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Commercial Real Estate

Conversation With: Arcilia Acosta of CARCON Industries

The CEO, who also founded STL Engineers and is current chair of the Dallas Citizens Council, talks about her new headquarters, projects she has in the works, and more.
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Arcilia Acosta, the CEO of CARCON Industries and STL Engineers, grew up in Midland, where her father built refineries for Texas energy companies. She never thought she’d follow his path, though, and after graduating from Texas Tech University moved to Dallas and got into banking.

But after about 10 years of working with development firms and other real estate clients, she realized how much she loved construction and inspired her to relaunch her late father’s company. She officially opened CARCON Industries (a shortened version of her maiden name, Carrasco, and construction) on Jan. 1, 2000. Today, it’s a multimillion-dollar enterprise with several subsidiaries—and a brand-new headquarters.

D CEO recently spoke with Acosta about the growth of her enterprises, her leadership of the Dallas Citizens Council, and what lies ahead. Here are excerpts from the interview.

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Conversation With: Arcilia Acosta of CARCON Industries

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D CEO: Tell us about your new headquarters space and what precipitated the move?

ARCILIA ACOSTA: “We just moved in a couple of months ago. We had space at Mockingbird Towers, overlooking downtown Dallas. I wanted to own my own building and house the operations of both of my companies—the construction company and the geotechnical and materials testing company—all in one space. So, we bought a facility at 535 Regal Row in Dallas and completely renovated it. Now, I can easily get to the airport and to all my clients. It’s a perfect location for us.”

D CEO: Your companies have experienced a lot of growth. You worked in banking before switching course. What led you to do so?

ACOSTA: “I started our construction company in January 2000. I founded STL Engineers, which does Geotech and materials testing, in 2003, and our oil and gas division in 2013.

“Much to my disappointment, I could not find a woman-owned that did that type of work, and I wanted it for a contract I had with NTTA. I spent about a year studying it and decided that, on top of running my construction company, I would start my own. And that’s what I did. I hired the best engineer in North Texas. Our first big job was for HNTB, who I will work with to this day. They gave us the Geotech engineering work for the Lake Lewisville bridge, which has become a landmark project.

“We have since built many signature projects for clients across the U.S. People trust us. They know I’m in it every day. I love it, which is why I do it. I’ve never not woken up in the morning loving what I do. But it’s really about our people and empowering them to lead.”

D CEO: So, you’re hands-on, but also hands-off.

ACOSTA: “I’m not a micromanager by any means. My strategy is to hire the best and empower them. This allows me to maintain a civic commitment to our city along with the leadership of our companies. These things have run parallel to each other.”

D CEO: You’ve been engaged civically since early in your career. Where did that interest come from?

ACOSTA: “It really came from my parents. They were very much involved in the community and did fundraisers at our church and school and football games, or tennis matches, or whatever it was—they were always there. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad provided for us by working in the oil and gas world. And now, today I have an oil and gas division in the Permian Basin. I have come full circle.”

D CEO: How do you decide where to focus your time?

ACOSTA: “Early on in my career, when I was in banking, I was on the board of the YWCA. I went on to serve on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, where I learned about governance. I served as chairman of the Hispanic chamber in Dallas, then took the helm of the state Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where I governed 40 chambers across the state of Texas.

“Then, when I was 42 years old, I was asked to serve on the board of the largest leveraged buyout in the history of the United States—a $45 billion transaction to privatize TXU Energy, Luminant Generation, and Oncor. I served with Don Evans, former Secretary of Commerce Secretary, and James Baker. I was the only woman on the board for seven of my 10 years. I have deep construction and engineering experience, which most of the people around the table did not have. I was able to weigh in on how we were going to move energy in Texas in ERCOT.

“I’m currently on the boards of Veritex Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTX), Magnolia Oil and Gas (NYSE: MGY), and Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST), an integrated retail electricity and power generation company based in Irving with locations in 22 states. Collectively, I’ve served on six publicly traded boards.

D CEO: As well as the board of your alma mater, is that right?

ACOSTA: “Yes. I am the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Board of Regents of Texas Tech University system. We’re celebrating our 100-year anniversary as a system this year. Overall, there have only been three women before me to serve on the Board of Regents. It’s a true privilege.

“Another proud moment was being asked by Gov. Abbott to serve on the strike force to reopen Texas during COVID. That experience influenced the way I led as chair-elect of the Dallas Citizens Council—to call upon our members and ask for help to sustain the state through the pandemic.”

D CEO: And now you are the organization’s chairman for 2023 and 2024?

ACOSTA: “Yes. I’ve been in Dallas since 1989, right out of college, and I’ve built my companies here. I believe we all have a responsibility to give back and do what we can to strengthen our community for existing business leaders and generations to follow. It is incumbent upon us to do so.”

D CEO: What specific goals do you have for the organization during your chairmanship?

ACOSTA: “I hope to emphasize to North Texans that legislators will put forth 18 state constitutional amendments during the upcoming November election. This is unprecedented. The DCC is not a political organization, but we believe that every citizen in the state should become educated on the opportunities the amendments may provide for progress, stability, and growth.”

D CEO: Let’s switch gears and talk about some of the work you’ve been doing lately with your businesses, CARCON Industries and STL Engineers.

ACOSTA: “We have a track record of working on signature projects that have helped transform the region for 20+ years. For example, we built the only Tiger streetcars in the state of Texas, and both are here in Dallas. This funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and many cities in Texas weren’t sure how to manage them. Today, the City of Dallas’ modern streetcar crosses over the Houston Street viaduct and connects downtown Dallas and Oak Cliff—phase two takes it even further.

“We have been a part of building every single DART rail line. Most recently, we expanded the Red and Blue lines to accommodate the increase of passengers using the rail lines. Our construction company also built all the rail stations (Park and Rides) for the 23-mile commuter rail line from downtown Fort Worth to the north side of DFW International Airport. And we’re currently working on the team that’s building the commuter line from DFW airport to Plano. This will have a profound impact on transportation and the growth of our region.

“I have a passion for transportation and mobility. I’ve always said, if you want to know where your market is headed in the future, follow transportation!”

D CEO: We’ve heard that you’re pursuing involvement in the new Dallas convention center project, too.

ACOSTA: “Yes. This project is an absolute game-changer. We must get it right for the city, our corporations, and the people who live and work here. If we don’t, we will miss a $4 billion opportunity. This is much bigger than a development project—it’s a vision of how the region can be connected through our major thoroughfares, including Interstate 30. It will help us tie our communities and regions together—if we get this right.

“This is the time; we are responsible for building infrastructure and landmarks in the city of Dallas that lead to progress, and it is incumbent upon all of us involved in this effort to support the next generation of companies and leaders who will take the helm.”

D CEO: What has you most excited about the future?

ACOSTA: “Our state is the epicenter of the future of our country—and our world. As a third-generation Texan, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to lead two companies that I love and one of the most consequential civic organizations in the region during this high-growth and critical time. I could not be more excited about what lies ahead.”

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Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…
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