NEWPORT, Ky. — One of the biggest construction projects along the Ohio River is showcasing the talents of a 27-year-old female engineer from Cincinnati.
Tara Erhart is the project manager for the backbone of the project: A two-story parking garage that will serve as the foundation for offices, hotels and a thousand residential units, along with restaurants and retail space. It’s a billion-dollar project called Ovation in Newport, Ky.
Managers at Corporex, the company behind the project, hired Erhart away from another company where she was helping with the first phase of the development, the PromoWest Pavilion.
“Tara really knows her stuff,” said Suzanne Deatherage, director of marketing at Corporex.
“What Tara’s in charge of is so critical to this entire project. So it’s really nice and impressive to have somebody of her caliber running it.”
Erhart wasn’t the most obvious choice for a career in construction when she was growing up.
“I was the little girl walking around the sandbox with my hands in the air,” Erhart said. “I’m not a muddy, dirty person; I want to be clean. So my parents never saw this coming.”
While she loved dancing and art, Erhart also was good at math. She ended up majoring in civil engineering at the University of Dayton. She had no trouble finding work when she started attending college career fairs.
“All of these construction companies jumped all over the fact that I was a female with a civil engineering degree, and they’re like, ‘Come, work for us,” Erhart said.
She fit right into the culture at Corporex.
“Fifty-one percent of the employees at Corporex companies are female,” Deatherage said. “So, Tara is just representing us so proudly in the field, so it’s fantastic to interact with her on this project.”
Erhart enjoys interacting with all kinds of different people on the job site and in the boardroom.
“I love what I’m doing right now cause I get a mix and a hand in everything,” Erhart said. “You’re in the field, you’re working with the guys, but you’re also working with the architects, designers, engineers and then also the higher-ups the executives, the owners, things like that.”
Her co-workers will tell you, Erhart deserves an ovation for keeping the project on track.
“She knows what she’s doing. She’s very smart,” said Jimmy Taphorn, an electrician with Ohio Valley Electric. “We need more females out here like that, that can handle what we do every day.”
Erhart said that she has grown a lot since being given the chance.
“I feel like I can command a room whereas in the past, I’d be like, ‘hold your comment, hold your thought or you would talk a little quieter' and people would be like, ’what are you saying?’"
Erhart and Deatherage have a message that’s loud and clear for young women considering a career in construction.
“Don’t be scared to try anything new,” Deatherage said. “If you’ve got an interest no matter what it is, go for it.”
“Ovation is for an entire community,” Erhart said. “I’m personally going to be very excited to show off. I’ll be like, 'Hey I built that, or I helped with that project.' So it’s very cool.”