Across the South, an estimated 72% of construction industry firms expect to increase staff levels in 2016, according to survey results recently published by Associated General Contractors of America. That’s on par with the 71% national rate that AGC reported. Since the regional construction market has been rebounding nicely in recent years, those numbers aren’t surprising. Instead, they’re likely best viewed as confirmation of a continuing expansion, at least for the year ahead.
That means that industry personnel managers and executives will be busy during 2016 attracting, hiring and on-boarding additional personnel, including a mix of savvy veterans and younger workers.
For either group, ENR Southeast’s Top 20 Under 40 class sets a fine example for employees focused on performing their jobs at a high level while at the same time displaying a strong sense of personal achievement while on the job, and off.
This year’s honorees include estimators, architects, engineers, project managers and others who are not only excelling at their jobs, but giving back to others in a variety of ways, including through charitable endeavors, community positions, industry mentoring and thought leadership.
As is the case with all of ENR Southeast’s contests, the publication assembled an independent panel of judges to review and rate the 45 entrants nominated for this year’s Top 20 Under 40 competition. After assessing each candidate’s work experience, career and industry leadership achievements—as well as their efforts to give back to their communities and industry peers—judges determined the 20 most deserving individuals. ENR Southeast’s Top 20 Under 40 contest was open to eligible candidates working in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Michael Bernos, director of public relations with RS&H, Jacksonville, Fla., repeated as a judge. Also participating were two Top 20 Under 40 honorees from a year ago: Katie Duty, water resources market leader with HDR Engineering, Tampa; and Jason Rodda, vice president of Rodda Construction, Lakeland, Fla.
ENR Southeast invites readers to check out this year’s Top 20 Under 40 class featured in the following pages and review the fine work they have done on behalf of their industry and communities.
Congratulations to all!
Young project manager is a budding mentor
33, Project Manager
Skanska USA Building
Dania Beach, Fla.
Nelmarie Bowe wasn’t daunted by her first project—an $81-million high-school remodeling and reconstruction project in a blighted Miami neighborhood. Despite facing many formidable hurdles, Bowe relished the opportunity to make a significant contribution to students, educators and the community. She has since brought that same enthusiasm to other projects, including the 80,000-sq-ft expansion of Terminal 4 at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Bowe also helped organize the Skanska Young Professionals group in South Florida. Bowe works to connect new employees with firm mentors and is always ready to assist Skanska interns.
Leads with expert management of technically complex projects
36, Project Manager
PCL Civil Constructors Inc.
Throughout his 15-year career, Eric Chavez has guided project teams through unique, and often unforeseen challenges. Chavez’s leadership was demonstrated on his first major assignment as project engineer—the widening of SR 408 in Orlando. When PCL’s project manager was called on to lead another project, Chavez assumed the additional duties, guiding the widening effort to a successful completion. Chavez has proven to be a resource for tackling technically complex projects, such as the design-build replacement of the Ernest F. Lyons Bridge, a high-level precast segmental structure over the Intracoastal Waterway in Stuart, Fla., and the $128-million Lake Barkley Bridge Replacement in Cadiz, Ky. He also uses his experience to mentor colleagues, interns and aspiring construction professionals.
Promotes engineering careers to youth, minorities
35, Transportation Engineer
As roadway group manager, Martine Fils-Aime manages several key projects for the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s District 7, including the first two segments of SR 45/U.S. Route 41 in Citrus County. As Tampa office coordinator for Atkins’ graduate development program, she works with civil engineering graduates to tailor professional development mentor experiences with senior team members. Fils-Aime displays her love of engineering and desire to help young people by chairing the local MathCounts competition and working with the National Society of Black Engineers. Fils-Aime also serves on an international committee working to open a women’s health clinic in Haiti.
Management experience includes working for contractors, owners
37, Project Director, National Lead for Hospitality and Entertainment
Experience in construction management for both contractors and owners has helped Brian Forster develop the technical and leadership skills necessary to successfully guide multidisciplinary teams on a variety of land development projects. Forster was also responsible for leading Walt Disney Imagineering’s first use of integrated project delivery (IPD). Disney now regularly uses IPD for its large and complex projects such as the expansion of Hollywood Studios and The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Forster is also a valuable resource for tackling complex design issues and mentoring younger professional staff in the areas of technical excellence, project management, business acumen, client management and staffing. Active involvement in Orlando’s City Academy and other civic organizations keeps Forster in touch with the local community.
Katherine McLeod Gurd
Leads regional efforts to enhance planning of water projects
38, Project Manager
During her 16-year career, Katherine McLeod Gurd has worked closely with numerous Atlanta-area municipalities to recommend capital projects aimed at improving water quality, reducing flooding and enhancing quality of life and has helped them secure more than $30 million in grant funding. Gurd also served as project manager for two contracts under the Georgia Regional Water Planning program, the state’s first comprehensive regional effort to address long-term needs. The planning and technical guidance prepared under her management was used by the state’s regional water councils to develop their planning documents. Gurd is also an advocate for Georgia’s engineering community, having held leadership posts with the state chapters of ASCE and other professional organizations. She currently serves as a practitioner adviser to Georgia Tech’s ASCE student chapter.
Works to constantly enhance business culture
39, Regional Operations Director
TLC Engineering for Architecture Inc.
As a mechanical engineer, Jason Heffelmire understands that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, whether it’s a building system or the project team that designs it. In addition to managing multiple high-profile commercial, cultural and educational projects across the region, he instills a culture of forward thinking within TLC’s Tampa office. Heffelmire developed BIM standards, improved project management processes and educated company staff and client project teams on improved project delivery methods. He was tapped to lead TLC’s Gulf Coast region in 2012.
Gives back through involvement with Engineers Without Borders
37, Manager II
William Marshall’s passion for applying his civil engineering skills to create a better world has shaped his career, which began following a stint in the Peace Corps working on water and sanitation improvement projects in West Africa. At AECOM, he’s helped lead a lengthy list of complex municipal infrastructure projects to successful completion. Currently, Marshall is responsible for four major wastewater treatment upgrades totaling approximately $169 million for Orange County Utilities in Orlando. Marshall has continued his commitment to improving the lives of the less fortunate through organizations such as Engineers Without Borders. Since 2009, he has volunteered on projects in Haiti that have created safer, more reliable sources of drinking water. Marshall is currently leading a water/sanitation project in La Montagne that will benefit as many as 150,000 residents.
Serves as district liaison for transportation project planning
36, Senior Transportation Engineer
Arcadis U.S. Inc.
To the citizens and leaders of Cobb County, Ga., Karyn Matthews is the face of transportation. As the county DOT’s District 2 engineer, she is the point of contact for the agency’s projects, maintenance, traffic and other transportation issues. She also leads Arcadis’ management of Cobb County’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program, overseeing critical projects such as the I-285 multi-use bridge, which will provide pedestrian and transit access to the new Atlanta Braves stadium. Helping others has been a centerpiece of her career, beginning with her 11 years at the Georgia Dept. of Transportation. In addition to managing 30 projects totaling roughly $830 million, she also worked with the agency’s IT department to improve the consultant evaluation process.
Professor provides timely research into infrastructure systems
32, Assistant Professor
Florida International University
At a time when infrastructure systems face increasingly complex demands and operational challenges, Ali Mostafavi’s research has never been more valuable. His approach integrates complex systems science, network theory and civil infrastructure systems to address challenging problems related to sustainability, climate adaptation, coastal resilience and building energy efficiency. In addition to his ongoing role in helping state and local agencies develop strategies to adapt to rising sea levels, he is currently leading a National Science Foundation-funded investigation of the resilience of Nepal’s infrastructure following the 2015 earthquake. Mostafavi has also distinguished himself as an outstanding educator in civil engineering and construction. He works to cultivate an interest in engineering in K-12 students and develops modules that integrate infrastructure design concepts into math and science curricula.
Works to improve firm’s sustainability practices, policies
30, Sustainability Manager
Robins & Morton
It didn’t take long for Jackie Mustakas to establish herself as a reliable guide for turning sustainable design and construction goals into measurable results. In her first project—coordinating sustainability/LEED details for the $122-million West Kendall Baptist Hospital project in Miami—Mustakas suggested a variety of enhancements that led to the facility’s certification as Florida’s first LEED Gold hospital. She has since assisted in helping several hospitals and other complex, energy-intense facility projects achieve LEED Gold certification. LEED-certified projects made up nearly a third of Robins & Morton’s 2015 revenue, due in part to standard practices and policies developed by Mustakas. Along with being a speaker and author for professional audiences, she performs educational outreach activities at schools and universities, educating students about green building principles and techniques.
Focused leader forges record of success
38, Vice President/Office Leader
JE Dunn Construction
Having grown up around construction sites since he was old enough to safely manage tools, Jake Nellis has developed a strong passion for his chosen profession. That was clear on his first job for JE Dunn—project engineer for a new hospital in Georgia. Impressed with Nellis’ work ethic and purposefulness, the client nicknamed him “Business,” short for “Nothing But Business.” Nellis has consistently proven to be the right person at the right time for JE Dunn. Serving as the company’s Atlanta-based vice president and group manager, he skillfully guided his group through the economic downturn and successfully positioned it for the market’s subsequent resurgence.
Earned position as youngest chief estimator in firm’s history
34, Chief Estimator
Brasfield & Gorrie
Vic O’Janpa is the youngest Brasfield & Gorrie employee ever to serve as chief estimator. Since 2006, he has estimated for more than 100 health care and commercial projects totaling nearly 5 million sq ft, with a total value of nearly $775 million. Notable projects in the Carolinas include the $120-million MetLife at Weston Lakefront. He shares his expertise via the firm’s regional and corporate preconstruction steering committees and by participating in various professional associations. He is also a speaker in various construction engineering and management classes at North Carolina State University. Last fall, he took part in a mission to Haiti, where he helped rebuild parts of an orphanage’s school, church and ministry center.
Leader promotes information exchange about today’s built environment
36, Chief Estimator
Moss & Associates
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
As Moss & Associates’ primary executive responsible for budgets and estimating, Brett Porak strives to stay aware of trends and issues that are shaping South Florida’s built environment through his active local- and national-level involvement in organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is currently using that expertise as he leads planning, design and estimating for two stations that will be part of the new All Aboard Florida intercity passenger rail system. He also shares his experiences with colleagues through a co-authored paper on best practices for transit-oriented planning and development for ULI’s Infrastructure Committee.
Firm’s rising star also mentors others
38, Senior Associate/Project Architect/Project Manager
KBJ Architects Inc.
In her 14 years at KBJ Architects, Brooke Robbins has risen from architectural intern to senior associate, project manager and project architect responsible for some of the firm’s most challenging assignments. One of the best examples of her work was the $25-million renovation of Jacksonville’s iconic Hayden Burns Library into the new Jessie Ball duPont Center. There, she helped translate the owner’s vision of an affordable, collaborative environment for multiple regional nonprofit organizations—while also maintaining the original building’s character—to create a new downtown gathering place. Her commitment to career development is likewise reflected in her longtime involvement with the ACE Mentor program’s Northeast Florida affiliate. Robbins will chair the program this year, during which more than 50 area professionals will mentor approximately 85 students.
Thomas E. Roda
Aviation project expert is firm’s national leader
38, Technical Director
Airports are the kind of inherently complex and dynamic environments where Thomas Roda feels right at home. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a knack for communicating the “big-picture” aspects of major multidisciplinary improvement and expansion programs as well as the critical need for a carefully integrated effort to carry out these efforts. Roda has been directly involved in nearly $10 billion worth of capital improvement projects at more than 35 different airports located throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Middle East. Now serving as technical director for Atkins’ national aviation technical professional organization, Roda works to ensure the technical and operational performance of the firm’s aviation professionals nationwide, and coordinates with five business units and other groups to secure the appropriate technical support.
Created and grew contractor’s environmental system division
39, ESD Division Manager
The Harper Corp.
In 2010, Harper Corp.’s environmental systems division (ESD) consisted solely of Bryan Royal and his idea to help small municipalities develop infrastructure critical for attracting new businesses. Five years later, Royal’s 30-member group generates more than $20 million, with another $45 million under contract through 2017. Despite his increased responsibilities, Royal prefers to work side-by-side with his team. Having led ESD from the ground up has also enabled Royal to test leadership approaches and project management protocols that have been adopted by other Harper divisions. These systems have helped streamline project coordination, prevent costly errors and better integrate new employees into ESD processes.
Uses architectural background, experience to lead design-build projects
34, Senior Project Manager
Tim Sandberg is a true design-builder who couples his architectural background with field expertise and industry knowledge to manage projects from every angle. Sandberg’s understanding of factors—from the cost and function of building materials to advanced technologies that facilitate real-time updates to project drawings—enables Primus to offer value-engineering solutions. Few projects better exemplify Sandberg’s leadership skills and creative approach than his current assignment—a $245-million, 1-million-sq-ft cold storage distribution facility in Georgia. While drone photography offered a more cost-effective alternative to traditional aerial photographs, Sandberg maximized the images’ value by integrating them into dramatic progress reports and monthly progress videos.
Significantly grew national contractor’s North Carolina business unit
38, Operations Manager/Vice President
Gilbane Building Co.
When Paul Sullivan became director of operations for Gilbane’s North Carolina business unit in 2010, he had just two employees and a list of potential client contacts. It didn’t take long for his unit to expand to 40 people, currently generating more than $300 million in new revenue annually. Sullivan’s signature effort was the Veterans Administration’s new 150,000-sq-ft outpatient facility in Greenville. Early collaboration helped bring key subcontractors up to speed on the use of IPD, BIM and lean construction. Sullivan has served on several committees tasked with developing strategies to achieve Gilbane’s corporate lean construction and efficiency goals.
Oversaw Florida builder’s acquisition of Clearwater firm
36, Project Executive
Moss & Associates
The past 10 years have been quite busy for Travis Serpas. In that time, he has managed a host of challenging projects, including the $34-million Nova Southeast University Guy Harvey Oceanography Center, a global research facility in Hollywood, Fla., and Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, a $162-million, 1-million-sq-ft mixed-use development in Destin, Fla. Serpas is also managing construction of All Aboard Florida’s 60,000-sq-ft West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations. But his responsibilities extend beyond the jobsite. In 2014, he oversaw the completion of Moss & Associates’ acquisition of Peter Brown Construction, a Clearwater-based building firm. Passionate about early childhood development and education, Serpas brings his leadership skills to community organizations such as Kids in Distress and Broward County’s HANDY (Helping Abused, Disabled and Neglected Youth) Foundation.
Showcased leadership style on national award-winning project
35, Senior Project Manager
PCL Construction Services Inc.
Now a senior project manager, Jeremy Voss worked his way through multiple hotel renovation projects until a “ground-up” opportunity came along in the form of Streamsong Resort, a 305,000-sq-ft lodge, golf course and conference center located on approximately 16,000 acres of formerly mined phosphate land in Polk County, Fla. Voss worked collaboratively with the architect and owner to achieve a high-quality product recognized as ENR’s Best of the Best hospitality project of 2014. He empowers team members by trusting them with challenging opportunities, taking time to listen and understand their needs, and motivating them to find solutions to problems. He is involved with several professional and student organizations, including serving as an active member and lead mentor for the local ACE Mentor program since 2010.