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Building A Legacy: How One Construction Firm Is Using Its Skills And Resources To Connect With Communities

Swinerton Cares volunteers helping with a community project

No matter what type of project a contractor is working on — a new multifamily development, an office park, a retail center — the one thing the team can know for certain is that it is going to have an impact on the community. Contractors play a large role in shaping the communities they build in, and some companies are working hard to take that responsibility seriously and ensure their impact is a positive one. 

“The legacy of the projects we build far outweighs the time we spend on-site,” said Rachael Guerrero, corporate social responsibility manager at national construction firm Swinerton and secretary of The Swinerton Foundation. “So it's up to a contractor to decide what legacy they want to leave.”

Guerrero said Swinerton takes that legacy seriously, which is why the team works with the community — listening to them, providing opportunities for them and volunteering in the neighborhoods they build in — to help make a positive impact. 

“These buildings are where families make memories, where children go to learn, where the sick go to get the care they need,” she said. “So employees feel a sense of pride in what these buildings represent. And it's a bigger purpose than the construction of it.” 

The Swinerton Foundation President Lori Dunn-Guion and Swinerton’s Mick Penn pictured with Cypress Mandela Training Center certificate ceremony

Meggie Hollywood, Swinerton’s director of marketing and vice president of The Swinerton Foundation, said because the company is employee-owned, its employees have a unique sense of pride in each project they build. Additionally, they work on many local projects and actually live in communities where they are building, which makes projects more personal. One example she gave was a maternity ward the team built in San Diego where many Swinerton employees and their family members in the region have ended up giving birth. 

“There is something to be said about that kind of boots on the ground work,” Hollywood said. “We work on projects across the nation, but we still have that commitment to the community to build good and build strong, especially since many of us may be living and working and playing in the spaces that we build.”

She added that Swinerton works to develop strong relationships with local workforces and uses local subcontractors whenever possible. The company also offers apprenticeships and mentorship programs to help so local workers can build their capacity and get the experience they need to work on other large construction projects. 

“We also build connection through our engagement,” Hollywood said. “We partner with local nonprofits, and to make those communities stronger, our employees volunteer thousands of hours every year. And The Swinerton Foundation donates over $1M to nonprofits where we live and work.” 

While building local connections and giving back through volunteer efforts are key, Guerrero said, it is first and foremost the responsibility of a construction firm to build projects that will better the community. 

Swinerton breaking ground at the Weingart Tower 1A project, which will help provide permanent supportive housing for those suffering from homelessness.

She spoke about a recent Swinerton project in Downtown LA called the Weingart Tower, which is a 19-story high-rise building being built in conjunction with the Weingart Center, a nonprofit organization that supports individuals experiencing homelessness. The 278-unit, ground-up residential development will offer affordable housing to address homelessness in the city and provide supportive services. 

Guerrero said that what really sets the building apart, however, is that it will  do more than just provide shelter. 

“The building is also going to include sections where people can go to get resources on how to get back on their feet and overcome obstacles including debt, addiction, mental illness and more,” Guerrero said. 

As part of the company’s work on the project, Swinerton employees have been volunteering with the Weingart Center and the company has donated money to its cause. Recently, they were given Weingart’s “Champions of Change” award, which the organization gives to partners that are making strides to combat homelessness.

"At Swinerton, I think it is important that when we go into a community to build, it is important that we leave it better than we found it," said Lori Dunn-Guion, president of The Swinerton Foundation and vice president division manager at Swinerton.

Dunn-Guion brought up another project in Oakland where Swinerton adopted a local neighborhood school and set up workshops for students to expose them to both the administrative and craftwork side of the construction industry. 

"I am very passionate about job creation for those in the local communities, and I believe we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to support economic growth, in locations where we work and build," she said. 

Swinerton formed its own charitable organization in 2002 to raise funds for nonprofits that its employees believe in. Today, it is a public charity that focuses on equitable education and creating resilient communities and sustainable workforces. 

“This is how we are building our legacy at Swinerton,” Guerrero said, “For us, it's about the community, providing opportunities to community members and then helping the community in every way we know how.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between Swinerton and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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