Native woman-owned and led contracting business defies odds with nationwide success

Collaborator: VNN Content Studio
Published: 03/22/2024, 6:56 PM

Native Commerce News is sponsored by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO), dedicated to expanding Indian Country commerce across the globe. 

Written By: Rachael Schuit

(MIDWEST CITY, Okla.) Construction. Across the country, it is a field dominated by male ownership and powered by a predominantly male workforce.

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in construction make up just 1.25 percent of the total workforce, a mere 10.8 percent of all construction workers nationwide.

Native American construction workers make up a fraction of a percent.

Those numbers make MIA General Contracting, both Native woman-owned and Native-led, a rarity.

Heidi Hightower (Machis Creek), general manager of MIA General Contracting, has worked for the company since it was founded in 2014. The company, a Native Business member of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO), is owned by Choctaw citizen Brandy Callaway.

Hightower, a newly elected AICCO state board member, has worked in various construction departments such as accounts payable, estimating and project coordination since she was just fourteen years old.

“Both my mother and father worked for a general contractor who was actually my Godfather and so I grew up in a construction company,” Hightower said. “Two weeks after my mom gave birth to me I was under her desk and she was my rocking my carrier. As a little kid coming in after school I would help my mom by filing papers.”

In addition to serving as an OSHA and First AID CPR instructor, Hightower also took the contractor's license exam in Louisiana, obtained her Highway, Streets, Bridges, Municipal Public Works License, and her Heavy, Civil Construction and General Building Construction Licenses.

MIA General Contracting got their start in Florida, and opened their Midwest City office in Oklahoma due to their contracts with the Department of Defense (DOD), specifically Air Force bases like Tinker.

Hightower said these contracts have been important wins, in addition to the evolution of government set-asides over the last couple of years, such as Indian Small Business Economic Enterprise (ISBEE).

“I think it's important that Native businesses are around or even that we have set-asides from the federal government because of just the atrocities that have happened throughout the country's development and the ways that Native Americans were treated,” Hightower said. “It's very important for us to be able to establish our own ways of caring for ourselves.”

Hightower said the move to Oklahoma has allowed for MIA General Contracting to partner with more Native businesses and network with other Native individuals.

MIA General Contracting’s CESO certification has also helped the company secure more projects with other Native-owned businesses.

“One of the projects that I have been involved in for the Native communities was the Indian Health Center and supplying HVAC units to their medical facilities,” said Hightower. “I definitely think that that is something that's necessary and something that the government needs to really focus on is the quality of the facilities that they offer to Natives.”

Hightower said she is looking forward to even more collaboration between MIA General Contracting and other Native businesses and communities as part of her new role in AICCO leadership.

“I see us working to grow both the chamber as well as MIA’s margins,” Hightower said.

For more information about MIA General Contracting, visit their website.


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