Each year, ENR Midwest honors workers under the age of 40 who are making a big impact in the construction industry. Many of these young people are already well established in their fields, leading large-scale projects, supervising diverse teams, improving their communities and fostering teamwork within—and outside—their organizations.
Previously known as Top 20 Under 40, the competition has been renamed Top Young Professionals to allow more flexibility in the judging process and the number of honorees.
But the goal remains the same: to highlight and profile individuals who represent the “Best-of-the-Best” in the construction and design fields by giving back to their industry and communities.
More than 40 nominations came from across the region, including people working in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. They came from all sectors of the industry, from designers to entrepreneurs to academics to contractors. Submitters provided information on a candidate’s work experience, industry leadership activities, efforts to improve the built environment and service to the broader community.
One selectee, associate professor Mani Golparvar-Fard, holds 14 patents and has formed a construction delivery technology start-up company.
Mamon Powers III gained valuable insight working on several large health care projects with other firms before joining his family business as its third-generation leader, an experience that broadened his construction management skills.
And there is Erin Valentine, who developed a business plan for creating a specialty focus area on attaining federal work at McCarthy Building Cos., helping the firm secure more than $3 billion in federal projects during a five-year period.
Read on to learn more about the young women and men who are already making waves in the construction industry and in their communities.
Firm’s First Recruitment Manager
37, Vice President of Corporate Affairs
Braun started at American Structurepoint as an intern while attending Purdue University. Hired full-time after graduating in 2001, he stepped up to oversee hydrologic permitting for the firm’s bridge projects. Based on his success in that role, Braun soon assumed responsibilities for all of the firm’s hydrologic permitting.
In 2006, he became the firm’s first hiring/recruitment manager and in 2009 was promoted to corporate affairs manager to continue developing the staff recruitment process. His efforts helped the firm see 60% growth in revenue as well as expansion of its geographic footprint. He screens about 150 people annually, including full-time, part-time, interns and seasonal employees. In 2016, the firm attracted its largest-ever group of summer interns, with 35 participants.
Eric F. Dues
Emerging Leader on Rail Projects
36, Structural Engineer/Inspector
A Gannett Fleming employee since graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 2006, Dues currently leads teams as a bridge/structural engineer and inspector. He was the lead structural engineer for seven transit structures on the $188-million, five-mile Dallas Area Rapid Transit Rail Blue Line Expansion. Dues also served as lead structural engineer for the replacement of two railroad bridges that share a connected abutment in Columbus. He assisted the city in negotiations with CSXT and Norfolk Southern to revise the planned bridge construction sequence to utilize top-down construction with a shared temporary bridge on a shared right-of-way—a plan that saved the city 17% in overall costs.
He also served as a professional mentor and structural engineer for the design/construction of a solar-powered water pumping system, water storage system and gravity-fed distribution system in Cameroon in West Africa.
Hooked on High-Profile Jobs
39, Project Executive
Hunt Construction Group
Eckhart got hooked on building landmark construction projects while he was a student at Purdue University. As a summer intern with Hunt, he worked on a new NBA arena for the Indiana Pacers. Since joining Hunt full-time, Eckhart has gone on to work on numerous other sports facilities, including the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Eckhart recently led a string of complex projects, including the 13,000-seat Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., home of the Evansville Aces and Evansville Icemen, and the Indiana State Fair Coliseum Renovation. As a project executive, he currently leads project management teams on two large convention center expansion projects in Lexington and Louisville, Ky., that are valued at more that $175 million and also on a 241-room hotel and a $150-plus-million mixed-use project. A beneficiary of mentoring, Eckhart believes it is his duty to extend that same kind of mentorship to younger Hunt Construction staffers. In addition to his work within the company, Eckhart always becomes involved in the communities where he works. He has helped build Habitat for Humanity houses in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
Paul F. Findlay
Learned Construction From the Ground Up
36, Director of Preconstruction
Robinson Construction Co.
During his 17 years in the construction industry, Findlay has experienced Robinson Construction from the ground up. His career began with summer employment as a laborer, and after graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla, he moved on to positions as a draftsman and project engineer. He gradually moved into the role of preconstruction coordinator and later into his current role as director of preconstruction.
Findlay’s education—from engineering to management—provided him with a diverse knowledge base and his experience—from part-time to management—provided him with a diverse skill set and the ability to solve problems quickly. He added to those capabilities by completing an MBA program as well as leadership training and executive coaching through FMI Corp.
A History of Noteworthy Structural Engineering Work
38, Operations Manager and Senior Structural Engineer
During his 16 years in structural engineering and project management, George has led the structural design of numerous noteworthy contracts, including such award-winning projects as the Spaceport America Terminal for Virgin Galactic Spaceline and the hurricane-resistant $700-million University Medical Center of New Orleans. His projects also include unique endeavors such as the Columbus Zoo Polar Bear exhibit and the structure forming a three-story sculpture in the main lobby of the Battelle Memorial Institute.
Prior to joining AECOM in 2000, George graduated magna cum laude from Ohio State University. He served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter, was captain of the Steel Bridge team and worked as editor-in-chief of the Ohio State Engineer magazine. While maintaining full-time work at AECOM, he returned to school part-time to earn a master’s degree in 2004. In 2009, he completed AECOM’s demanding project management certification program.
George currently serves as operations manager for AECOM’s 93-person Columbus, Ohio, A/E practice, where he oversees the execution and financial performance of approximately 80 projects at any given time.
Guiding Students Into Careers in Construction
36, Associate Professor, Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellow and Faculty Excellence Fellow | CEO and Co-Founder
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Reconstruct Inc.
With areas of expertise in both civil engineering and computer science, Golparvar-Fard teaches technical skills to the next generation of construction leaders. At just 36, he has successfully graduated four doctoral students at the University of Illinois. Of those four, three have gone on to become university professors, while the fourth is now leading a visual odometry team at Apple Inc. During his tenure, Golparvar-Fard has also graduated more than 20 students with master’s degrees, many of whom are now working with such construction firms as Mortenson, Walsh, Turner Construction, Clark Construction, DPR and Kiewit. He has also given more than 50 lectures at U.S. companies and abroad, including Taisei Corp. in Japan.
Additionally, Golparvar-Fard has produced more than 14 utility and provisional patents. He is expanding on that work through his start-up company, Reconstruct Inc., which provides thought leadership on construction delivery technology.
Joseph D. Hauber
Stoking Students’ Interest in Engineering
33, Senior Project Manager
Throughout his career, Hauber has shown skills working with multidisciplinary teams. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, he began working with Thelen Associates in 2006, which Geotechnology acquired in 2015.
The notable regional green infrastructure projects that Hauber has worked on include the I-75/71 terraced reforestation, a regional bio-retention facility and the regional Banklick Creek wetlands project for Sanitation District No. 1. Hauber is committed to developing young people’s interests in engineering.
Hauber has also worked on many commercial projects, including the stabilization of a landslide that threatened the trucking operations of a large warehouse facility in Hebron, Ky., and the development of a 1-million-sq-ft warehouse in Erlanger, Ky. With the landslide stabilization project, Hauber performed assessments of potential alternatives and designed the selected alternative of a tied-back retaining wall. For the new Erlanger warehouse, he served as the project manager for the geotechnical work, which involved significant coordination with the project team during design and construction in order to deliver the project on schedule. For his many professional and personal contributions to the industry and community, the Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers named Hauber its 2015 Kentucky Young Engineer.
Additionally, as a middle schooler, he participated in MATHCOUNTS, and he believes that the organization provides great opportunities to help young people develop and hone their math skills. Today, he serves as a co-coordinator for Northern Kentucky MATHCOUNTS.
Leading Efforts for Equality in Architecture
39, Project Manager
After witnessing first-hand the career opportunity discrepancies for women and minorities, Hollingsworth was inspired to become involved and make a difference. Today, she serves as the 2016/2017 co-chair for the Women in Architecture Committee and a member of the Diversity Task Force for AIA Minnesota. In this role, she helped author a diversity and inclusion report with benchmarks and propositions for change. Initial steps, implemented in 2016, included education through interactive workshops regarding implicit bias and how it affects women and professionals of color. Hollingsworth facilitated two of those workshops.
Hollingsworth empowers high-performing teams with her philosophy of establishing a clear vision so project experts can contribute effectively. She says: “My job is to listen to people. In the end, I get to build memorable connections with the client and the community through the design and built product that I help to materialize.”
Hollingsworth also serves as the 2016/2017 co-chair for the Women in Architecture Committee Strategic Resource Team, where she has helped determine the goals and the direction of the organization for the next five to 10 years.
Studio Director Leads Next Generation of Designers
39, Senior Associate
With more than a decade of experience working at Gensler, Jacobson serves as the co-director for Chicago’s community studio. She previously served as the firm’s regional leader for the commercial office building developers practice area. In this role, Jacobson was involved in all aspects of project delivery from conceptual design through construction administration. As a studio director, Jacobson focuses on talent development, mentoring younger staff and looking for ways to promote the firm’s next generation of leaders. Away from the office, Jacobson has acted as team leader for Gensler Chicago’s ACE mentorship team and also routinely serves as a guest juror at local design schools such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Previously, she proved instrumental in working with the Chicago Architecture Foundation in developing the DiscoverDesign.org website, which serves as a forum for students, teachers and mentors to collaboratively engage in solving real-world design challenges.
Executive Serves as Role Model for Women
39, Construction Executive
One of only two women construction executives at Mortenson’s Minneapolis headquarters, Mansell serves as a mentor for industry women and youth. A member of the National Association of Women in Construction, she has also been involved in the Minneapolis Step-Up Achieve program for the past four years, a group that readies youth for their future by teaching on-the-job skills. Since 2013, Mansell has organized and led women volunteers in sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home through WomenBuild, an organization comprised entirely of women volunteers from Twin Cities businesses. Over his career, Mansell has been involved in some of Mortenson’s most complex and culturally significant projects in the greater Minneapolis region, including the $423-million Target Field, the $87.6-million Minneapolis Central Library project, the $48-million Mayo Clinic Square renovation contract and the $90-million, 1.6-million-sq-ft, multiphased development of Northern Stacks.
Leader in Nuclear Program and ACE Mentor
36, Program Manager
Sargent & Lundy
A nuclear program manager and lead structural engineer, O’Keefe has proven her ability to provide project teams with technical and strategic direction. She now leads concurrent high-profile modifications at three stations implementing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements that came out in response to the Fukushima accident. These hardened containment vent system modifications provide a secondary, hardened means to vent the containment following any power loss. She also volunteered to work with the firm’s HVAC process owner in developing an advanced approach for designing specialized HVAC ductwork. As part of this initiative, she wrote and tested modules to automate the design of HVAC ductwork for installation under extremely high seismic loading. Away from the office, O’Keefe is an avid participant and leader with the ACE Mentor Program Chicago chapter. Groups meet weekly from October to March, culminating in a student design presentation. O’Keefe’s team won the national competition in 2014-2015. She also volunteers for the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science career exploration fair that takes place in the Chicago suburbs.
Mamon Powers III
Third Generation of Family Business
36, President – Indianapolis Division
Powers & Sons Construction
The third generation to enter the family’s construction business, Powers has worked as a project engineer, vice president of business development and now serves as president of the Indianapolis division. After graduating from Purdue University, Powers worked for a Kansas City construction firm, where he gained valuable insight working on several large health care projects. That experience broadened his construction management skills and provided valuable training that eventually would help him to rejoin and lead the family business.
He has been instrumental in leading construction projects, including the state of Indiana’s first public construction management at-risk project, the Purdue Honors College and Residences, a $74-million, 310,000-sq-ft residence hall with more than 850 beds and 40,000 sq ft of academic space.
Giving Back to Underserved Communities
36, Associate/Architect, Urban Designer
With more than a decade of experience serving both the public and private sector, Pugh has amassed an architectural and urban design portfolio that includes both domestic and foreign projects, ranging from small urban in-fill developments to large sites with extensive programs covering more than 2,500 acres. He currently sits on the local associate board for the ACE Mentorship Program. Within ACE, Jason has served as a mentor for more than 10 years, providing guidance to hundreds of high school students growing up in underserved Chicago communities. Pugh has also engaged on a local and national level in several community-based programs and organizations that are centered on education, mentorship, diversity and community service. He currently sits on the national executive board of NOMA as the Midwest regional vice president and is the local president of the Illinois Chapter of NOMA. Additionally, Jason has served as a Gensler ambassador and speaker at several annual NOMA conferences across the country and is now working with the firm’s regional directors and the association’s executive leadership to develop a long-term partnership with strategic goals aimed at increasing the awareness, assistance and advancement of minority architects.
Water Expert’s Skills Have Global Reach
39, Principal Water Resources Engineer
With 16 years of engineering experience focused in hydraulics and watersheds, Ranck’s work has had an impact on local, state, national and global levels. He is an expert in hydraulic and water quality modeling, combined sewer overflow regulatory compliance and long-term control plan development. Ranck manages a hydraulic model expansion project for the city of Indianapolis that has saved the client more than $10 million in unneeded projects. He also worked closely with the city’s team to negotiate a $740-million savings to residents by optimizing technical solutions and providing higher levels of control. His reputation led to his involvement on the $4.2-billion Thames Tideway Tunnel project in London. Additionally, Ranck is the first person in the state of Indiana to receive both his diplomate of water resource engineering certification and a board certified environmental engineer certification. He is an Envision Sustainable Professional and also is a licensed professional engineer in the states of Indiana and Hawaii. Early in his career, Ranck traveled to Belize with Engineering Ministries International, where he was involved with site design for water and wastewater infrastructure. Six years later, he traveled to Angola and provided similar site design services for a school and ministry center.
Applies Gaming Concepts to Construction
38, Senior Multimedia Manager
Gilbane Building Co.
As leader of Gilbane Building Co.’s media studio, Richmond develops a team of gamers to advance 3D modeling applications for construction. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2005, he began his career as a 3D artist turning CAD files into virtual 3D environments. The following year he worked with local architectural firm BSI as a CG architect, designing and rendering commercial office spaces. In 2007, he joined Gilbane global sales and marketing services group as a media production designer. He created 3D presentations for construction phasing to show clients how buildings would be built and how the logistics are put together. Since joining Gilbane, Lucas has focused on recruiting and developing a team of gaming majors. Also, Lucas is a sought-after speaker on technology advancements in the construction industry. In addition to serving as a panelist at ENR’s 2015 FutureTech conference, he has spoken at the AGC Houston Solutions Through Technology Conference, at Autodesk University on the topic of “Realize the Value of Virtual Reality through Aggregating Reality-Capture and Design Models” and at the BuiltWorlds Media online show “All Hands on Tech,” an online event that reaches more than 50,000 subscribers.
Firm Leader and Mentor to Women
Kansas City, Mo.
Since becoming a licensed engineer in Kansas in 2008, Schumacher has displayed leadership skills at Wallace Engineering. Named a principal of the firm in January 2016, she leads and manages Kansas City office staff, projects, recruiting and business development. Through her involvement with Women in Design KC, American Institute of Architects and Commercial Real Estate Women KC, Schumacher has formed strong mentorship relationships with many women working in the local industry. Recently, Schumacher assisted fellow designers to negotiate raises and promotions and mentored several others on career opportunities. She also played a role in the successful endowment of a WiDKC scholarship, helping raise $33,000.
Engineer Advancing Firm’s Deicer Management Capabilities
37, Senior Environmental Engineer
Gresham, Smith and Partners
Seal is a chemical engineer and environmental consultant with extensive experience in regulatory compliance consulting, auditing, stormwater pollution prevention, spill prevention planning, aircraft deicer management planning and design, environmental site assessments and environmental management system implementation. She has worked with clients across the Midwest, the U.S. and Europe, co-authored or contributed to eight Airport Cooperative Research Program Reports and helped her firm advance its capabilities as a deicer management consultant. Seal has held several leadership roles in the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, including terms as vice president of education, treasurer, young engineer representative and professionals in private practice chair. In recognition of her contributions to GS&P and its clients, the firm promoted Seal to associate in 2009 and senior associate in 2016.
Rising Star With Focus on Training
34, Senior Superintendent
In just 12 years, Sizemore has risen from the role of a field engineer to assistant superintendent and now senior superintendent. Over that time, he has led field operations on large projects for Mortenson, including a recent 30-acre data center master build with 350 craftworkers. To address the industry’s skilled labor shortage, Sizemore co-developed a company-wide apprenticeship program to create short-term job opportunities and long-term career growth for craft professionals. He structured a training program that offers apprentices personalized training plans that ensure they receive education across all skill sets. Sizemore has worked on such marquee projects as the Chicago Union Station Great Hall, OSF Healthcare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the Silver Cross Hospital in New Lennox, Ill.
Helped Firm Expand Federal Work
McCarthy Building Cos.
Valentine began her career in 1999 at a St. Louis-area real estate company, where she rose to serve as its joint human resources and marketing manager.
In 2001, Valentine joined McCarthy’s central division team. After demonstrating her expertise as a project, marketing and business development professional, she decided to strengthen her business acumen, enrolling in the executive MBA program at Washington University in St. Louis. The accelerated program enabled her to collaborate with students from diverse backgrounds as they honed their business leadership skills.
Her leadership contributions have included helping McCarthy’s expansion into the federal government sector. She developed a business plan for creating the new specialty focus area. McCarthy went on to secure more than $3 billion in federal projects during a five-year period.
Proven Leader in the Face of Challenges
38, Associate/Project Executive
KJWW Engineering Consultants
Rock Island, Ill.
Since joining KJWW in 2002, Zorich has displayed technical, innovative and leadership qualities that led to his early promotion to mentoring and leadership positions. Most recently, he finished a term supervising a staff of 10 engineers with responsibilities that included mentoring, training and guiding project concept designs. With part of the team located in KJWW’s India office, Zorich had the added challenges of dealing with communication across time zones and cultural differences.
He has risen quickly through the firm’s ranks and is now a project executive and associate. He also has served as project manager and lead mechanical engineer on some of KJWW’s largest health care projects, including the Sioux Center Replacement Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, and the current campus integration project at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa.