The 2016 ENR Mountain States Top 20 Under 40 winners are company presidents and CEOs, architects, engineers, constructors, transportation planners, consultants and project managers, but also sustainability experts, seismic-building specialists and technology whizzes.
Some began their careers with large companies and then had the courage to break away and start their own firms; others have been targeted and promoted by firm principals as promising leaders. All have demonstrated a mastery of new technologies and worked hard to mentor their colleagues as well as students on better construction processes and techniques.
As in past years, our annual contest was rigorous. Companies or individuals were allowed to nominate more than one person, and individuals could nominate themselves. Nominees must be working full-time in some aspect of the commercial construction industry in one or more of the nine states in the Mountain States and Plains region. Those include Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, and our extended reach into Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
Other key selection criteria included achievement of/or progress toward industry certifications, significant success in creating more efficient systems, designing new processes or managing landmark projects and volunteering in the industry and the community.
This year’s judges were also a diverse group. Some are past Top 20 Under 40 winners themselves; others are industry veterans. They included: Matt Brower, business development, Sure Steel Inc., South Weber, Utah; Jered Minter, architect, Bennett Wagner Grody Architects, Denver; Katie Page, integrated services manager, GE Johnson Construction Co., Colorado Springs; and Mandy Swarts, project coordinator, Mark Young Construction Inc., Frederick, Colo.
The following pages contain profiles of the winners (offered in alphabetical order), describing their successes and goals.
Congratulations to the winners.
Entrepreneur rides the growing environmental wave to success
Environmental Consulting Services
In just five years, Jessica Acosta’s firm has become one of Denver’s most respected advisers for stormwater-related compliance. Acosta got her start in the environmental business when, shortly after she graduated from the University of Denver, she began working as a project manager for CEI Constructors.
But if CEI needed environmental help, Acosta reasoned, then other contractors must need it too. While still working full-time, she returned to school for business classes, and in 2011 started her own firm. Since then, Environmental Consulting Services has won the trust of many regional contractors, providing expert advice and jobsite audits to ensure regulatory compliance.
In her off-hours, Acosta has a full schedule of volunteer activities. Those include working as a board member for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, College Track Colorado and the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado.
Emerging regional leader excels at affordable, green housing
35, Project Manager
KEPHART community :: planning :: architecture
David Beckner’s leadership talent is gaining recognition throughout Colorado’s builder and developer community. In 2012, he was selected for AIA Colorado’s professional development series and was also chosen for the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Downtown Denver Leadership Program. The investment in his skills is paying dividends. Beckner is emerging as a local leader in affordable housing, serving with Housing Colorado and DDP’s Adjacent Neighborhood Team and designing the Wheat Ridge Town Center development, an income-restricted apartment complex for senior citizens.
Beckner’s passion for affordable housing has led him to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, paint homes for seniors and disabled citizens and travel to New Orleans in 2005, where he helped with rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He also has established a sustainable design team and contributed to KEPHART’s drawing standards committee.
Electrical contractor leads key Denver renovation projects
38, President & CEO
Even as a student at the University of Denver, Brandon Berumen was destined for great things. Along the way to earning his bachelor’s degree in construction management in 2000, he was named the school’s top undergraduate. With his sister, Lenee Koch, he formed LEI Cos. in 2002. The electrical contracting firm’s work includes many of Denver’s most high-profile projects, including renovations of Denver Union Station, Brown Palace Hotel and Southwest Plaza Mall.
While studying at DU, Berumen prepared for a leadership role by working full-time at Laser Electric, an electrical contractor founded by his father, Jose. Berumen spends many of his off-hours involved with organizations that include the Independent Electrical Contractors-Rocky Mountain, Construction Industry Training Council, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado and Boy Scouts of America.
Contractor grows new flooring business from the ground up
Overland Park, Kan.
In business for just three years, flooring contractor Treadwell has increased its revenue more than eightfold, from $350,000 in 2013 to nearly $3 million last year. The company specializes in installing commercial resinous coating and polished concrete floors. It placed 40,000 sq ft of vinyl-flake resinous flooring in intricate patterns at three Olathe, Kan., schools—all done in less than two weeks’ time over a winter break.
Will Buchanan, a mechanical-engineering graduate of Kansas State University, spent six years working for two other contractors in Kansas City before opening Treadwell. He quickly became a board member of the American Subcontractors Association of Kansas City, which named him subcontractor of the year for 2015.
Under Buchanan’s guidance, Treadwell supports many charitable causes in the Kansas City area, including Habitat for Humanity, for which the company provides polished concrete flooring services. Buchanan and his staff also volunteer at Harvesters, a community food bank.
Virtual-tech leader and teacher shares his BIM expertise
35, Director of Virtual Design and Construction
A native of Minnesota, Robert Childers earned his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Colorado Denver. He’s considered an industry leader in using building information modeling technology with integrated practices and frequently shares his expertise through user group meetings and informal mentoring of younger architects and students.
In addition to working full-time at Haselden Construction, Childers recently joined the Emerging Practices Center at CU’s College of Architecture and Planning, where his class, Integrated Practice + Technology, is a core course. He’s also been a guest speaker for CM classes at Colorado State University and a volunteer at Colorado Construction Careers Days. Childers publishes a commentary on the Gordian Views website. It covers productivity, technology and change in project development and design.
His high-profile projects include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., the CU Anschutz Cancer Pavilion and Tower in Aurora, Colo., and Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Natural disaster spurs a solid career in health care construction
37, Project Director
McCarthy Building Cos.
On May 22, 2011, a tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., demolishing St. John’s Mercy Regional Medical Center. Mercy leaders vowed to rebuild by early 2015, and McCarthy’s Ryan Felton was named project director to help sort through the wreckage and lead the project.
Under Felton’s guidance, the $345-million, 890,000-sq-ft project took just 46 months to complete. A key task was hardening the building against future tornadoes. But with no tornado standards in existence, Felton and his team combined lessons learned from building in coastal regions to design a safe, secure facility.
During his four years in Joplin, Felton became involved in the community, leading efforts to raise $1 million as part of a $25-million campaign for the hospital. Felton and his colleagues also worked with Rebuild Joplin, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing. Felton’s many other projects include a $65-million, eight-story addition for Saint Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Neb., and a $100-million program for Bergan Mercy Medical Center in Omaha.
Sandee Moore Gehrke
Health care professional builds more than medical buildings
34, Vice President, Operations Improvement
St. Luke’s Health System
A 10-year veteran in health care management, Sandee Moore Gehrke leads St. Luke’s system operations improvement/performance excellence team and enterprise management, construction and real estate management, the reference lab, patient access, the centralized laundry and food and nutrition services.
She also recently worked on the Idaho State University alumni board and serves on the school’s health care administration advisory board and the foundation board. From 2012 to 2015, she was Idaho’s regent for the American College of Healthcare Executives, of which she is a fellow.
On the building front, Gehrke led construction of a new neonatal intensive care unit at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) in Idaho Falls as well as the design and construction of a new patient bed tower at HealthONE Medical Center in Aurora, Colo. Beyond managing physical construction, Gehrke also is adept at designing systems and processes. At EIRMC, she led the expansion of women’s and children’s services and the introduction of maternal fetal medicine and pediatric intensive care.
Firm’s founder creates growth despite industry ups and downs
Since its inception 11 years ago, Green Construction has seen both boom and recession. Through it all, the company has grown into a 110-person, $30-million specialty contractor in excavation, grading, utilities and concrete. Clients include the Utah Data Center, Utah Dept. of Transportation, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, mining company Rio Tinto, Intermountain Health Care and cities throughout the state.
As he built his company, Morgan Green became more active in the industry. He serves on the highway committee of AGC Utah, the emerging leaders committee of ABC Utah and the board of directors of the American Concrete Paving Association. He is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Utah Safety Council and Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Especially important has been his commitment to educating his workforce. Through a tuition reimbursement program, he helps employees earn college degrees and trade school certifications, creating a well-trained staff at every level.
Rami Charles Harb
Highway transportation guru helps keep traffic moving
34, Project Director/Central and Western U.S. Managed Lanes Practice Leader
Americans love their cars, and Rami Harb loves to help them drive more safely and efficiently. His specialty is managed traffic lanes, developing ways for cars and trucks to flow better on the nation’s highways. At Atkins, he works directly with the Colorado Dept. of Transportation to oversee and coordinate transportation projects estimated at more than $3 billion. He also supports state-sponsored managed-lane designs throughout the Central and Western U.S.
The author of more than 30 technical articles on transportation, Harb earned his doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Central Florida. He has been active in numerous industry organizations, including the Florida Strategic Highway Safety Plan Committee, the Transportation Research Board’s Congestion Pricing Committee and the National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine. He is also a fellow at the Center for the Economic Analysis for Risk at Georgia State University.
Harb tutors high school students in science, and as a graduate scholar of UCF’s college of engineering, he serves on a committee to guide the school’s transportation engineering students.
Industry leader connects college and community resources
38, Operations Manager
Growing up in a family-owned construction business, Jared Hoeflich realized early that he wanted to pursue a career in the industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and then interned with Hensel Phelps, Greeley, Colo., where he worked full-time after graduation.
Since joining Swinerton four years ago, Hoeflich has been responsible for acquiring almost $300 million of work. In the community, he has been active in Swinerton’s involvement with CM Cares, a program in the CSU CM department that pairs students with community members who need help with construction. Hoeflich also spearheaded efforts with the Swinerton Foundation to create sustainable funding for CM Cares by helping to start an endowment for the program.
Hoeflich currently serves on the board of directors for AGC of Colorado and is a past chair of the AGC Colorado Future Leaders Forum.
Company’s ‘most valuable player' is also a really straight shooter
34, Project Estimator
While in high school, Laura Hoff participated in a church mission trip to Texas, where students built homes for impoverished families. That experience sold her on working in an industry that she found fascinating and offered a way to help people at the same time. She majored in construction management at the University of Nebraska, where she also competed on the intercollegiate rifle team.
Her passion for marksmanship led her to organize an annual charity shoot sponsored by Haselden. In its first two years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for disabled veterans.
Hoff has been a leader in the Haselden office. Her technical and interpersonal skills have earned her a spot on Haselden’s project interview team, and in 2015 she was selected the firm’s “most valuable player.” The honor recognizes her work on numerous high-profile projects as well as her efforts to develop Haselden’s Lean-In Circle, which has grown to more than 30 members. The group focuses on helping women in the company advance their careers.
Young Utah architect has made his design mark on the state
38, Vice President and Senior Project Manager
Salt Lake City
Drive around Utah and you’re bound to see the work of architect Todd Kelsey. His projects include the $125-million USTAR Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building at the University of Utah, the $98-million Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah’s $50-million Specialty Care Center at Daybreak in South Jordan and a $50-million classroom building at Utah Valley University in Orem.
With a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Utah, Kelsey is a member of AIA and active in the Utah chapter. In addition, he belongs to the Wasatch Front REVIT User Group and the Utah BIM AECO Steering Committee. He is also a LEED-accredited professional, and most of his recent projects have achieved LEED Silver, at a minimum. His boss, Method Studio founding partner Becky Hawkins, considers Kelsey instrumental to the firm’s strong growth and 97% client retention. Kelsey also is an active participant with the Society for Marketing Professional Services.
Construction manager combines engineering and building skills
37, Project Manager
TIC – The Industrial Co. Wyoming
Tying engineering to construction can be challenging for many professionals, but not John Legatt. With a mechanical engineering degree from North Dakota State University and an MBA from the University of Wyoming, Legatt brings both technical and managerial skills to complex jobs. Those include the Dave Johnston Flue Gas Desulfurization project in Glenrock, Wyo. The project earned an ABC Rocky Mountain Chapter award in 2009, in part because of Legatt’s work as senior project engineer and EPC manager.
Currently, Legatt is managing the Grand River Energy Center project in Chouteau, Okla. He’s supervising installation of the Western Hemisphere’s first high-output, ultra-efficient Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems 501J turbine.
Legatt focuses on community involvement, especially in small towns where TIC works. He also supports the United Way and is leading a project to improve athletic facilities for Salina, Okla., schools.
Airport designer’s career takes off in the West
38, Sr. Supervising Engineer/Aviation Project Manager
With a master’s degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech, Kara Lentz has logged 16 years in project and construction management, most recently on aviation terminal and airfield projects. She has managed work valued up to $500 million and currently serves as the aviation business development lead for WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Texas/Mountain region.
Lentz’s career includes project management for the $140-million, 15-gate concourse and automated people mover station at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Her portfolio also includes the $500-million Hotel and Transit Center Project for DIA and the Denver airport’s Concourse B and C gate apron replacement and drainage improvements.
Lentz serves on Engineers Without Borders and works on several minority- and women-owned business outreach events. She also volunteers for the Urban Peak Youth Shelter.
Special projects rainmaker builds solid community connections
37, Manager, Special Projects Division
PCL Construction Services
In his first two years as manager of special projects for PCL, Lucas Mallory has more than tripled the division’s dollar volume. His team has worked on several high-profile projects, including the on-mountain Vail Alpine Coaster at Vail Resorts, replacing Rubey Park Transit Center in Aspen and DIA’s Fire Station 35.
Mallory also has won PCL’s top corporate honor, the Robert Stollery Leadership Award. Married with five children, Mallory tries to leave the office on time each night, even though it often means working late after the kids are in bed.
Mallory has been on the board of the Design Build Institute of America Rocky Mountain Region since 2010 and a member of the Urban Land Institute Colorado since 2013. He is also a board member of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Mile High Youth Corps.
Sustainability leader makes going green a way of life
32, Executive Director
U.S. Green Building Council, Colorado Chapter
Passionate about sustainability, Patti Mason joined USGBC in 2008 and served as advocacy director and associate director before taking her current leadership position. She led the addition of searchable green fields into real estate’s multiple listing service in Colorado and helped to pass legislation that encourages all Colorado schools to reach higher levels of energy efficiency.
Mason spearheads an annual Green Schools Summit that convenes sustainability experts and school administrators. She also started USGBC Colorado’s Green Schools Coalition, which brings together sustainability coordinators from Colorado schools each month to discuss new ideas.
As a member of the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment’s Pollution Prevention Advisory Council, Mason helps develop goals and reviews environmental regulatory programs, laws and policies. The council provides direction for many pollution prevention programs.
Family-oriented project manager specializes in civic projects
39, Project Manager
Layton Construction Co.
As a project manager for numerous civic recreation facilities and university buildings, Brian McBeth has worked on two key projects in Utah Valley—the widely used Utah Valley University Library and the Provo Recreation Center. Other notable Utah projects include the Newspaper Agency Corp. printing facility and Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City, two office buildings in South Jordan and Utah State Hospital in Provo. His work has earned awards from the American Concrete Institute, AGC of Utah and DBIA.
A former college baseball player, McBeth has coached several youth sports teams, including three in one season when his sons were on different baseball teams. In addition, he teaches a senior-level class in construction at Brigham Young University to help graduating students obtain real-life experience and industry knowledge.
Multi-talented engineering leader straddles several design sectors
36, Project Engineer
Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers
As a project engineer for Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers, Patrick Roberts has worked on projects at National Jewish Health in Denver, the Regional Transportation District’s Panorama project in Denver, the University of Colorado football practice bubble in Boulder and the Cabela’s Ranch subdivision in Sidney, Neb. He performs construction management, site development and water/wastewater engineering design and also provides engineering services to 12 water and sanitation districts along the Front Range.
A civil engineer with a bachelor’s degree from CSU, Roberts currently serves as vice president and president-elect of the National Society of Professional Engineers Colorado and treasurer of the Colorado chapter of the Construction Management Association of America. Roberts is active in the community. He volunteers frequently at the Denver Rescue Mission to work lunch and dinner shifts, where he provides meals to the homeless.
Seismic-engineering expert continues to shake things up in Utah design world
35, Geotechnical Project Manager
Salt Lake City
A specialist in earthquake engineering, Robert Snow earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in civil engineering from the University of Utah. He’s a founding member of the Utah chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. The group works to reduce public exposure to geologic hazards, increase awareness of seismic issues and influence public policy.
Much of Snow’s time outside work goes to the Community Emergency Response Team in Salt Lake City, where he trains volunteers to use an emergency response plan that he developed. In addition, he has earned a ham radio license so that he can help as a community emergency responder. Beyond Utah, Snow is a California emergency management volunteer, ready to assist in the earthquake-prone state.
Transportation expert works on tough jobs
39, Project Director
A 17-year industry veteran, Carrie Wallis is considered one of Colorado’s top National Environmental Policy Act practitioners. Her expertise has landed her in the middle of one of CDOT’s most complex and controversial projects—the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the I-70 East project. The EIS includes an unprecedented level of community outreach and agency involvement in a diverse and culturally sensitive area of Denver.
Wallis is a CSU civil engineering graduate and in addition to the I-70 East project, her resume at Atkins includes work on more than 20 high-profile transportation projects. She is active in the Women’s Transportation Seminar and was chosen WTS Colorado member of the year in 2010. In 2012, she won the WTS Colorado President’s Choice Award.