Adrienne Tuck has always had an eye on the importance of revitalizing cities and building strong downtown spaces.
“I grew up in Dallas and my dad was in commercial real estate,” said Tuck, director of business development for W.E. O’Neil Construction Company in Colorado Springs.
“Commercial real estate is kind of a boom-and-bust industry. He taught me a lot about the hard work and grit that are needed to survive in that industry. He instilled in me the importance of having a vibrant, strong downtown core.
“Growing up in Dallas in the ‘90s, we lived about 10 minutes away from downtown. … It was a really economically depressed area. After 5 o’clock, you would not want to be down there, and you certainly wouldn’t want to hang out there nights and weekends.
“My dad really explained to me that the way you revitalize depressed areas is through placemaking and developing spaces where people want to live, shop, dine, play, and work. … The process of that development happened at the intersection of private business and local government. My dad was a really phenomenal community steward. He was always able to see the big picture and see what needed to be done to help the most people.
“[When I was in] high school, he was working on a political campaign to have the American Airlines Center built, which is an arena for the Dallas Stars and Mavericks, in downtown Dallas. … I believed that creating spaces and placemaking downtown was the key to revitalization.”
The legislation to build the arena passed, “and sure enough, it was the catalyst for the revitalization of the city,” Tuck said.
Tuck moved to Colorado Springs in 2008 and, inspired by her father’s example and her own understanding of real estate, eventually found her niche in construction.
“W.E. O’Neil is a big construction company that has had a Colorado office since 1999 and they have worked in Colorado Springs on different projects across town over the last decade,” Tuck said.
“They hired me to come in and further connect them into the community. ... Having worked on all sides of the construction industry for the past 13 years, I’m super excited to help bring in a fresh, innovative company with that national expertise to town.”
She spoke with the Business Journal about building strong relationships, thriving amidst chaos and lessons learned on her road to a career in construction.
Talk about how you ended up here in the construction industry.
[I majored] in journalism and political science at Texas A&M University. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew those two subjects were really interesting to me. I met the man who would become my husband in political science class. He was in the Army, so he came back to Colorado to go to law school at the University of Denver and he asked me to come with. I said yes — I loved skiing, fishing, and hiking and I had spent the summer before college on a fishing trip with my dad, brother and mom to Colorado and I knew I loved it. I was really excited, on a whim, to move to Colorado with my then-boyfriend.
We moved to Denver and I worked a bunch of odd jobs. I worked in the Colorado Governor’s press office as a non-paid intern. I was a nanny for one of the [Colorado] Rockies baseball players and I worked at J.Crew. I was kind of a hustler and I ended up getting a job at a law firm and transitioned into their marketing department. I married my husband and he had to complete four years of active duty. He got stationed at Fort Carson as a lawyer in the JAG Corps, so we moved to the Springs. I took any job I could get, and I ended up in the marketing department of an architecture firm.
It was a crazy time because we had just moved to Colorado Springs and I was working at this architecture firm, and then the recession of 2008 hit. It really decimated the whole construction industry. I was the sole marketing person for a national architecture firm, trying to help them win projects in the state of Colorado. … We went through seven rounds of layoffs and it was terrifying. In 2010, my husband deployed to Afghanistan for a year, and I ended up meeting some people that worked for an engineering company and they needed to fill a marketing and administrative position. I told them I didn’t have administrative skills, but I did have marketing skills. I told them I thought they needed marketing and business development. They were a new engineering firm coming to town, part of a larger company that had been established for 60 years and they were starting a Colorado Springs office. … I ended up kind of creating my own position based on what they needed.
I worked for Bridgers & Paxton here in Colorado Springs. I helped them start their office. … We [quickly] landed a big job — a $50 million advanced manufacturing facility. The engineers were designing the space and the two of them ended up taking another job with another company, out of state. All of a sudden, we were in the middle of the project as an engineering company, with no engineers. I worked with the leadership and owner of the project to come up with a plan of how we could source this project out of other offices. At the time, the leadership was looking to close our office. … I actually found a great man in the company’s Phoenix office and convinced him to move to Colorado Springs. … I helped them rebrand the company and increase their revenue by 600 percent over the seven years I was there. It turned out to be a great experience for me.
After Bridgers & Paxton, I got recruited by GH Phipps Construction Company. … I had worked with them before and respected them. They recruited me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was also an opportunity to step up into a higher-level position. I was ready to take the next challenge. I eventually got recruited by a headhunter to take the role that I am in now with W.E. O’Neil.
What was your biggest takeaway from working with Bridgers & Paxton?
Colorado Springs is a really tightknit community. … It was really hard to break into the market with no Colorado experience, especially since the company was from New Mexico and Arizona. … My biggest takeaway was that I knew what the right thing to do was and I had to trust my gut. I knew that we had to build really strong relationships and provide really good engineering services for an affordable price. … I really believed in that philosophy and I knew it would take years of building that idea, day-in and day-out before it would pay off. I was able to stay the course because my dad told me at one point in my life, ‘Adrienne, don’t quit before the miracle happens.’ He told me this when I was at a crossroads in my life and that just confirmed that I was on the right path and I just had to continue taking the next step.
Do you have any goals for 2021?
I’ve only been in my new role for three weeks. I’m spending a lot of time fully learning and getting to know the people I am working with, so that I can better connect them to the community. That is primarily my focus or goal for right now.
Do you have advice for business leaders?
Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Just keep taking steps towards the right thing and before you know it, you’ll be down a new path.
I don’t believe in mistakes. … All of those are preparing you for something greater.
How are you involved in the Colorado Springs community?
I serve on the board of directors for Atlas Preparatory High School. It is a charter school in Southeast Colorado Springs where most of the students are struggling with poverty. They’ve developed an amazing program that helps students prepare for college pathways, military service, or going directly into the workforce. … We identified the need to also create an elementary school [so we could prevent children from falling behind]. … Other school districts are spending $30 million to build a school for 300 students. For the same number of students, we were able to build a school for $13 million. … We can’t just forget about those kids struggling with poverty at the other end of town. This was easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.