon (fka Nodarse & Associates, Inc.) where he was responsible for ensuring project quality control. His organizational and managerial skills were quickly recognized and within a month he was promoted to Project Manager and then to Assistant Department Manager of the Construction Services Division about a year later.
As a leader at the firm, José began recruiting Latinos to help with diversity and as a way to provide opportunities for an underrepresented portion of the community. Even though many new team members did not speak English, José helped them become more proficient, having realized that speaking the language was vital to professional success.
As the economy continued to grow in the early 2000's, José took on bigger responsibilities becoming the Manager of the larger Construction Services Department within the company in 2006. Now in a formal leadership role, José led a team of up to 65 employees but was still the only Latino Officer and manager at the firm.
The economic crash of 2008 in the United States impacted the construction industry dramatically. José felt this impact operationally as his staffing reduced to 48 individuals and also personally as everyone took a 10% cut in pay. Despite the hardship, there were some valuable lessons gained through navigating this experience.
He was no longer able to only take on big jobs and had to hustle to keep jobs coming in, no matter how small. The livelihood of his team depended on his leadership through this tumultuous time. José's family was also depending on him to supplement his reduction of his income. The contributions that José has made to the success of the company with his growing leadership and influence earned him a Vice President role in 2011.
An opportunity to work in academia came out of nowhere when he ran into a former college professor who needed someone to teach classes at the Orlando campus of his alma mater. Although the pay wasn't great, José says this was one of the best experiences of his life because of the impact he was able to make on the lives of his students. He served as an Adjunct Professor of geotechnical and construction materials courses for nearly 5 years at the PUPR Orlando Campus and was the faculty counselor for the PUPR Student Chapter of the College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CIAPR).
While working at Terracon, José Costa has taken part in successfully leading portions of construction projects for various high-profile venues in Central Florida. From 2008 to 2010, José led the Construction Materials Engineering & Inspection team on the $480M Amway Center project in Downtown Orlando.
From 2011 to 2014 José led the same department through the delivery of the $145M Phase 1 construction of the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts, which includes the Walt Disney Theater. Between 2012 and 2014 he led the Threshold Inspection & Construction Materials Engineering and Testing contract for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.
Learn More About J.COSTA Group, LLC
José Costa decided to start his own venture in 2014. J.COSTA Group, LLC is a full-service Construction Management and General Contracting firm that specializes in commercial, industrial, and residential construction projects. Built on the extensive experience of its founder, J.COSTA Group provides Planning, Pre-Construction, Management, and Post-Construction solutions to ensure completion of projects within budget, on time, and of top-notch quality.
As a certified Minority Business Enterprise, the firm is able to meet demanding project objectives while also satisfying corporate supplier diversity targets which leads to value for investors, corporate stakeholders, and the communities where J.COSTA Group's expertise is called upon. Many large organizations have trusted J.COSTA group to help them achieve their business objectives as they undertake renovations, additions, and new construction development projects.
For example, Costco underwent a $4M renovation project converting one of their existing warehouses into a Costco Business Center in South Orlando. For this project, José Costa and J.COSTA Group provided strategic construction management services between May and August of 2016 through the successful delivery of the facility.
Phase II of the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts was the 1,700 seat Steinmetz Hall adjacent to the main Walt Disney Theater. For the $237M expansion that opened in 2022, J.COSTA Group served as the MBE subcontractor for the Terracon team providing support to the Construction Materials and Inspection team led by José Costa.
José Costa's Work In The Central Florida Community
José Costa of J.COSTA Group has had a successful career in the construction industry in Central Florida and beyond. While he has learned a lot of the hard skills for the job through his education and field experience, he attributes the majority of his success on the partnerships he's fostered throughout the years.
Going back to when his family first decided to swap Puerto Rico for Central Florida, there were always people around José who believed in his potential and gave him opportunities to prove them right. He made connections while working at his former employer that continue to drive business demands at his own firm. Additionally, work in the community has been rewarding in more ways than one.
José has been affiliated with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO) since 1998. During the 2008 recession he saw that there was a need for leaders in the LatinX community to help other business owners and chamber members. This led to the creation of HCCMO's Leads Groups for which José Costa was one of the Founders and the Chairman for over 6 years.
There are currently 11 Leads Groups across the Metro Orlando area each consisting of approximately 20 business leaders. The groups provide chamber members an opportunity to network and promote their businesses in a non-competitive way.
José has served as a Director on the Supplier Diversity Council (SDC) for HCCMO. The goal of the SDC is to raise awareness of supplier diversity programs and the process to become certified. There are many strategic benefits for LatinX business owners to hold this certification, especially when it comes to working with bigger organizations for which there are greater barriers to entry.
In addition to working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando for nearly 25 years, José Costa has lent his personal and professional expertise for a variety of other organizations. He served as a Board Member for the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship of Metro Orlando since 2019, was a Den Leader for the Boy Scouts of America for over 6 years, serves on the Financial Council Committee for his local Catholic church, and is a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for Prospera USA.
José Costa has been recognized as a community leader several times throughout his career. In 2011 he received the prestigious Don Quijote Award for Professional of the Year while working for Terracon. He was recognized by Telemundo Orlando as one of the "Achievers 2012", HCCMO Vision Magazine named him one of the "25 Most Influential Hispanics of Central Florida" in 2016, and he was featured in Tu Revista Mujer's 2021 "Successful Men In Florida" list.
"Back in Puerto Rico," José recalls, "so many people blame the government for how bad things are but don't do anything about it." He remembers that this pessimistic way of thinking from people on his island lacks any ability to change things. Words have to be backed by actions. So now, when José sees that something can be better, he takes action!
Culture & Equity Lessons From José Costa
Speaking with José Costa of J.COSTA Group was inspiring and motivating. It made me want to do more for the community as I realized, through his story, that we must never forget what we had to go through to reach our current successes. There are always people along the way who will help you when they are able, and you should do the same when you are able.
Throughout his career he has faced individuals and organizations who didn't want him to succeed; this didn't always come from a place of malintent. As a business who "checks the box" for diversity and an expert in the industry, he is invited to bid on projects but is often caught in the politics of supplier diversity. While this can easily be categorized as a problem, José Costa sees this as an opportunity.
José tells me that he wants to inspire other business owners to partner with one another so they can succeed together. He told me about a few situations where other minority-owned contractors were his competition on jobs and neither of them were awarded the volume of work that they could have won had they worked together.
"If they don't let me in through the front door, I will come in through the window," José said. When push comes to shove, he will find a way to get in on a job. This could be through bidding on different scopes of work as a means to get his foot in the door or by leveraging his vast network and entering into partnerships or collaborations.
But it shouldn't be this way. José believes that minority business owners can achieve so much more if they work together. If we broaden our focus we'll see that by uplifting one another we all have an opportunity to win and grow.
The Future Of J.COSTA Group
José Costa has been blessed with success throughout his career in the construction industry and is an active participant in creating social change within the LatinX community in Central Florida. His hope is to grow the firm's revenue to up to $20M annually and be able to sustain a team of up to 10 employees full-time.
If you have a project that could use the expertise of someone like José Costa, you should strongly consider hiring J.COSTA Group! Don't do it to check the "diversity box" on your organization's annual report, but do it because you know that you will be supporting an individual who is working hard for his family and his community. At the same time, you'll tap into a wealth of international project experience that will surely lead to the successful delivery of your construction project.
Getting In Touch With J.COSTA Group
You can follow J.COSTA Group, LLC on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to see project progress media as well as how they are giving back to the community. If you'd like to connect with José Costa, follow him on LinkedIn.