NORTH PORTLAND, Ore. – Kelli Bestwick loves what she does.The former north Portland resident and current owner of Interior Construction Enterprise, Inc. (ICE) of Newberg, is a pioneer in interior construction. From metal framing to dry wall and acoustical ceiling installation, Bestwick’s perseverance in an industry dominated by men makes her stand out.What also makes her stand out is her love of construction and serving the community. Bestwick is one of several sub-contractors working on the expansion of the Cascade Campus through the college’s Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business (MWESB) effort."I get a whole lot of satisfaction in this,"Bestwick said looking at the framed structure of the campus’ Jackson Hall addition. "I drive by the old neighborhood and see how it has really changed. I see the younger kids who were students now buying houses. It’s good PCC is doing this. It shows that PCC cares and shows we care."The company received a $230,000 contract through PCC’s MWESB program and is busily putting together metal framing for the Jackson Science Building on North Jessup Street. Rows and rows of metal framing dominate the exterior and interior of the structure and when Bestwick enters you can sense she’s in her element.Bestwick, a native of Montana, says she got into interior construction as a teenager working on taping and drywall for her father’s friend’s company in the summers. It was an introduction to a type of work that fit with her personality."The independence of self-employment is what attracted me to the work,"she said. "It’s real risky but I didn’t do well working for others. I love the challenge."She started professionally in the business in 1971, became an owner in 1985 and currently has operated ICE since 1995. This, after attending Mt. HoodCommunity College and Oregon State University for a spell, but she says she has learned the most from the impromptu classroom that can be found by simply working."I’m just a worker,"she said, chuckling. "I’ve had years and years of experience. It helps to be surrounded by people who are smarter than me."Her company, which worked on the remodeling of the PCC Washington County Workforce Training Center last spring, works on 74 jobs a year and many of them in the peak season of the summer. The company employs between 10 to 18 workers, depending on the time of year, and not only works in the Portland metro area but all around the state. She currently has a crew in Bend, led by several of her employees with the rest of the crew being local people."I have good employees who can also be good project managers,"she said. "I owe it all to them. They are my partners and the key to my success."PCC’s Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business (MWESB) effort is an outreach program set up through the 2000 construction bond. The program networks with key organizations and businesses in the community to help spread contract money to underrepresented workers and companies. With this initiative, PCC has allocated $2.7 million in 2002 contract money toward women, minority or emerging small businesses for the construction projects.
Into Heavy Metal: Bestwick Frames Cascade Campus
Photos and Story by James Hill