Amy Rohrer – Rebuilding Communities After Fire

Episode #15: Welcome to the She Builds Show, I’m your host, Stefanie Olson. Today I’m excited to interview Amy Rohrer, Co-Owner of Rohrer Construction and Executive Director of Valley Contractors Exchange. After losing her family’s home and construction shop in the 2018 Camp Fire, Amy and her husband got HAZWOPER certified and spent 6 months removing the ash and debris from their property, as well as their neighbor’s property. Now Amy is launching she is launching a mobile training unit that will travel to burned-out communities and teach fire survivors basic construction safety and skills though hands-on-tools community rebuilding projects.

Ready? Let’s go…

SHOWNOTES:

•  I’m a second generation builder, so I started in diapers, I spent summers… My dad was a developer here in Chico, so I spent summers working on the job. After school? Yeah, so grew up on the job site, then decided to go to college to do something else, was a Recreation major and somehow ended up back in construction. I’m married to also a second generation builder, so we in our spare time, always built together, got into houses, redone them and we were in the process of redoing our house when the Camp Fire struck. So hence, that led me to a lot of time on my skid steer on our property and our neighbor’s property, and then reconstructing with my family, which has been quite a dream, it’s been great. (01:23)

•  Without a doubt, it’s one talking to girls who… Anybody really that will listen really about how great construction is, especially girls, because my generation a 20 something year-old, that book wasn’t really open to me, that platform. It should have been, and being in a building family, definitely it should have been. But really then, it really wasn’t. So right now, I’m just trying to tell any girl that will listen, consider construction as a career choice, really anybody… You don’t have to go to college if you want to do construction, but to be able to see what you physically build at the end of the day is such a beautiful thing. And really, my calling right now is launching a mobile training unit that will travel to areas that have been affected by wildfire. (3:33)

•   It would be amazing if I had unlimited funds to do anything with, so it’s been something that we’ve been throwing around to the Valley Contractor’s Exchange, which for those that don’t know, builders exchanges are non-profit member-based construction associations. I have the greatest job when I’m not physically out there building, I get to advocate locally for building and whatever that looks like in various communities throughout the country. So it’s been something we’ve been talking about here for 20 years, how great would that be, and we’ve been trying to find community partners to do that with community colleges or office of education or just other community partners that could help us make that a reality, and we never really got anywhere on that. And so the silver learnings that come out of these terrible natural disasters like we experienced with the Camp Fire and then the subsequent North Complex Fire, fortunately, unfortunately, provides some funding sources that aren’t typically available to us. (06:42)

•  Yeah, ideally, if they have two weeks to spend with us, that’s an 80-hour per core curriculum, it’s an industry recognized all over the United States and is recognized basic construction skills and safety. So they can take that if they want to enter the work force, which… No joke, that’s what we’re also trying to do here, when we talk about rebuilding after the Camp Fire, rebuilding Paradise, it’s painfully slow only because we don’t have the physical bodies to the work, so if we can empower people… And the other part of that is construction is a really intimidating industry to get into, especially as a woman, right? Like physically go on a job site and show up, you have to show up and utilize those tools and equipment and know what you’re doing. It’s hard, it’s intimidating. So I feel like if we can go into these communities and teach them those basics and then empower them and have them physically build something, and then they can look at it and say, Wow, I did that. (10:48)

•   Do you have a goal date? I do. The goal, the drop dead date. I’m going to say January 1st. I think it’ll be… I think the pieces will be together before then… Yeah, so we’re securing funding right now, the NOFA hasn’t even been released yet, but we’re still filling out the application, we’ve had several conversations with the EGA, this is right on their radar, like this is right in line with what they’re trying to achieve, not only through fire rebuilding, because we’re coming out of COVID also,  and then we’ve talked to our local community foundations. We’re going to talk to them about funding. BCE does have some money in the bank, so they can have some skin in that game too. And then go out to industry and ask them to put their skin in the game, because we know they need employees… And the other part of what we’re going to do here is take this truck and trailer to schools, there’s no more construction tech classes in high schools and middle schools. And so right now, on a very small scale, we do construction camps with the Boys and Girls Club, we do construction camps with our local recreation district to grow those programs too. (13:10)

•  Yeah, so happy to be alive and to have my family and to realize the only things that we lost were just things… We were home, so we were able to get our pets loaded up, we’ve been evacuated several times, so you know, I know how to pack… I have my favorite underwear, stupid stuff like that, you lose most of your clothes, but just be able to put on that perfect pair, it’s crazy. But we didn’t take the other things like the paintings that my grandmother did and my grandfather’s war memorabilia, that stuff sucks, but the rest of it is just really things… I have my family and I have a great husband that knows how to build. So that first two months, we didn’t know where we were going to live and life is just got really strange and has weird ways of taking care of you.  (19:17)

ABOUT AMY:

Amy Rohrer, Co-Owner of Rohrer Construction and Executive Director of Valley Contractors Exchange, is a second-generation builder living in Butte Creek Canyon. Amy is passionate about empowering girls and women in construction! She engages youth by teaching construction camps with the Boys and Girls Club, and summer camps where she is sure to offer an equal number of Girls Build! camps.  

After their family’s home and construction shop was lost in the 2018 Camp Fire, She and her husband got HAZWOPER certified and spent 6 months removing the ash and debris from their property, as well as their neighbor’s property, before they got down to the business of rebuilding. In fall of 2021, she is launching a mobile training unit that will travel to burned-out communities and teach fire survivors basic construction safety and skills though hands-on-tools community rebuilding projects.  In her work life, Amy is happiest on her skid steer (named Miss Kitty), pouring concrete, or framing and standing walls. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 teen-age sons, playing golf, soccer, and paddle boarding.  

Amy is fond of saying, “I may be 5’ 2’ and 110 pounds but put me on a piece of equipment and I am just as strong as a 6’ tall bodybuilder!”

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