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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Torres 'Paving' Path in Construction Field

“I got caught on a phone call—that’s a good thing!” said Marie Torres. It’s a sign that business is picking back up.

Torres is president and chief executive of MRM Construction Services Inc., the paving and concrete company she founded in 2002 in South Phoenix, five blocks from where she grew up.

“I’ve been in construction 25 years,” Torres said. Growing up, her goal was to become a veterinarian until she realized how competitive it is to get into vet school. Always excelling in science, Torres went on to earn a degree in civil engineering from Arizona State University.

After college she joined Sundt Construction, where she worked in the laboratory blending aggregates and materials to create asphalt and concrete that not only is structurally sound, but also aesthetically pleasing.

The pavement, Torres said, is the first thing you look at as you step out of your vehicle. It matters to a business that the parking lot be functional first, and attractive second. Creating new compounds, she added, is “really pretty cool. It’s like putting together a recipe.”

After 17 years at Sundt, Torres, who also is a mother of two, decided to branch out on her own; her former employer was her first client. In nine years her company has grown to more than $20 million in revenue annually and has 60 employees.

MRM Construction develops “recipes” for asphalt and concrete and also completes the construction work on everything from sidewalks to airfields. Clients include Luke Air Force Base, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, various government agencies and companies.

Not only is Torres succeeding in a male-dominated industry but she’s also earned the respect of her peers and colleagues and has taken on leadership roles.

MRM Construction has also selected Rose Linda Elementary School in the Roosevelt School District as the primary cause it supports. Torres attended Rose Linda Elementary, as did her children. The construction firm helps fundraise for the school as well as donate tangible items such as shoes and clothing. Every other year, MRM sponsors a class of seventh and eighth graders on a hike through Havasupai Falls.

Torres also is chair-elect of the Associated Minority Contractors statewide chapter.

“She sticks to her principles and demonstrates her capabilities,” said Ricardo Carlo, who is president of the minority contractors’ association chapter. “She’s a phenomenal individual,” he added. “She’s been a great asset—one of the biggest supporters of the association.”

Torres describes herself as “direct,” an individual who speaks her mind and “doesn’t leave a lot for interpretation. I’m relatively clear on my expectations.” She speaks of her coworkers as a team that rises and falls together, but she’s quick to add that “if you’re thin-skinned this probably isn’t the place to be.”

More women are choosing careers in construction all the time, said Torres, who also mentors female students who are following this career path at ASU. You can tell how many more women are getting into the business by the longer lines for the women’s bathrooms, she laughs.

But joking aside, she has been honing her technical expertise for years, and ultimately that’s what makes her successful.

Still, Torres has a unique edge in the field.

“I can go into a room of 200 people,” she said, “and there will be six ‘Bobs,’ four ‘Mikes,’ three ‘Jims’ and five ‘Bills,’—but there’s only one Marie.”

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