Written by The Business Journal Staff
What we do:
Polestar General Inc. is a general contracting company located in Fresno specializing in commercial construction, including offices, retail spaces, medical facilities, warehouses, and financial institutions.
California State University, Fresno. I majored in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in Construction Management.
I am number nine of ten siblings; my parents were married for 39 years at the time of my mother’s death. My siblings and I were born in three different decades: the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I have two sisters here in the Central Valley, three brothers in Dallas, and one sister in Virginia. Three of my other brothers and both of my parents are deceased, with my dedicated mother passing when I was still in high school.
How did you become interested in construction and the contracting business, Roe?
When I was four years old, my father gave me an old hammer and I practiced nailing on a block of wood. I treasured that rusted hammer because it was given to me by him. Around the age of nine, I was greatly influenced by the father of a 1970s sitcom on television where the father was an architect. The thought of designing/constructing a building seemed exciting, especially against the backdrop of most first-generation Hispanics whose families work in the agricultural fields.
What do you like most about contracting in the Valley, Roe? When did you open your own business? How many employees do you have?
Construction in the Valley is a tight-knit community. I have known my trade partners for many years and can do business on a “handshake” and follow up with a contract. Our country was built on risk: people risking their lives and their families for freedom. I took a risk, and leveraged 20 years of construction experience to start Polestar General as a single Hispanic woman without any partners, in a field dominated by men, and had to prove myself all over again. We are entering our sixth year and have five employees, including myself. One of my employees has seven children and all together, counting the children and spouses, there are 18 people who directly depend on Polestar’s viability and success.
What Polestar projects are you most proud of any why, Roe?
My answer is twofold. I am proud of every project we have built because it is a privilege to orchestrate the construction of an office, store, or medical facility and by doing so, getting to be an integral part of our client’s dreams. Each project also allows my employees to thrive, provide for their families, and know that they are directly contributing to Fresno’s ever-changing landscape. Some of these projects include the Façade Remodel of the River Park Shopping Center, the Walter-Wilhelm Law Group office, the Advanced Diagnostic Testing Center for The Fresno Heart Hospital, ALSA Medical Group, Olam, The Ivy and Ooh La La. These last two projects are close to my heart because they are also women-owned small businesses that have taken a risk in this difficult environment and are striving to provide jobs in Fresno.
What difficulties did you face working your way up the ladder in a male-dominated field, Roe? Who were your best supporters along the way?
I went through the construction program at Fresno State with some wonderful students that had parents who already owned construction companies, giving them an avenue to obtain experience and a position in a construction company from the start. My father worked in the fields here in the Central Valley turning trays at 10 cents a tray, so I had to not only pry open the door to construction, but first find the door. What I did have, and would not trade for the world, was a father who believed in me and encouraged me at a young age to get an education and to work hard. With his limited means, he did what he could, which was to allow me to stand on his shoulders so that I could find my way. At 17 years of age when others were telling me to choose another major because a girl couldn’t possibly succeed in construction, my father’s reply when I told him I wanted to be a general contractor was, “Why not?”
What do you like to do in your spare time, Roe?
I enjoy meeting friends for dinner, doing church-related activities including studying Scripture, going to the movies, and walking with my dog.
What was your first job, Roe?
My first job in construction was when I was 19 years old, working on a framing crew building custom homes. I was about to start summer break and was so eager to get field- experience that I drove around town and stopped at the first home I saw being framed in the Woodward Park area and asked for a job. I was hired on the spot because they had never had a woman ask for one. Afterward, I quickly drove to a friend’s house and borrowed his tool belt. I tried it on and it fell to the ground because it was too large, so I took a nail and made another hole and cinched it, and I was good to go.