T.A. Woods Co. CEO Teresa Woods-Cox is on a mission.
“I am actively, persistently, recruiting females. I invite them with open arms. I will train them,” she said.
Woods-Cox runs her contracting company with the skills she learned from her father, who worked in a broad slate of construction jobs.
Her parents met in Baltimore, Ohio, where her father moved (from West Virginia’s impoverished coal-mining region) while he was in high school. He worked a variety of jobs before landing at the local power company. His side gig, which became the family’s business, was always in construction and land development, Woods-Cox said.
“We did things like wiring silos; we would wire chicken houses, anything that was available to him,” she recalled. “Then general construction, building houses. Then finally he started developing land. I don’t ever remember not being a part of it – renovating a house or helping him pull wire or picking up rocks so they could bring equipment in. My dad made us a part of his projects whether we wanted to be or not.
“He taught me at a young age how to estimate work, evaluate property and negotiate. I have always been drawn to building systems due to the science and art of design and installation.”
That early involvement allowed Woods-Cox and her husband to decide to stay in Wilmington when his job would have sent him elsewhere. She had been teaching.
“My dad didn’t want me to go into construction,” she said.
Woods-Cox earned a secondary education degree from Ohio University. Her first job offer was from New Hanover County Schools. While working on her master’s in counseling from Campbell University, her husband’s construction company left Wilmington.
“We had to make the choice between moving and staying. We said, ‘With our backgrounds, we can do this,’” she said.
They opened T.A. Woods Co. in 1991 out of their living room. Today they have 60-65 employees and outsource another 85 from their shop on Netherlands Drive. Woods-Cox holds the general contractor license, while her husband, Brian, has the mechanical license, and company vice president Joe Smith holds the electrical.
“We encourage all of our managers to get their state license,” Teresa Woods-Cox said.
Their work is predominately with commercial, institutional, industrial and government projects including new construction, upfits and renovations in New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Onslow and Duplin counties. Their maintenance and repair services division provides 24/7 service needs for HVAC, electrical and plumbing. The overall scope includes general contracting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and service.
Over the past 30 years, numerous projects have taken on special meaning, especially those involving the military, Teresa Woods-Cox said.
“A few years back we sent a group to an area outside of Habbaniyah at Al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq to install systems for adding armor to military vehicles,” she said. “I know our team helped save lives. Our projects at Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point provide us opportunities to upgrade facilities for our local forces.”
As a former teacher, having the opportunity to help build and renovate schools also is important to Teresa Woods-Cox. These include projects at GLOW Academy, Roland- Grise Middle School, Myrtle Grove Middle School, College Park Elementary School, Town Creek Elementary School and others.
There are a few projects she said she feels grateful for “the opportunity to have our fingerprints on them because they are projects of community importance.”
“Our projects at UNCW, CFCC and BCC allow us to help build for the region’s future. NHRMC Women’s and Children’s [Hospital] was a cornerstone project for us” as was the Wilmington Convention Center, she added.
As CEO, Teresa Woods-Cox says she strives to create a culture where “we own our opportunities as this area’s building and service partner whether it is taking the lead on a project or helping a client solve problems associated with their building systems.”
Construction technology has changed tremendously since T.A. Woods opened.
“Supervisors and technicians use iPads in the field with portals to share and request information, send documents, look at prints and drawings, test equipment. We document our projects differently than even five years ago. Power tools have changed in size, portability and what they are capable of doing. A tradesman now has to have technological savvy to complete tasks,” she said.
She also sees changes in the role of women in construction.
“I see more females in supervision and management positions, but we are still struggling to bring women into the trades,” she said. “With the current and predicted trade shortages, women have an opportunity to learn a trade and be paid good wages for what they bring to the table.”
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