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Growth & Giving Back

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Toro Construction Corp, the fastest growing, Hispanic-owned, general contracting company in Chicago, specializes in high-quality public works and government contracts. Originally conceptualized in 2005, Toro had a couple of false starts triggered by economic downturns and the housing crisis of 2008. But not easily deterred, husband and wife team, Socorro and Luis Vazquez, relaunched Toro in 2010 with renewed focus. This company’s history is rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, a passion for serving the community, and a conviction for creating opportunities to overcome a lack of equality in the industry.

Since then, Toro has experienced exponential growth, expanding its team from a single employee in 2014 to nearly 140 today. Toro’s team now includes some of the industry’s best talent in every department from business development to construction and estimating. President Luis Vazquez attributes the incredible growth of Toro to his “fearless” team. “We try to allocate and grow within our walls, nurturing our own team before we go outside and find someone,” says Vazquez. “So, we have people who care about the company and just believe in what we do. They work hard for us. I think the key to our success was finding the right people. This is the one thing we brag about- that our greatest talent is finding great talent.”

Beyond its carefully curated team, what sets Toro apart is its focus on the public sector and its ability to navigate the complexities of government contracts. Toro has a strong track record of delivering on-time and on-budget results in K-12 education, housing, aviation, and retail projects. Toro Construction Corp offers a diversity of services, ranging from commercial construction to residential projects. One of its innovative divisions, Integrity Wall, focuses on prefab construction, including 4 and 5-story buildings and single-family homes. This division allows Toro to manufacture homes in its shop and deliver and install them within a week, satisfying a growing demand for affordable housing in the Midwest.

Another notable service is Toro’s Renewables Division, concentrating on solar energy projects. Spearheaded by Toro CEO, Socorro Vasquez, Toro’s foray into solar energy began in 2017 and the company has since leveraged an exciting opportunity to grow in this sector. “Two years ago, a company from California came to us looking for a minority contractor here in Illinois to partner with. They were looking for an organization that could, first, meet compliance and, second, grow capacity here in Illinois. We have an agreement to work together and slowly start to develop solar projects in Illinois,” says Luis Vazquez. This partnership continues to flourish, with plans to undertake $50-60 million in solar projects in Illinois in the next couple of years. These projects include community solar panels and subdivisions designed to be energy-efficient, demonstrating Toro’s commitment to sustainability and green building practices.

“Our greatest talent is finding great talent.”

The diversity of services offered by Toro not only provides different revenue streams to underpin the company’s resilience but also ensures that the company remains busy through seasonal fluctuations. By pivoting its teams and cross-training employees across divisions, Toro maximizes efficiency and keeps employees engaged. This approach allows Toro to adapt to market fluctuations and maintain a strong position in the construction industry in Chicago and the Midwest.

Luis Vazquez was recently honored with the HACIA (Hispanic American Construction Industry Association) General Contractor of the Year Award. This prestigious recognition spotlights Luis’s leadership and commitment to supporting Hispanics and Latinos in the construction industry. Toro Construction’s considerable involvement in the community and dedication to delivering contracts to minority individuals were key factors in earning this recognition. This HACIA General Contractor of the Year Award holds special significance as it marks the first time this recognition has been presented to a Hispanic general contractor. This milestone highlights Luis’s pioneering role in the industry and Toro’s dedication to workforce diversity and community engagement. Receiving this award validates the impact of Toro’s work and commitment to serving the Chicago community at large, but more specifically the underserved LatinX and Hispanic communities of this area. This award not only recognizes past achievements but also catalyzes future success, inspiring Toro Construction Corp to continue its mission of community service through its work in the construction industry.

Community involvement and workforce diversity are integral to Toro Construction’s core values and operational strategy. Toro’s commitment to diversity is reflected in its hiring practices, striving for at least 50% of its workforce comprised of minorities. The company exceeds mandated participation percentages, with a focus on engaging minority communities and providing opportunities to women, veterans, and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Toro’s workforce development program has been instrumental in achieving these goals, ensuring that its team reflects the communities it serves. By going beyond the minimum requirements, Toro demonstrates a genuine commitment to promoting equality and inclusivity in the construction industry.

Toro’s focus on diversity is driven by a recognition of the inequalities that exist in the industry. “We’re witnesses to the lack of equality in this industry. Believe it or not, we’ve been exposed at all levels. I’ve been exposed as a worker. I’ve been exposed as a leader. I’ve been exposed as a businessman,” says Luis. “There is a lack of opportunities for minorities in this city and I know sometimes it bothers people, but they need to wear our shoes. We don’t do this to play the victim role. We just need to enforce those programs because they’re there for a reason, there is disparity out there where these contracts are not equally dispersed through minorities.”

Through proactive efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, Toro is working to address these disparities and create a more equitable environment for all. This commitment is about meeting regulatory requirements and making a meaningful impact on the industry and the communities Toro serves. “Once we have the contracts, we work hard to meet and exceed every requirement. We deliver. But the opportunities need to be available,” says Luis.

Toro Construction’s achievements as a minority-led company are exemplified by its ground-breaking work on the Churchview project. This project marked a significant milestone as Toro became the first Hispanic-owned company to secure a direct contract with the Department of Housing in Chicago. This affordable housing project, subsidized by the City of Chicago, involved a complete renovation of the units, including cosmetic changes, plumbing fixture upgrades, fire alarm installations, and mechanical improvements. The project also showcased Toro’s commitment to diversity, with Hispanic-owned representatives, developers, and architects involved in the initiative. Despite being smaller than its competitors, Toro completed the Churchview project on budget (its largest project to date). The project presented challenges, such as renovating 80-plus units while minimizing disruption to the tenants who were still occupying their homes in the building. Toro managed to complete the project ahead of schedule, demonstrating its dedication to client satisfaction and quality work.

Toro Construction’s ongoing involvement in the Firehouse at Garden Homes project exemplifies its commitment to community service and support for essential services. The project, initiated as a pro bono mission by Luis, aims to address the critical funding and infrastructure challenges faced by the fire department serving the Garden Homes community. The fire department, run on a volunteer basis due to limited funding, has been operating under challenging conditions, and lacking essential facilities like a kitchen, proper sleeping quarters, adequate training rooms, and suitable bathrooms.

Toro Construction Corp has taken a proactive approach by engaging with Cook County officials and advocating for increased funding and support. Luis Vazquez invited commissioners to visit the Firehouse, highlighting the urgent need for renovations and upgrades. Toro has committed its resources, including the expertise of its marketing department and funding for architectural renderings and floor plans, to support the Firehouse’s cause. The ultimate goal of the project is to secure funding for a comprehensive renovation, estimated to cost between $4 and $5 million.

Toro’s collaboration with LUCHA on the redevelopment of the Humboldt Park United Methodist Church (HPUMC) into affordable housing showcases a pivotal transformation within the community. This program involved converting a disused church into housing units addressing the urgent need for affordable living spaces. The project embodies LUCHA’s broader mission to empower communities through housing advocacy, development, and community building, particularly focusing on Latino and Spanish-speaking populations. The journey to this successful bid involved perseverance and strategic alliances. Toro identified an opportunity to partner with Crane Construction, leveraging their combined strengths to meet LUCHA’s criteria for a Hispanic-owned company to lead the redevelopment. This joint venture proved to be a winning formula, enabling them to secure the project against larger competitors.

This project is part of a larger vision to “reclaim neighborhoods” by transforming vacant lots and abandoned properties into vibrant, livable spaces. This initiative is not just about building homes but revitalizing communities and fostering a sense of belonging and pride among residents. By focusing on ground-up construction of single-family units, with its fast, accessible, and affordable prefab homes, Toro, with United Power, aims to breathe new life into neglected areas, turning them into thriving neighborhoods. The project demonstrates how collaborative efforts between non-profits, contractors, and other stakeholders can lead to meaningful change, making homeownership more accessible to low-income families and building housing security.

“Right now, in Chicago, the cost to provide an affordable unit to people with any ground-up building, costs the city almost $500,000 per unit just for someone to come in and rent,” says Luis. “The message we’re trying to deliver to the city and the state is that if we subsidized this program with $150,000 per home, someone can afford this home for $220,000. That means you can put 1000 families to live in their own homes for $150 million, as opposed to the current market where you’re able to deliver only 300 of them.”

Toro Construction Corp is poised to maintain its uphill trajectory for the next 5-10 years. With ambitions to become a $60 to $90 million contractor, the company is focused on maintaining a strong team and stabilizing its position in the general contracting industry. Luis Vazquez acknowledges the eventual graduation from minority-owned company status as a natural progression, indicative of Toro’s growth and success. The company’s strategic direction includes solidifying its presence in its current market before exploring opportunities in neighboring states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, and further afield in Tennessee and California. Luis Vazquez underscores the importance of conquering the current construction market and establishing robust leadership as prerequisites for successful expansion.

Despite Toro Construction’s ambitious plans for growth and expansion, the heart of its mission remains steadfast in supporting minority and underserved populations within the communities where it operates. This unwavering commitment is a cornerstone of Toro’s identity, reflecting a deep understanding of its roots and the critical role it plays in fostering inclusivity and opportunity. As Toro ventures into new markets and sectors, its dedication to uplifting and empowering these communities will continue to be integral to its strategy, ensuring that its success translates into meaningful impact beyond the realms of construction and renewable energy. This balance of growth with social responsibility underscores Toro’s vision not just as a company aiming for financial milestones, but as a community leader invested in making a lasting difference.

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