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The Local Touch

Theodora Oyie MBA ’18 helps Los Angeles developers get the green light—by hiring local workers and diverse vendors. 

July 28, 2020
Marshall MBA alumna Theodora Oyie

If you’re a developer in Los Angeles with a major project (think stadium, entertainment complex or mixed-use) and you want your project to get the community’s blessing, the first person you need to contact is Theodora Oyie MBA ’18.

The USC Marshall alumna is the founder/owner of Mindful Integration of Construction Services (MICS), a firm whose mission is to ensure that high-profile commercial projects successfully implement local workers and engage diverse (e.g., small, woman-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned) business enterprises during the construction phase. Oyie launched MICS after more than 15 years serving in senior management roles for general contractors and as an owner-representative.

MICS’ diversity and inclusion efforts require working closely with developers, project owners, general contractors, community-based organizations, labor unions, jobseekers, bidders, politicians, vendors, suppliers, subcontractors, estimators, and procurement staff to achieve the project’s local worker hire and/or diverse business enterprises procurement goals.

“A savvy developer can assemble the right team to effectively engage the community with employment opportunities and other community benefits without escalating costs or sacrificing quality. That project in turn inevitably will yield preferred dividends for all key stakeholders.”—Theodora Oyie MBA '18, founder and owner of Mindful Integration of Construction Services (MICS)

“Capital projects completely transform the space and dramatically impact a neighborhood,” said Oyie. “A savvy developer can assemble the right team to effectively engage the community with employment opportunities and other community benefits without escalating costs or sacrificing quality. That project in turn inevitably will yield preferred dividends for all key stakeholders.”

Hire Local

She points to USC as a good example of a project owner that understands the importance of partnering with the community. She worked closely with the University on several major projects, including USC Village and the Coliseum.

“Like construction on any landmark, people wanted to work at the Coliseum,” she said. “They wanted to be able to tell their kids one day, ‘I helped build that!’”

Understanding the University’s commitment to enhance South Los Angeles and the City overall, Oyie created programs and processes, and she fostered partnerships with community-based organizations, the USC Good Neighbors program, subcontractors and jobseekers that ensured that the 15-acre, $700 million USC Village got built with significant local participation—some 20 percent of the workers lived within five miles of the Village.

While the local worker hire participation goal was 30%, overall, 76% of the workforce that built USC Village lived in L.A. County. She had similar stellar outcomes on the Coliseum upgrade.

“A project becomes successful when it meaningfully engages the residents of that community—be it through employment and/or business enterprises contracting,” she said. “We’ve all seen or heard the types of disastrous situations borne out of developer disregard or disconnection from the community. In many of those instances, local residents’ opposition has derailed projects.”

Oyie has worked on more than 30 projects in the L.A. area, and each one reported outcomes that exceeded diversity and inclusion project goals. In addition to USC Village and the Coliseum, many of those projects are household names, including the Rose Bowl, the Forum, LAX facilities, L.A. Unified School District campuses, the L.A. Federal Courthouse, the L.A. County Hall of Justice, the Camp Pendleton Replacement Hospital, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the Long Beach Courthouse, L.A. Community College District campus facilities, and many others.

Back to School

Oyie enrolled in Marshall’s Executive MBA program more than a decade after earning her undergraduate degree.

She credits her participation in the program with the confidence to “go out on my own.”

“For years industry partners had been telling me ‘you have to go solo,’ but I resisted,” she said. “It wasn’t until my EMBA that I was able to objectively assess my talents, get out of my own way, and finally see what my supporters had known and seen all along.”

She launched MICS several months after graduation.

A Win-Win

Oyie relishes serving as a bridge-builder to disparate communities.  

“My goal is a win-win for key stakeholders,” she said. “Foremost, it’s humbling, rewarding and challenging to bring resources and people from different backgrounds, with competing objectives, together to jointly problem solve access, employment opportunities and equity issues while constructing complex projects,” she said.  

She is passionate about leveraging employment to create pathways to the middle class. So, she enthusiastically introduces disenfranchised Angelenos to lucrative careers in the trades. Skilled labor has been a proven gateway to the middle class for past generations, offering union membership, good wages and benefits, with lots of room to advance. Rooted in equity, Oyie has witnessed firsthand how stable employment can spark personal and professional transformation for marginalized Angelenos.

No Slowdown Here

While the Coronavirus pandemic has been ravaging the world, construction in L.A. County remains an essential service. Today’s pace is not last year’s breakneck speed, but numerous capital projects, private and public, are slated to be built as soon as the current “pause phase” is lifted.

“There is a tremendous amount of work—renaissance level—that is already committed,” she said. For example, housing projects, hospital renovations, the Super Bowl in 2022, the Olympics in 2028, L.A. Department of Water and Power, the state’s SB1 $6 billion annual infrastructure upgrades, gas and water utilities upgrades, Metrolink upgrades and expansion, L.A. Metro projects, LAX and Hollywood Burbank Airport expansions, 2026 World Cup, Clippers Stadium, Inglewood People Mover, and many more for years to come, which offer a much-needed positive outlook for L.A.

Despite the pandemic’s upheaval, Oyie and her team at MICS are optimistic that there’s hope for ample opportunities for Angelenos to get back to work. MICS also eagerly looks forward to helping diverse contractors, vendors and suppliers build back their businesses.

Oyie said, “I am immensely and forever grateful for what I learned at Marshall, and for being a part of the Marshall Trojan Family.”