- Written by: Molly Cohen
- Produced by: Chuck McKenna
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
A lot of Americans don’t realize it, but we have another nation within our borders. The Navajo Nation has its own government, laws, and even issues its own passports. The Navajo Nation, or Diné Bikéyah in Navajo, covers 27,000 square miles comprised of parts of northern New Mexico, Arizona and southern Utah. The popular Four Corners Monument – the spot where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona come together – is located within the Navajo Nation. Also located within the Nation and associated with landmarks, this time with building them, is Arviso Construction Services, headquartered in Iyanbito, N. M. Arviso, founded in 1981 by Olsen Arviso Sr., still the company’s president, is truly a Najavo company, as 100 percent of its employees are American Indians. Arviso is also a family affair, as Olsen’s four children all work at the company as well. Vice President Orville Arviso, explains, “My whole family works here. My two brothers are project managers and my sister runs the office. We have about 60 employees total [a mix of part-time and full-time] and we work in all of the four corner states. But, even though my Dad founded the company, we weren’t handed our positions here. We had to start on the ground level, as labor, and work our way up. I’m glad he did it that way.
Challenging, Rewarding Working Environment
Arviso employs construction managers, superintendents, estimators, cost accountants and support staff. Even with this comprehensive team working on the Navajo Reservation presents challenges with which most general contractors are unfamiliar. For instance, in a city or in an easily accessible area, materials are readily available; not so on the Reservation. “Out here we’re in a remote region and we really have to take advantage of everything available to us, because a lot of the time we have to improvise,” says Arviso. “It’s a big area [the Nation], and every project we’ve worked on here has been challenging; but we’ve also gained a lot of knowledge.” The company has grown much larger than when it was just Arviso’s dad and his pickup truck doing residential work. The firm expects to gross around $20 million in revenue in 2010. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly referred to as “the stimulus package,” helped the firm tremendously when signed into law by President Barack Obama. “The economic slowdown was really hurting us. We’ve always gotten most of our work from the Navajo Nation and the U.S. Government, but there wasn’t anything being built. The stimulus package got projects flowing our way again,” Arviso reveals. Because of the remoteness of the area, the firm has always maintained friendly relationships with well over 100 local subcontractors and vendors to supplement in-house skills such as rough and finished carpentry and concrete, but because of the economy unproven companies are trying to expand their geographical footprints to bid on as many projects as possible. Arviso explains, “There are a lot of people bidding on projects that I’m not familiar with. It used to be there would be maybe 10 or 12 companies bidding on a project, but lately it’s more like 30 per projects.
Proud and Historic Culture
Arviso is proud that unlike these non-local competitors his firm’s workers are all Navajo. “I’m proud of who are and our Nation’s heritage and history.” One of the company’s pledges is to improve the overall economic situation of the Tribes with whom they work. Building strong relationships with other American Indian entities is one of the company’s principles. That dedication towards helping the Tribes is evidenced by some of the firm’s work. Arviso Construction just recently completed a low-income housing project in Gallup, N.M. [within the Navajo Nation’s boundaries], as well as Wingate High School at Fort Wingate, N.M., and work for the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority in Shiprock, N.M., among other jobs. The firm also had the chance to work on a very high-profile project: The Veteran’s Memorial Center in Tuba City, Ariz. The memorial is dedicated to the all of the American Indian veterans who fought in all of America’s foreign wars. That project is also unique in that it was featured on the popular ABC television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “That was a big project for us, but the time constraints were crazy. They called us on a Thursday, and we had to be on site with a full staff of guys the next day,” Arviso recounts. “We had to pull a bunch of people off of existing projects, but we did it. We had the cement work for the Memorial done in three days.” Delivering on-time and on-budget is how Arviso Construction measures a successful project, and also why the company receives many satisfied repeat clients. It’s nice to see a firm that is dedicated towards improving the lives of Native Americans can also turn out to be a success story in its own right. And, because Olsen Arviso Sr. wisely raised his children to love the firm like he does, Arviso Construction Services will be helping American Indians for a long time to come.
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