Michael E. McKelvy
Michael E. McKelvy

Michael E. McKelvy joined Gilbane Building Co. as president and COO in 2014 and became CEO in 2016 , the first non-family member of the family-owned firm in those roles. Formerly, he was chief delivery officer at CH2M Hill Cos. (now CH2M), a 26-year veteran of that firm and a unit it bought. CH2M is set to be acquired by Jacobs Engineering Inc. for $3.27 billion.

After spending much of your career in integrated design and construction, how has the transition gone to leading an EPC firm like Gilbane?

The past three-plus years have gone very quickly. I was recruited to Gilbane when it faced expanded global growth and movement into new markets and delivery methods. The goal has been to maintain the core of what makes it special while supporting the team … to take it to the next level. It’s a natural fit. I’ve been doing at-risk construction since 1993.

Will Gilbane’s recent steady growth continue?

Revenue, at $4.4 billion in 2015, rose to $4.7 billion last year and is set to hit $5 billion in 2017. Since 2014,  our profits have grown solidly into double digits each year. In 2015, we had a record profit year. We probably went into 2017 with apprehension, but our clients and partners are optimistic so far. We’ve had no major project delays and, in fact, more backlog now than ever in our history. We hope the president and Congress will get their act together on health care, taxes and infrastructure. The biggest obstacle is availability of key talent for project opportunities ahead. We could grow much faster, but it would take Gilbane to a place that could put it at risk. We have to stay nimble.

What are Gilbane’s international ambitions?

As tempting as it is to go global quickly, we knew we could easily outrun our headlights chasing projects that clients want. We developed a measured strategy to stay the course in Mexico for the next several years and continue U.S. government work abroad, but selectively. Our federal business, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, will likely provide the most opportunities. In coming years, we will grow into other markets outside the U.S.

What’s it like to be the first non-Gilbane family member to lead the firm since its founding in 1873?

We have fourth-, fifth- and sixth-generation Gilbane family now working in the firm. This culture is in our DNA and extends to employees, too. We’re not beholden to any group trying to sell the company for the highest dollar. The support from fourth-generation family and shareholders was a pleasant surprise. They expect us to lead the firm, and they have given leadership the autonomy to do it. We have continued with transparency and accountability to keep our safety focus consistent across the company. We are using new technologies to stay ahead of the curve. The real game-changer for us is our people and their abilities to leverage technology. Our multimedia team is among the best in the business. Consistent family ownership sets us apart in attracting talent.