“All the things coming up around this project hit too close to home, literally. So it’s very important for me to do what I can and make sure we bring to fruition what this project means for Black people in the area.”
Bringing it home: Building the Future upon his Roots
IF ‘Lead Problem Solver’ was a job title, Tayo Adesida would be at the head of its department. He’s technically a field engineer at Raimore Construction, but that’s just scratching the surface of what he does day-to-day.
Tayo was born at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and raised in the Historic Albina neighborhood. He grew up building LEGOs and breaking down VCRs just to see how they worked. He lived close to Jefferson High School but chose to attend Benson High School to study automotive engineering because building cars was an early a dream of his. Then, his inquisitive mind and can-do attitude led him in another direction.
Now, as he looks at taking on a mega project like the I-5 Rose Quarter, he sees an opportunity to right a wrong.
“All the things coming up around this project hit too close to home, literally. So it’s very important for me to do what I can and make sure we bring to fruition what this project means for Black people in the area,” says Tayo.
It hits too close to home for him because his grandparents left Texas and Louisiana to settle in North Portland, raising his mother in the same neighborhood where he grew up. Following a divorce, his mom couldn’t afford a home in the area anymore, so they moved on. Eight years later, he returned to his roots and where it all began.
The size and scope of the Rose Quarter project, paired with the historical context of the Albina community and the number of Raimore employees who were born in Northeast Portland, is unprecedented. That’s why Tayo says it is important for Raimore to be intentional about every step until the job is complete.
“One thing we’ve always stood by is that we want to influence and bring up the area where we work and live. Our offices are in Northeast, and a lot of us grew up here. Our goal is always to try to get other people in the community involved in this so that they can also grow and see the opportunities.”
Tayo has held multiple positions during his six years with the company. He is comfortable wearing many hats and taking on any role necessary to get the job done. “It’s still what I do now. I fill in whatever gap I need to,” he says.
Never hesitant to lend a helping hand, Tayo credits leadership from the top, especially Raimore’s founder and owner Jeff Moreland Sr., for creating a culture of inclusivity and going beyond building infrastructure projects to invest in people first.
“Anything with a cultural change always starts at the top. If they don’t care, there’s never going to be change in the field. The only reason Raimore has been more successful than others is because the owner really cares about us and that trickles down to the rest of the team.”
As a student studying civil engineering, Tayo earned an internship with a larger contractor in town. His reception there as a young Black man wasn’t welcoming. He remembers feeling awkward about wearing Jordans, donning the classic Bred 4s and Playoff 13s, and rarely feeling like he fit in. Half-way way through his internship, he started to question if a construction career was ultimately worth the pain. He was weighing his options about what to do next when he got a call from an old friend, Jeff Moreland Jr. from Raimore Construction.
“I was ready to switch it up, change majors and go down a different path. Then Jeff calls me and suggests I interview for a job that opened at Raimore. I told him I don’t want to do construction anymore, but he pulled me back. So I showed up for the interview with maybe 10 people in the room, they spelled it out for me and I’ve been here ever since.”
Tayo says, “What drew me to Raimore was the camaraderie, the feeling of belonging. This was the first work environment I’ve ever worked in where people look like me, they understand where I come from and my cultural background. For once, my culture is the dominant culture. You’re either getting down with us and do it the way we are doing it, or you’re without a job. We’re not going to change how we get down to make you feel comfortable. We’ve been doing that our whole lives.”
That swagger is part of the culture at Raimore, and it’s a big reason why they’re known in the community. Not just for their approach to doing business but also for the way they go above and beyond in providing technical assistance and mentorship to small contractors.
As engagement ramps up and more people learn about the economic benefits of infrastructure projects and construction careers, Tayo would like to see more women and people of color take an interest in architecture, engineering and construction.
“People just don’t know until you give them access and they can see for themselves. Then they tell somebody, and it becomes word of mouth. Then the whole community can be involved in growing this process.”
To grow a process, change must come from within. But where there’s growth there’s also resistance.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy at all. This is going to be work for the next five to seven years, however long the project is, just to make sure we stand by what we say we want to achieve,” Tayo says, “because it’s going to be hard. There’s going to be a lot of people trying to block that from happening or don’t want things to change. People don’t like change; it makes them uncomfortable. But it’s undeniable that change is going to happen.”