In June 2021, easing of COVID-19 prevention restrictions began across the country. As our communities start to show their faces again and local businesses are reopening, OPC is hopeful that the world may be seeing the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPC continues to uphold each agency’s strictest public health standards with our clients, as much of our work involves direct interaction with elderly, disabled, and vulnerable populations.

In the office, fully vaccinated staff is allowed to resume pre-pandemic policy regarding workplace interaction while non-vaccinated staff will continue to wear masks.

As we emerge together from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPC staff find comfort in our coworkers and project teams.

“Being able to meet up with your team in person again brings out a new level of excitement for why we do what we do,” OPC Project Manager Karen Pollock, CAPM, R/W-NAC commented. Based in OPC’s Dallas area office, she heads many of OPC’s right of way acquisition projects for TXDOT highways across the great state of Texas.

For OPC Texas personnel, mask requirements and social distancing restrictions were lifted earlier, allowing for some quality time to be spent among our Lone Star staff.  In May, OPC’s Team Texas held a team-building social event to allow projects groups from Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Corpus to finally meet in person.

Project Coordinator Audrey Vacek put the importance of in-person social events like this into perspective. “Though we already have ongoing communication with the team across the state, every time we meet in person, it gives us a renewed spirit. (OPC Texas Management) Silverio (Garza) and Ray (Armstrong) recognize this, and they make sure we have timely gatherings.”

Audrey also highlighted the lasting effects of bringing the whole team together. “The energy transferred by an in-person encounter cannot be duplicated by a virtual meeting, a phone call, or a text message. I always look forward to meeting up with team members in person, and I feel that little twinge of disappointment when we part, akin to when a family visit is over. A meeting or social outing carries over, with stories or rehashed conversations for days and weeks to follow.”

The event in Houston was also marked with a couple of special out-of-state guests. Visiting the Gulf from the other two coasts were Chief Operating Officer Taurean Gordon, coming from Southern California, and Program Director Paul Blackman, Jr., arriving from Washington, DC.

“Texas, as a targeted geography for expansion, is ripe with opportunity for OPC,” stated Paul. “This includes our efforts in leading enhanced relocation and environmental justice services on one of the nation’s largest highway projects the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP).”

OPC’s Environmental Justice involvement in Houston’s NHHIP is unlike any other right of way program administered in the United States today and is intended to serve as a model for the insertion of Environmental Justice into major transportation projects that disproportionally impact underrepresented people or neighborhoods. More information about our work can be found here: https://www.opcservices.com/nhhip-relocation-navigators/

Added Paul, “I get excited to travel to TX meet the team in-person and learn about the rich history of the state,” who seems most thrilled about visiting the Texas-famous Buckee’s landmark! “Look forward to the next trip!”

“After two months of very intense work it was awesome to be able to get away to Houston to see members of the team as well as meet those I had been working with but never seen in-person!” opined Project Manager Marett Hanes. “It was a great reminder of the fun and supportive environment we have at OPC!”

For Marett, the Houston trip also meant reconnecting in-person with one of her closest friends from University of Texas, Austin: Melissa Beeler, AICP, now a consultant on OPC’s NHHIP housing navigation team.”

Melissa echoed Marett’s thoughts. “It was great to relax and connect with these kind faces in person and away from our computers.”

Reflecting on being with her Team Texas cohorts, Karen added “We are a small, yet strong team, so we are always connecting in some way, but when we can come together again you are reminded of the heart and passion we all have.”

While we acknowledge that COVID-19 is not yet fully behind us, our tight-knit team across all of OPC has been eager to be together again. As a company representing the human side of major projects for the public, our staff looks forward to more opportunity enhancing lives through infrastructure together as Team OPC.