Bowa Construction believes in supporting the Chicago communities it builds and works in.
By Jim Harris, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing
Bowa Construction builds more than offices, medical centers, restaurants and other commercial buildings. “We are committed to the community and to developing our people, as well as our ability to hire new, talented people to grow the organization around,” President and CEO Nosa Ehimwenman says.
Ehimwenman’s commitment to his community in Chicago led him to incorporate the company in 2013. Previously, he worked in the special projects group of Gilbane Building Company for 10 years, where he managed institutional and large commercial projects.
“I felt the need to create more opportunities for people in the community and create jobs for people who look like me,” he adds. “I saw an opportunity to create a commercial construction company in Chicago from scratch. This is a tough market, but I’ve been able to make it happen by bringing in good people and building really nice projects, which helps build our portfolio and attract future clients.”
Ehimwenman is involved in a number of civic organizations focused on providing opportunities within Chicago. This includes the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. In conjunction with the latter organization, Ehimwenman created Build Up, an organization that exposes African American youth to the construction industry by visiting schools in the inner city.
“We talk about project management, superintendent, engineering and other higher-level professionals that many of these kids in the inner city may not be aware of,” he says. “This creates a future pipeline of construction managers and professionals.”
Ehimwenman is also an appointed member of the city’s affirmative action board, which works to increase participation by women and minority groups in procurement opportunities. He also serves as an executive board member of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce and the Accelerate Institute.
Ehimwenman believes the company’s status as a Minority-owned Business Enterprise (MBE) should not be the only determining factor as to whether it receives a contract.
“We are a good construction firm that happens to be owned by an African-American, not the other way around,” he says. “We believe people should hire us because we’re a good construction company that does good work, our clients can count on us to deliver, and we have little to no safety incidents. We can compete with any other small to medium firms in the construction space.”
Ehimwenman’s interest in construction began from a young age, taking after his father who owned his own construction company that he built from the ground up. He holds an MBA from Purdue University and a bachelor’s in construction systems management with a minor in city and regional planning from The Ohio State University. “My race does not define my intelligence or expertise in construction,” he adds.
Bowa Construction uses advanced technology on its projects including 3-D building modeling as well as estimating, bidding and project management software. “We’re driven by the use of technology and are implementing and expanding it in our daily use,” Ehimwenman says. “[Technology] is a core part of what we do and how we manage our project risk. Utilizing technology is our advantage in construction.”
The company also distinguishes itself from competitors through its relationships with clients. “We have the ability to be very nimble because of our size, and can be very cost-efficient to our clients without having to sacrifice quality,” he adds. “Our clients can get a hold of me or other leaders here any time they need.”
In addition, Bowa Construction maintains close connections with its subcontractor base. “We believe it is very important to work with and maintain partnerships with subcontractors and treat them fairly,” Ehimwenman says. “We have a core group of subcontractors we do a lot of work with who respect the opportunities we’re giving them and the relationship they have with us.”
Bowa Construction’s ongoing projects include building a new 20,000-square-foot police station at O’Hare International Airport. The company in July began work on the concrete and masonry unit structure, which includes bullet-resistant glass, security walls and a secured heavy-duty electrical and plumbing system. The station is expected to open in January. The project closely follows completion of a Starbucks location at O’Hare that Ehimwenman says is the largest in the airport.
Bowa Construction also recently began a renovation and expansion of its office facility. The company purchased a property that formerly housed a liquor store and demolished it to make way for the expansion. “We are doing our part to improve the community,” he adds.
The company’s other ongoing projects include building a Chicago Public Library branch on Taylor Street in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Bowa Construction’s future plans include opening a new office in Columbus, Ohio, and growing its portfolio of aviation and sports facility projects. “We will spend the next few years building our infrastructure and capacity as an organization as well as building the profile of work we have with existing clients,” Ehimwenman says.