ENR Southwest's 2017 Top Young Professionals: Top 20 Under 40
Excellent work skills along with a dedication to the community were common themes that resonated with this year’s judges
ENR Southwest is pleased to announce this year’s class of Top Young Professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction community. Previously referred to as the Top 20 Under 40 competition, the program has been refined to allow judges to select fewer than 20 honorees if candidates do not reach the judges’ threshold of excellence.
Also, the maximum number of honorees from a specific firm will be limited to three and no more than two from one geographic office. Submissions were only accepted for candidates who were younger than 40 years of age. The entries were judged based upon four primary criteria: professional achievements, involvement with the construction community, contributions to the Southwest’s built environment and service to their respective communities.
One thing that did not change was the quality of the candidates. Some, like Antonya Williams, director of design integration at McCarthy Building Cos., impressed the judges with her quick rise and multitude of accolades. Paul Dutmer, project executive with PENTA Building Group, was lauded not only for managing major construction projects such as the Lucky Dragon Casino on the Las Vegas Strip at a young age, but also for finding ways to trim $3 million from the project cost.
Two of the winners, Victor J. Irizarry and Pradeep Uppari, have an unusual connection. Both Gensler designers—Uppari works in Las Vegas and Irizarry in Phoenix—they also happen to be comic and cartoon aficionados. Irizarry has published a graphic novel, and Uppari was a cartoon columnist for the Indian Express.
For this most recent competition, ENR Southwest received 29 entries. Special thanks go to judges Andrew Baird, project manager, Kimley-Horn; Todd Ostransky, general manager, Graycor; and Craig Randock, design studio leader, DLR Group. Their dedication to this project was critical to its success.
Leads industrial division growth
39, Vice President – Project Executive
An Arizona native, Ayres has been in the construction industry since 1995, earning a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Northern Arizona University in 2000. He joined Sundt in 2005. He started as a field engineer, followed by tenures as project engineer, project manager, area manager and project director. Ayres has been involved in more than $2 billion worth of construction projects.
He has served as vice president and project executive for the past three years. He assisted on the firm’s industrial division expansion. Under his leadership, that division has grown to $400 million in revenue from $100 million. Ayres’ colleagues praise him for his willingness to take on difficult challenges, manage high-performing teams and work long hours.
He is a member of the Junior Achievement Committee, an organization devoted to preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. He is also a member of the Arizona Water Association, the Water Environmental Federation and the Sundt Foundation.
“Giving back to those ... who are less fortunate to better themselves has always been a passion of mine,” Ayres says.
Meets challenges on tough projects
35, Project Manager
Bain’s leadership on the large Mariposa Land Port of Entry renovation resulted in the Marvin M. Black Partnering Excellence Merit Award. Mariposa LPOE was broken into phases so that design could continue during construction. Bain and his team applied a design-build mentality to help support the federal government’s overall goals, resulting in 60% small business participation, an expanded scope and new programs and remaining on schedule.
He has played a role on several major projects, including the Coalinga State Mental Hospital, the Arizona Dept. of Transportation Weigh Station, the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the University of Arizona’s chemistry building expansion.
Bain, who earned his bachelor’s degree in construction management from Brigham Young University, has volunteered for countless hours to serve young people in Arizona, California and Utah. An Eagle Scout, Bain has worked with the Boy Scouts of America in various capacities.
Helps company division expand
39, Industrial Division Vice President of Preconstruction
In 2008, Buck joined Sundt Construction to focus on industrial construction projects, including water/wastewater treatment, renewable energy, power, mining and manufacturing facilities. Buck has played a role in growing the industrial division’s annual revenue.
His first role at Sundt was as a senior estimator, followed by a role as preconstruction project manager. In his current role, Buck is responsible for managing the industrial division’s preconstruction department and overseeing an annual project pursuit volume ranging from $500 million to $1.2 billion.
Buck made significant changes to how the industrial division preconstruction department was structured and how it pursues new projects. He oversaw doubling the department staff and replacing estimating, bidding and procurement software programs.
He volunteers at several community groups and helps provide upgrades to facilities that work with people with mental health issues and with the homeless.
Attitude elevates hands-on builder
39, Project Director
McCarthy Building Cos.
Originally an architecture studies major at the University of Nebraska, Dudzinski veered to construction management. Since joining McCarthy Building Cos. in 2005, he has thrived working in the Las Vegas market. He has been a project director since 2008, with notable work including one of the largest parking structures in the state of Nevada, seismic upgrades at the University of Nevada and a renovation and rebuild of the first high school in Henderson, Nev. Dudzinski has worked on more than 25 projects in the health care, education, transportation, entertainment, hospitality, parking and solar sectors.
As project director, he leads McCarthy’s educational, solar and hospitality projects in Nevada and is currently overseeing the new Hotel Academic Building at UNLV as well as renovations at Green Valley Ranch. Dudzinski is active in professional organizations, including serving as director for the Las Vegas Chapter of the American Concrete Institute.
He participates in McCarthy’s Heart Hats program and leads several outreach projects on behalf of the Nevada division—specifically the design and construction of a new facility for a local homeless teen shelter, Street Teens.
Construction and guitar aficionado
32, Project Executive
The PENTA Building Group
Dutmer joined PENTA in 2007 after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Since that time, he has been promoted three times, most recently to project executive in September. He has worked on high-rise, office, casino, nightclub and restaurant projects. A recent notable project was the nine-story, Asian-themed Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, where he managed a staff of 15. PENTA credits him with reducing preliminary budget projections on the project by nearly $3 million as a result of his in-depth research on value-engineering options.
He has participated in the local chapter of the Construction Management Association of America and the Associated General Contractors of Las Vegas.
While working on Lucky Dragon, Dutmer enlisted the help of subcontractors on a community service project that provided repairs for residents, including a ramp for an 80-year-old handicapped resident.
Dutmer also has a passion for playing guitar; for nearly 10 years, he has been playing at fundraising events for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Skills, outlook receive praise
31, Project Development Manager
Farnsworth’s interest in buildings developed at an early age when he began learning carpentry in middle school. Today, he is project development manager for Mortenson Construction.
The Arizona State University alumnus graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in construction management.
Farnsworth began at Mortenson as an assistant project manager on the SRP design phase, followed by multiple projects for AlaskaUSA Federal Credit Union. Farnsworth now focuses on expanding the water/wastewater market in Arizona.
Chad Constance, project manager with Rosendin Electric, says Farnsworth “embraces ingenuity, encourages those around him, develops relationships and mentors whenever possible. He is also fun to work with while still executing work efficiently and professionally.”
Farnsworth strives to make a positive impact on his community and volunteers at many local organizations such as Feed My Starving Children and Junior Achievement. Farnsworth is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and Sigma Lambda Chi International Honor Construction Society.
Drives company’s solar efforts
38, Division Manager
Brahma Group Inc.
Fietkau started at Brahma seven years ago and has been elevated from an entry-level project manager to a division manager operating three divisions across the Western U.S.
Brahma mainly focuses on the refining, chemical, oil and gas sectors. However, Fietkau has led the company’s diversification into the solar and renewable energy fields.
Last year, his projects made up nearly 90% of Brahma Group’s renewable energy revenue. He handled mechanical, piping and equipment work for a 280-MW concentrated solar power plant and structural construction for a 250-MW photovoltaic power plant covering 3,000 acres in Southern Nevada. Fietkau implemented a subassembly process to increase worker efficiency and output by more than 30%. Due to the project’s remote location, Fietkau developed an up-to-the-hour system to track completed work and material on hand, utilizing an aerial vehicle to collect historical data on a daily basis.
He and his team created a fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society and its Relay for Life program, raising just under $48,000 in less than six months.
Jimmy Bruce Floyd
Brings acumen to roadway quality
36, Assistant Quality Assurance Supervisor
Clark County Public Works
A University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate—where he earned bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and construction management—Floyd now runs the materials lab for the Clark County Public Works Dept.
He works to ensure a quality standard by contractors for large roadway projects totaling more than $500 million. Floyd manages a team of inspectors and coordinates between onsite project teams and construction managers.
Floyd’s career path started more than 20 years ago, working for his family’s two construction businesses. He has gained experience in engineering design, quality control, building inspection and plan examination. Floyd has worked on many major projects, including the Las Vegas Wash, McCarran Airport, the Fremont Street Experience Zipline, paving for Hoover Dam’s Green Building and the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles.
As former chair of ASCE Young Member Forum, Floyd has assisted engineers seeking employment and helped them train for certification exams.
Dedicated to honing leadership skills
37, Section Manager—Dams, Levees, and Civil Works | Associate
Fountain supports active drainage projects in both Arizona and New Mexico. At the same time, he spearheads the growth of a dam safety and levee practice group for HDR in Phoenix.
Fountain has worked in hydrology, hydraulics, dam safety and transportation for 13 years. Colleagues laud him for demonstrating strategic leadership and dedication at such a young age.
At the beginning of his career, Fountain became an ASFPM Certified Floodplain Manager for numerous projects across the Southwest for analysis and design of flood mitigation projects. He is a registered professional engineer in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Fountain has played a role in major projects like the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, Ariz., the Phoenix Convention Center and W Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Fountain assists the Arizona Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers with numerous duties, including grant writing.
Fountain earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from New Mexico State University.
When not working or volunteering, Fountain can often be found spending time with his family.
Career dates back to teen years
36, President & CEO
Hirschi Masonry LLC
North Las Vegas
Hirschi Masonry specializes in residential and commercial masonry— employing more than 500 people—and operates in Nevada and Texas. Chad Hirschi’s business philosophy can be found in the company’s vision: Provide the best client experience and develop the finest workforce by providing the safest workplace and empowering, educating and training the most highly motivated, ethical employees in the industry.
Hirschi became a mason and honed his craft in his father’s business at age 17. He quickly learned the trade, working his way to the title of general superintendent. In 2009, he created Hirschi Masonry, and the company has worked on major projects including the D Casino in Las Vegas and Tivoli Village in Summerlin.
He serves as president of the Nevada Subcontractors Association and on the board of the Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association. He is also a member of the Nevada Contractors Association.
Victor J. Irizarry
Outcomes, art drive designer
39, Architectural Designer, Associate
Victor J. Irizarry, a senior architectural designer with Gensler, is an internationally trained and seasoned professional who also has an out-of-office passion for comics.
He has more than 18 years of industry experience, the last three at Gensler. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico and a graduate degree in architecture from Arizona State University. His passion for higher education includes 12 years as a faculty associate at ASU. Irizarry’s service was acknowledged with a Devil’s Advocate Award.
A recent notable project was elevating the gateway to the Phoenix Convention Center by enhancing Adams Street and the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
“Victor is extremely passionate about his craft and truly cares about the outcome and result,” says Paige Lund, general manager of the Renaissance Phoenix.
Out of the office, Irizarry has a passion for sketching and drawing. He coordinates workshops and sketching classes to help designers improve their skills and expand their knowledge. His graphic novel “Flying Somnia” was exhibited at the 2015 Artist Alley at the Tucson Comic-Con.
Focuses on company, community
34, Vice President of Operations
Bret Loughridge supervises managers, engineers and superintendents through many phases of construction projects. According to those who know him, he brings an extensive understanding of the building process via experience gained through education and exposure to the construction industry. He works to meet client needs, along with SR’s operational goals and corporate philosophies.
He studied management science at the University of California, San Diego and moved up through the ranks from project manager to his current position as vice president at SR Construction.
Loughridge has overseen award-winning Las Vegas-area projects, including the Henderson Hospital, Hakkasan Corporate Office remodels, the Red Rock Fertility Clinic and the Summerlin Medical Center.
He is a founding member and co-chair of the Lean Construction Institute Community of Practice for Nevada.
In 2016, he and the SR Construction team conducted a Hard Hat Challenge, raising nearly $10,000 for the Henderson Senior Nutrition Fund.
Tackling Project Neon in Las Vegas
32, Project Manager
Judges selected Miske as a top young industry professional for his tenacity, leadership and motivation. He started as an intern at Kiewit in summer 2005 and has held several positions, including field engineer, project engineer, superintendent and construction manager. In those various roles, he gained experience with such infrastructure projects as highways, water/wastewater treatment facilities, mining facilities, power plants and bridges.
Miske is now working on Project Neon in Las Vegas, a $559-million design-build job involving 3.7 miles of full freeway reconstruction through the Interstate 15/U.S. Route 95 interchange also known as the Spaghetti Bowl.
Miske played a role on several major projects, including Springerville Generating Station in Springerville, Ariz., and the Ina Road Water Reclamation Facility in Tucson.
He is an active member of the Associated General Contractors’ Young Constructors Forum and recently helped form a partnership between the YCF and the Landmark School in Glendale, Ariz., to acquaint kids with construction careers.
Created company’s HR department
38, Human Resources Director
The PENTA Building Group
Palomo’s career in the architecture, engineering and construction industry began with The Thomas Group in Ithaca, N.Y., where she joined the strategic planning committee.
Since joining PENTA in 2006, she has built the human resources department “from the ground up,” according to colleagues, by introducing and developing a variety of programs and services to help recruit 180 employees in four PENTA locations in three states.
As the HR director, Palomo creates and maintains programs that support PENTA’s employee-focused culture, which in turn results in stronger relationships and better work.
Her achievements include developing a comprehensive health, benefits and wellness program that encourages and rewards employees for engaging in healthy behaviors, which aids the firm in keeping costs low.
For six years, she’s participated in 5K races hosted by Opportunity Village, the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Southern Nevada.
A belief in ‘paying it forward’
34, Associate Vice President
Michael Baker International
Preston—who has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in architecture and design from Arizona State University—started at Michael Baker International seven years ago as a temporary BIM production designer.
Since that time, Preston has swiftly progressed from a project architect and task leader to project manager; he currently serves as an officer overseeing architectural and building engineering operations in three offices in the Western U.S.
Preston also gives back to his company by mentoring project managers as a certified trainer for two of the three in-house curriculum courses: foundations of project management and financial immersion.
Although his career often has him traveling, Preston balances that with a busy family life and the mottos: “work hard, play hard” and “pay it forward.”
Knowledge drives success
37, Senior Associate
Michelle Schwartz joined RSP Architects as marketing coordinator in 2005 after prior experience outside of the construction industry. In less than two years, her ability to produce strong proposals to win work prompted a promotion to business development.
In 2011, she was promoted to associate. In 2015, she was once again promoted, this time to senior associate.
“Michelle not only understands the business of architecture, but also the thought process and strategic thinking required to execute a design from initial planning through construction documentation,” says Keyvan Ghahreman, senior manager at Holder Construction.
She participates with the Valley of the Sun Active 20-30, organizing the group’s largest fundraiser. She also is a member of Arizona Association for Economic Development and Valley Partnership.
Strives for safer workplaces
34, Safety Manager
Small joined Mortenson as a safety manager in January 2016 and began working on a high-tech retrofit project in Arizona that lasted eight months and involved more than 650 workers. Because of his leadership, this project reached a significant milestone of 1 million man-hours with no lost-time injuries.
“There’s a huge difference between being compliant and being committed,” Small says.
He has numerous certifications, including from the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration and Board of Certified Safety Professionals.
Small’s volunteer endeavors include the Phoenix Heart Walk, No Kid Hungry canned-food drive, ABA Back to School Drive and United Way.
Lives by the motto ‘work hard, play hard’
34, Airport Development Practice Leader
After nearly a decade dedicated to airfield design, developing high-quality plans and performing construction administration and inspection services, Ryan Toner became a practice leader two years ago at age 32—the youngest practice leader Dibble Engineering has ever had.
In 2011, he transitioned into management of airport development projects for clients throughout Arizona, ranging from the installation of navigational aids to multimillion-dollar, multidisciplined runway safety area improvement and pavement reconstruction projects.
As airport development practice leader, Toner manages complex projects as well as maintains the financial health of the practice. Currently, he leads internal initiatives to improve Dibble’s employee recognition practices and employee retention.
He is regularly involved with organizations that serve underprivileged individuals and those facing major health concerns. He has also partnered with several Phoenix area airports to familiarize children and college students with airfield engineering and construction.
Starting social dialogue
31, Architectural Designer
A native of India, Uppari received his undergraduate degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, and worked for boutique architectural firms designing high-end residential and cultural projects.
He moved to the U.S. in 2008 after receiving a full scholarship at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the graduate architecture program. In 2015, he moved to Gensler as an architectural designer responsible for conceptual design through construction documents.
On his own time, Uppari investigated potential solutions for the Welcome to Las Vegas Nevada Sign, the Neon Boneyard and the Contemporary Art Museum. He won AIA recognition in 2012 and 2013 for starting social dialogue about historic preservation in Las Vegas.
As a youth, Uppari was drawn to design by comics and cartoons. At 14, he was a cartoon columnist for the Indian Express. As a student in India, Uppari won a national competition for disaster relief architecture and slum rehabilitation projects.
Career involves major projects, mentoring others
34, Director of Design Integration
McCarthy Building Cos.
During her 15 years in construction, Williams has gained more experience than many do in an entire career, according to colleagues. As director of design integration for McCarthy’s Southwest division, she works on strategy in business development and participates with preconstruction teams to focus on developing talent and to home in on the key technical aspects within project design and construction.
Williams’ passion for building started at a young age as she worked throughout high school and college for her father’s firm in Oakland, Calif.
She started working with McCarthy a decade ago as a project engineer and since then has been promoted four times. Williams has LEED-AP accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council and has overseen large-scale projects such as the Infinity high-rise residential towers in San Francisco and the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center replacement hospital.
Williams volunteers for numerous causes, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and New Pathways for Youth in Arizona.