Fahteema Parrish, president and founder of Parrish & Sons Construction, one of the few Black-woman-owned construction companies working on the new Kansas City International Airport terminal, said the low level of participation of Black-owned firms at the airport is evident to her when she’s in the field.

“I don’t think that I could turn to my left or my right and see another Black-woman-owned construction firm that’s out there,” Parrish said.

Parrish has been awarded multiple contracts for earthwork on the project totaling $5.8 million. It’s the largest contract her company has ever been awarded.

Before starting her construction business in 2015, Parrish worked in information technology, another White male dominated field where her abilities and talents were also questioned.

“I was able to rise to the occasion,” she said. “Can I do the work? Yes, I’ll learn just like anyone else.”

Even though she was able to learn entrepreneurial skills while she was growing up around her parents’ HVAC company, she spent significant time retooling herself to learn about construction management.

Now, she’s managing a steady crew of 35, sometimes up to 65, working on excavating at KCI and preparing the subgrade where the planes will take off and land.

Parrish said the contract has been transformative for her business. Now, she’s able to look more competitively at future jobs of considerable size. She’s been able to expand her office space as well as increase the size of her team.

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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