Despite the French manicure, Lisa Chapman-Rosa is not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Rolling up her sleeves and digging in is how she’s gotten by during the rough years — and how she’s taken her construction, Total Site Services, from $40,000 a year to doing nearly $14 million annually.
And this year, the company is poised to grow even more.
In July, the company was awarded a $12 million contract with Garco Construction of Spokane at Fairchild Air Force Base through the Small Business Administration’s Mentor Protégé Program.
And a few days later, the Richland construction company was awarded a multiple award construction contract (also at Fairchild) not to exceed $95 million.
It’s been a good year, said Chapman-Rosa.
“We have a job supporting the Mojave Viper Marine troops at 29 Palms in California and we are doing work for many other federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Services,” she said.
To top it all off, she’s been nominated by the Region 10 Small Business Administration office for the Minority Small Business Person of the Year award.
It’s hard to believe that just a decade ago, Chapman-Rosa was a struggling new business owner, knocking on doors and taking potential clients cookies to try to get them to try the services she offered through Tri-Cities Mobile Drug & Alcohol Testing, a business she still owns.
At the time, Chapman-Rosa was 38, was raising four kids and needed a job after being out of the workforce for years while her children were young.
She started working nights for a local maintenance and janitorial company so she could be home for her kids in the afternoon.
But lugging a 20-pound vacuum around an 80,000-sq.-ft. commercial building all night was tougher than she’d expected.
After five months, Chapman-Rosa began weighing her options. Chapman-Rosa had spent a good portion of her life working for her father, Harvey Chapman, in his construction company, Morrison Construction Services.
She also remembered what a hassle it was coordinating and scheduling pre-employment and random drug tests for the workers.
“We’d have to go contact them at the job site and tell them to go to a hospital or lab across town to take a drug test,” she said.
Because much of their work was done out at Hanford, it took at least a couple of hours out of the workers’ day. Hours paid for by the company.
Chapman-Rosa couldn’t understand why nobody offered to bring the service to them.
So she spent $150 on drug testing devices, and armed with 30 business cards listing her home phone number, Chapman-Rosa started knocking on doors find clients for her new business: Tri-Cities Mobile Drug & Alcohol Testing.
It wasn’t easy, Chapman-Rosa said. Companies were accustomed to using specific labs and hospitals and, in the beginning, it was hard to get them to try her service.
But she was persistent.
Armed with plates of cookies, Chapman-Rosa would make the rounds, dropping off business cards to the same managers at the same companies again and again.
They would tell her they already have someone doing their drug testing and she would smile, hand them some cookies and her business card and say, “Just keep me in mind.”
Eventually, her tenacity wore them down and she the chance to prove herself. Soon she had contracts with some of the Mid-Columbia’s largest employers.
Chapman-Rosa still operates Tri-Cities Mobile Drug and Alcohol Testing out of her Salk Avenue offices. She has three full-time staff for that business, which was the catapult for her next venture, Total Site Services.
Through the five years of building her drug testing business, Chapman-Rosa had gained invaluable contacts and respect throughout the Hanford and PNNL community.
With her background in the construction industry and knowledge of the area, Chapman-Rosa believed there were opportunities available for reliable, quality contractors at Hanford.
So with the help of a partner, and the guidance of her father, Chapman-Rosa opened Total Site Services in the 1,600-sq.-ft. government-issue modular building that still serves as the company’s headquarters.
“It was just me and my partner,” she said. “We didn’t think we would ever fill up this building. There were rooms we never walked into.”
Now employees fill every office. Construction plans cover the conference room table and an extra computer is tucked into the corner, for employee training.
“We were busy right out of the gate,” Chapman-Rosa said.
The company now has a staff of more than 30 workers and will add more to fulfill the needs of the new contracts.
In its early days, the company was hired to complete the “PEP,” — a pre-engineered platform, small-scale mock up of Hanford’s vitrification plant that could be used for testing.
It also worked on various contracts for Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Port of Benton and others, including designing and building the Records Facility for Mission Support Alliance.
Chapman-Rosa said although the business is certified by the Small Business Administration as a Woman-Owned, Small Disadvantaged Minority Business, since its inception, Total Site Services has only received two contracts because of that designation.
“Everything else we have competed for,” she said.
Chapman-Rosa said the key to her success has been her ability to find the right people to work with her.
“I really beat the pavement and have found great subcontractors to work with,” she said.
Another great find was her general manager, Shannon Toranzo. Toranzo moved to the area from Hawaii after the recession hit and construction in Hawaii came to a halt.
Chapman-Rosa hired Toranzo to work in the office, but quickly realized her experience and potential and made her general manager of the company.
“It really is Shannon who steers the ship here,” she said.
Both women faced have had to overcome the challenge of working in the male-dominated construction industry. It’s not easy, they said, but it’s not impossible.
“You have to prove yourself more,” said Toranzo.
Not only to the companies you are working for, but also — and maybe especially — to the individuals who are overseeing the projects.
“You do one project — show that you can do a good job and know what you are talking about,” Toranzo said. “You turn the project in on time, on budget.”
That turns into more work. More respect, they said.
That respect allows them to partner with larger companies, like Garco Construction of Spokane, through the SBA’s Mentor Protégé program, to create the joint venture that earned them the Fairchild AFB contract to build a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training facility.
The Multiple Award Construction Contract the company received is for various construction projects at Fairchild. It is a five-year contract for up to $95 million.
“We have three projects that are part of that we are looking at now,” said Toranzo.
In addition, the company has a contract to provide mobile facilities to an elite group of U.S. Marines for training in 29 Palms, Calif. Chapman-Rosa said she keeps a full-time employee at the California site to manage that operation.
So at a time when many construction companies are struggling to pay the bills, Total Site Services has steadily seen its revenues increase.
Chapman-Rosa said in whatever business you choose, you have to be willing to dig in, get your hands dirty and do whatever it takes to get the job done right.
“We always go the extra mile to know the project before we bid, and find the right subcontractors and come up with a strategy to be competitive,” she said.
Total Site Services is at 2780 Salk Ave. in Richland. The phone number is 371-1000.