• » LAX terminal expansion takes shape

    Construction and cleaning may be worlds apart, but Anna Rosales' small, struggling company was given a lift by the massive Tom Bradley International Terminal expansion project at LAX.

    Rosales' cleaning company was one of more than 300 subcontractors hired by the construction joint venture of Walsh Austin to work on the $1.5 billion project through mid-2013. | PHOTOS

    "My company was saved thanks to this project," said Rosales, who operates her Ver-O-Roses Maintenance company from her Rowland Heights home.

    Rosales had worked as a schoolteacher and administrator for 20 years when she decided in 2005 to start her own housecleaning company. She soon expanded the enterprise and sent her workers to office buildings.

    Her thriving business came to a halt in 2008, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and completed nine months of chemotherapy.

    Then, an economic recession gripped the country and Rosales lost 70 percent of her clients, who were seeking ways to cut expenses. In turn, she had to significantly trim her staff.

    Just as she was getting her head above water again, Rosales was diagnosed with oral cancer. She temporarily lost her ability to talk after a quarter of her tongue was removed. Rosales then returned to work as she was learning how to speak again, hoping to keep her business afloat.

    That was when she came across an opportunity by Walsh Austin to clean work trailers at the Bradley terminal construction site.

    "This has been a journey of realizing my priorities and really taking into consideration what I needed to do to survive," Rosales said. "After surviving cancer and going through what I did with this business over the last few years, I see life so much more different now."

    At first, many were skeptical that the airport embarked on the city's largest public works project amid an economic recession.

    But the project has proven to be a boon for the airport, along with the entire region, said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAX.

    "It's certainly a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy set of economic stories," Lindsey said. "It's been really interesting to see small businesses that were on the brink of collapsing, but came back to life thanks to this project."

    Another company that was given a second chance was Rosemead-based Clean Up America, a waste disposal and recycling firm owned by Deontay Potter.

    The company was off to a strong start when it opened four years ago, assisting in the construction of the L.A. Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles. But like Rosales, Potter came close to shuttering his company after the recession hit.

    Thanks to the Bradley terminal project, Potter said his company is slowly getting back on its feet again.

    "Without this deal, there's no telling where I would be right now," Potter said. "Having this under my belt has brought a lot of business my way and kept us really busy."

    art.marroquin@dailybreeze.com