BY TRONE DOWD
Barbara Armand is an acting founder and CEO of Armand Corporation, a New York based company that has been working in construction management and program management for 26 years and is also noteworthy for being a construction company led by a woman of color. The company primarily operates out of three states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
“The types of work we do is public work and public procurement,” Armand told the Queens Tribune.
Her work has led to crucial partnerships with agencies such as the New York City Housing Authority, New York City Economic Development Corporation and the governor’s office of storm recovery, the last of which helped the Armand Corporation play a role in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts five years ago.
“We’re still doing quite a bit of work out in Long Island helping people recover,” she said.
But Armand’s work isn’t just limited to these three states. The Armand Corporation assists with recovery efforts throughout the country.
“We do disaster recovery, so sometimes we can chase work in other states where there have been disasters,” she said.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Armand learned the trade from her family in the construction industry. She moved to New Jersey and started her company in 1991. The business had fairly humble beginnings, with a number of obstacles standing in the way of her hard work paying off.
“There was quite a bit of hardship along the way,” she recalled. “But it always led to something bigger and better.”
Armand said that financing a company with the kind of ambition for which she was shooting proved to be difficult in an industry predominantly ruled by men.
“This was 26 years ago,” she said. “It was very, very difficult. Even as a homeowner, which allowed me to have collateral, it was still bank after bank turning me down.”
Armand said that she had to make an effort to seek out banks known for having a more diverse customer clientele.
“After three years of searching, that’s where I got my first loan,” she said. “I had to go to a more urban type of bank setting to get my company off the ground financially.”
As is the case for many women in positions of success and power, societal barriers proved to be an annoyance for an individual such as herself, who had big ideas. As recently as 2012, Armand said that being a woman of color made others project certain expectations onto her plans as a business woman.
“A bank wanted my husband to co-sign a loan that I was trying to obtain for my business,” Armand said. “My husband has nothing to do with the business. He’s a retired psychotherapist and they wanted him to cosign a loan for me. I was so very angry about that. I told them, ‘No, that will never happen.’ I told them that ‘hell would freeze over before that happens.’”
Armand said that the bank eventually decided to relent and dropped the requirement. She said that this is something that has occurred a number of times while she has run her business.
“When banks ask me to do that after so many years of being in business, running the business and building the business myself, I don’t like that at all,” she said. “It’s hurtful and demeaning.”
Despite the occasionally backward mindsets of peers and prospective business partners alike, Armand has preserved, leading the way in her industry. She is president of the New York chapter of Professional Women in Construction and has won numerous awards for her trailblazing work in the construction industry.
Armand is also a staunch advocate for diversity in competition and works to get women and minorities involved in the mostly white male dominated industry of construction. She also actively contributes to development of MWBE governmental policy on a national level.