Learn more about the people behind our local businesses!
J3 Painting and Construction, LLC
By the 1990s, Jeff Hairston had amassed a metaphoric toolshed of important construction skills — knowledge that included how to repair houses, paint houses, install roofs, and much more. Those skills were taught to him by his father, and Jeff had honed them through multiple projects and on-the-job experience. By 1996, Jeff decided to take an entrepreneurial leap, turning his knowledge into a small, local company, J3 Painting and Construction LLC.
The business began as a hobby, a summer side-business Jeff juggled while working as a schoolteacher in the public school system. Later, when Jeff transitioned from teaching to firefighting, he kept his side-business alive, eventually giving it his full focus. “In the beginning, I struggled,” Jeff admits. “Across 15 years, I built a foundation for my business, but I still struggled to keep it afloat.” Jeff’s dad had taught him valuable skills. “But trying to succeed in the world with bigger, established companies can be impossible without specific knowhow or connections.”
That’s exactly why PBDG partners like O’Neill Construction Group are committed to providing professional mentorship for PBDG members. They know no one rises alone. “O’Neill’s shared knowledge has been priceless for me and my business,” Jeff explains. “There’s not one person who can be successful in life without some type of help. As a schoolteacher, as a parent, as a mentor in my community, I take pride in helping the next generation learn and succeed. PBDG has done just that for me.”
For Jeff, paying it forward has come full-circle with the help of allies who operate from the same playbook. “My business has grown significantly since those early days. But it’s still not at the place I imagine it could be.” And as any entrepreneur knows, it’s this ever-striving spirit that sparks exploration, growth, and ultimate success, especially when it’s amplified by the wisdom of a professional mentor. “With O’Neill and PBDG’s combined help, I’ve built a blueprint — a roadmap — to achieve the goals I want to accomplish.”
But the real power lies in solidarity. “The commercial side of the construction industry is controlled by non-minorities,” Jeff confirms. “As an African American contractor, it can be exhausting and deflating to try to break in. But PBDG creates access and dialogue between minority-owned businesses and the major construction companies.” And, like the early mentorship and help Jeff received from his father, and as Jeff now knows first-hand, “That’s invaluable.”
Willamette Technical Fabricators
In the spring of 2023, Governor Tina Kotek nominated PBDG member Alicia Chapman to serve on the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC). Alicia’s appointment acknowledges the work she has accomplished, both as the owner and CEO of Willamette Technical Fabricators, and as a champion of triple-bottom-line values — 21st-century business practices that center people, planet, and profit. Alicia’s DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) designation, her experience as a vocal transportation advocate, and her interest in clean energy were all factors in allowing Governor Kotek to establish more diversity within the Commission when naming this highly experienced new commissioner.
The Oregon Transportation Commission guides planning, development, and management of the state’s integrated transportation network, while also serving as the body that establishes state transportation policy. With a number of pressing, important projects on their agenda — including toll bridges, major highway improvements, and funding for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program — the OTC gains a wise and experienced new commissioner, as Alicia’s civic work and overall scope of her business fit perfectly with the Commission’s needs.
With riverfront offices in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, Willamette Technical Fabricators bring complex projects to life across the region. From building custom rugged work-boats that can squeeze between barges, to fabricating massive gates within dams straddling the Columbia River, Alicia and her business have been integral in multiple regional initiatives. But Alicia has always been a big thinker, and a powerful do-er. During her time in Washington, D.C., Alicia worked for USAID, where she helped organize international building projects in Palestine, Libya, and Afghanistan that in turn helped create local jobs, opportunity, and wealth. In 2012, Alicia moved to Portland to work on her Ph.D., and was soon recruited to work at OMIC (the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center) — an organization that envisions, develops, and provides innovative solutions to real manufacturing challenges. Later, when Alicia was ready to strike out on her own, she joined PBDG. As a PBDG member, Alicia received key guidance, services, and support as she completed her COBID certification, updated her capabilities statement, and developed a long-range financial forecast.
Willamette Technical Fabricators is now a thriving enterprise, with a leader who’s passionate about finding and sharing opportunities in a field that has few women and people of color. Alicia hopes to branch out into training in an effort to bring other community members into this exciting area of construction. In the interim, Alicia remains focused on building clean-energy transportation solutions and infrastructure projects encompassing bridges, hydropower dams, custom complex fabrication projects, and floating wind- and ocean-energy devices. Along with being a part of PBDG, Alicia is also a member of AISC (the American Institute of Steel Construction). Her current projects include: the Abernathy Bridge, which will create safety railings and structures that better protect fish; bulkhead gate storage, which supports the Army Corps of Engineers in maintaining hydroelectric dams; and the Bonneville Dam sluiceway roller gate.
Alicia’s multifaceted successes prove what PBDG has always known. Namely, that business owners are civic leaders. We applaud Alicia’s growth, her desire to give back, and her commitment to serve on the Oregon Transportation Commission. We know she will improve our infrastructure, as well as the opportunities for those in our community.
Carlton Pascal Renan Bennefield
Pascal Welding + Design, LLC
Carlton Pascal Renan Bennefield was lucky. He was hit by a bolt from the blue — a bright spark of inspiration — when he was just a little boy. Suddenly, on an otherwise unremarkable day in Carlton’s native state of New York, his lifetime dream became crystal clear. Carlton remembers the moment like it was a scene from a movie. “When I was about six years old, I was in the car with my family, and we were stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. As I looked out the window, I saw these bright sparks, like fireworks shooting up into the air. I asked my father what was going on — what were they doing? And he answered, ‘They’re welding.’ And I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to weld, and build bridges!’” And with that, his career-path was set.
Hailing from an extended family of entrepreneurs, inventors, and talented trades- and craftspeople, Carlton credits his father — a military electrician — with teaching him focus and determination. Meanwhile, Carlton’s uncle taught him how to weld. Schooling and classes shortly followed. “I started my business in my family’s backyard with one machine, a little stick welder, that I plugged into the 240-volt outlet in my parents’ laundry room,” Carlton explained. From these humble beginnings, Carlton was off and running.
His determination paid off. After years perfecting his craft while working on increasingly bigger projects, Carlton’s contracts took him from Virginia to North Carolina, Alabama to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. It was here that Carlton’s wife Kimberley, together with PBDG, delivered a game-changer. A friend of Kimberley’s passed her an article about Abdias Calixte and his company Complete Fusion Welding, LLC. Carlton read the article and knew right away, “I gotta meet this guy!” In another stroke of luck two years later, in 2022, Leanna Petrone of PBDG bridged the connection. The two men hit it off instantly, and in a short amount of time, Abdias became Carlton’s mentor. Carlton admits, “I was ecstatic.”
In the time since, Carlton has received crucial training from PBDG, and invaluable on-the-job instruction and business coaching from Abdias through Abdias and Carlton’s PBDG-forged collaboration. Carlton also honors Lee Fleming, Regional Supplier Diversity Manager at Skanska, as being an industry expert willing to help Carlton understand the credentials and professional presentation he needed in order to be a viable businessperson in his own right. As a result, Pascal Welding + Design, LLC is now a licensed, insured, COBID-certified business with a website. But Carlton’s ultimate goal holds true to that fateful moment on the Brooklyn Bridge. “Some day, I want to work on a bridge project. That’d be great.” With guidance, mentorship, and intra-community collaboration, it seems only a matter of time.
José David Berdeja Guzman
Berdeja Painting Enterprises, LLC
José David Berdeja Guzman has always been an entrepreneurial self-starter. From a very young age, José worked to become a refrigeration technician in his native town of Coyuca de Benéitez, Guerrero. There, after years managing his family’s coconut farm, he diligently learned the HVAC trade and established his own small business, El Cooler. But it wasn’t until a desire to advance his family’s prospects, and years waiting to immigrate to America (including six years living on the Mexico-U.S. border during the bloody Calderón War) brought him to Rockport, Maine, where he decided to pivot toward the painting trade.
José’s innate resourcefulness kept him afloat, as he did what he could to learn the ropes. Steadily, he gained some skills. But it was a rocky start as rough as a Maine winter. “When you don’t know anything and you’re struggling, you’re always walking with fear and embarrassment,” José recalls. Even so, José kept at it. Job after job, he upskilled while working to support his family.
But he never got used to the brutal Maine winters. So in 2022, José and his family relocated to Oregon. His wife was instrumental in helping José gain his first Oregon painting jobs, and helping him find his way to GCAP (Oregon’s Government Contract Assistance Program), and ultimately, to PBDG. At José’s wife’s insistence, and after exploring PBDG for himself, José was hooked. “I’ve gotten a lot of advantages in such a short time,” José explains. “PBDG has taken me by the hand and taught me everything about being a contractor — about running a business, and running it smartly without missing something important.”
With the help of PBDG, José is also learning the importance of developing a vision that will guide the next several years of business development for his venture, Berdeja Painting Enterprises, LLC. He’s pinpointed clear short-, medium-, and long-term goals, which include: securing a warehouse where he can store his equipment; obtaining a true work-van to carry his equipment to his job sites; and hiring at least two employees in order to help him scale his business. In 10 years, José would even like to establish an additional business focused on HVAC and refrigeration — all while staying actively engaged with PBDG. “When I started my business, everything was very confusing. Now, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.”
As José eyes a professional future in which he may come full-circle, coming “home” to refrigeration, he knows first-hand there’s no feat too big when allies have your back. “For my future, PBDG’s help is very valuable,” he affirms, adding that regardless of his endeavor, he believes he’ll now thrive in the years to come. “I’ll be with PBDG until they chase me away.”
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