Winners of the ENR Mountain States Top Young Professionals competition are company presidents, architects, engineers, constructors, virtual design experts and project managers, but also people deeply committed to improving the industry and their communities.
Some began their careers with larger companies and then broke away and started their own firms; others have been promoted as promising leaders. All have demonstrated a mastery of new technologies and a willingness to teach their colleagues about better design and construction practices.
As in past years, the 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 the Mountain States region, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana and North and South Dakota.
Other key criteria included achievement of or progress toward industry certifications, success in creating more efficient systems, designing new processes or managing landmark projects and volunteer work across the industry and within the community.
This year’s judges also are a diverse group. They are: Ryan Balakas, vice president of operations, Saunders Construction, Englewood, Colo.; Enrique Elizondo, superintendent, GH Phipps Construction Cos., Greenwood Village, Colo.; Laurie Huff, senior specialist, public affairs, Regional Transportation District, Denver; Ibi Guevara, vice president, business development and marketing, Hunt Electric Inc., Salt Lake City; and Jeannette Torrents, senior project manager, JVA Inc., Boulder.
The following pages contain profiles of the winners, describing their achievements and goals.
Congratulations to the winners.
ENR Mountain States 2017 Top Young Professionals
Former Marine returns to his hometown, leads geohazard firm
Grand Junction, Colo.
Colby Barrett took an unusual path toward becoming co-leader of the geotechnical firm founded by his father and another partner. While studying chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, he enlisted in the Naval ROTC and served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation.
Leaving the Marines as a captain, he went on to graduate from law school at Yale, where he also took courses in business and mechanical engineering. Rather than head for Wall Street or Silicon Valley, he chose his hometown of Grand Junction, Colo., and in 2008 began working as president of GeoStabilization International, which specializes in geohazard mitigation for landslides, rockslides, sinkholes and other natural disturbances.
During his tenure, the company’s staff has grown tenfold, from 31 employees to nearly 350. Revenue also has increased substantially, from $9.3 million in 2007 to $107 million in 2016. In the past five years, the firm has expanded its global presence, setting up subsidiaries in Canada in 2013 and in New Zealand last year.
Stormwater expert grows key water-resources group for his firm
39, Project Director
Atkins North America
Hardly anyone thinks about stormwater—until it floods. Beedle is the exception. An expert in water engineering, he thinks about stormwater and storm drainage systems on a daily basis.
Beedle has contributed his knowledge to huge storm-drainage projects such as Denver’s Central I-70 construction, in which 4,000 cfs of water will be channeled into the South Platte River. His other notable projects involve storm-drain design for Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash., and the design of the massive drainage system for King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
In 2013, he became manager of Atkins North America’s water-resources group and was recently promoted to the firm’s public and private business unit. His responsibilities include planning to expand the business for the water-resources group in Denver, managing large projects and mentoring younger professionals.
Outside work, Beedle has been an active volunteer. He currently gives his time to the Denver Rescue Mission, where he cooks, cleans and serves meals to the homeless. Previously, he tutored at-risk students in science and math.
Lifelong learner brings fresh perspective to business issues
35, Marketing and Communication Director
When Bergstrand speaks, people listen—and respond. As the head of Saunders’ marketing communications efforts, she is credited with significant contributions to the company’s 83% short-list rate and 30% win rate in 2016.
Armed with a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, Bergstrand has earned a reputation for continuous learning and leading by example. Says Gregory A. Schmidt, Saunders president and CEO: “Teena’s training, education, experience and personal curiosity continuously provide our organization with unique and fresh perspectives on business issues. Her character is beyond reproach, and her steady hand on our marketing and communications initiatives has transformed that part of our business into a sustainable, professionally managed business function.”
Bergstrand offers her expertise in marketing to charities as well. She volunteers as a spokeswoman for the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross during disasters. She also organizes fundraisers for the American Lung Association of Colorado and has served on the public relations committee of Habitat for Humanity.
“Teena [Bergstrand’s] training, education, experience and personal curiosity continuously provide our organization with unique and fresh perspectives on business issues.”
—GREGORY A. SCHMIDT, President & CEO, Saunders Construction
Jobsite problem-solver openly embraces teamwork, innovation
38, Senior Superintendent
Building things is in Bialek’s blood. He graduated with a degree in construction management from Colorado State University in his hometown of Fort Collins and has worked for Saunders for his entire 15-year career. During that time, he has been involved in many of the company’s most high-profile projects, including renovation of the Lory Student Center at CSU and the recently completed Dairy Block development in Denver.
Colleagues describe Bialek as an innovative problem-solver with an open communication style that promotes transparency and teamwork. Says his boss, Justin Cooper, vice president: “Successfully completing complex, schedule-driven and logistically challenged construction projects requires a high-performance leader with multiple skills—a team motivator, strategic planner, problem-solver, decision maker, resource coordinator and scheduler, to name a few. Achieving this goal while consistently garnering praise from our design and client partners exemplifies Bill Bialek’s track record.”
Outside work, Bialek dedicates much of his free time to youth sports. He coaches wrestling, flag football and basketball for his children’s teams and works with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colo.
“[Bill Bialek is] a team motivator, strategic planner, problem solver, decision maker, resource coordinator and scheduler, to name a few.”
—JUSTIN COOPER, Vice President, Saunders Construction
Top engineering student now manages complex design projects
27, Professional Engineer
Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers
A native of Casper, Wyo., Black gained attention for her accomplishments as an undergraduate. Graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2013, she was named the school’s top architectural engineering student and won a similar award from the Wyoming Architectural Engineering Society. After earning a master’s degree in civil and structural engineering from Stanford in 2014, she started with Martin/Martin and dove into many of the company’s most demanding projects.
She currently leads construction administration for Martin/Martin’s work on the University of Colorado’s $35-million Center for Academic Success and Engagement and the Colorado School of Mines’ CoorsTek, a $25-million advanced physics building on the school’s main quadrangle. Black also is involved in managing construction of 5050 S. Syracuse in Denver, a $65-million, 15-level parking and mixed-use structure, and a $12-million, 100-ft-long, cable-stayed pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will overlook the Columbia River.
Chief among Black’s volunteer efforts is an endeavor with other engineers to provide clean drinking water for two villages in Madagascar.
Jaime Del Rio
Construction laborer rises through ranks to become a client favorite
37, Senior Superintendent
From the small Mexican town of Nazas, Del Rio immigrated to the U.S. and in 1999 became a construction laborer in Colorado. He came up through the ranks and reached the senior superintendent level last year after working for various companies, including Phase Two, Denver Drywall and, since 2014, ICI.
Del Rio is described by one co-worker as “an all-around great guy” who easily relates to his crews. Meanwhile, his technical expertise and managerial skills have led to his being requested specifically by contractors to lead ICI’s installations.
Recent fieldwork led by Del Rio includes the Denver Public Schools Far East project, in which ICI was responsible for framing, exterior sheathing and thermal insulation, spray foam, drywall and finishing. Del Rio also managed ICI’s work for Riverview at 1700 Platte St. in Denver.
Perhaps his biggest challenge, however, came in his hometown of Nazas, which lacked street names and house numbers. Del Rio and other volunteers searched old maps, assigned names to streets and numbers to houses, building a sense of place for the city’s 3,600 residents.
Architect takes her cues from nature in designing livable spaces
35, Architect, Project Manager
KTGY Architecture + Planning
Fishman is passionate about sustainability. She is completing her master’s degree at Arizona State University in biomimicry, the study of natural systems, with an eye toward applying their lessons to human problems, including design. That knowledge has helped her boost not only the sustainability of KTGY’s projects but also their diversity. The firm is designing buildings like a six-story, 190,000-sq-ft, mixed-use office development in Denver. The project is expected to receive both LEED and Fitwel certifications.
With bachelor’s degrees in both architecture and art history from Rice University, Fishman worked for design firms from New York to New Mexico before settling in Denver seven years ago. She has designed multiple fire stations and public safety complexes, the transit center addition at Denver International Airport, several single-family residences, a luxury apartment building and two forensic labs for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Fishman is active in the American Institute of Architects, and in 2013 created an industry networking event called “Meet the Dark Side,” which connects professionals from various design fields. The event attracted more than 425 participants last year.
BIM expert multitasks to lead a talented team of virtual designers
37, Virtual Design and Construction Manager
Hamilton got hooked on AutoCAD in high school and has made virtual design her life’s work ever since. Not yet 40, she has worked in construction for two full decades.
At Encore Electric, she leads a team of 12 design professionals, supervising their work both in the office and the field. She is responsible for 3D BIM/CAD coordination, schedule management, recruiting, job-cost estimating, project cost to completes, consulting and budgeting for projects in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Speaking about her work, she says, “Managing people is hard. Failing them is even harder.”
A native of Bowling Green, Mo., Hamilton earned an associate’s degree in architectural design from Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. Her career has included everything from designing gravel roads and highway-paving projects to working on hotels and casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. Current projects include hospitals, hotels, labs and other complex structures.
Like most gifted managers, Hamilton excels at bringing people together. To encourage collegiality within the Denver design community, she recently created the Denver VDC Co-Op. It includes customers, competitors and colleagues who encourage the skilled use of VDC on projects.
“Managing people is hard. Failing them is even harder.”
—SAMANTHA HAMILTON, 37, VDC Manager, Encore Electric
Talented project leader builds on family history in construction
35, Senior Project Manager
For Huss, the jam is on. Not only is she an accomplished professional who has risen steadily through the ranks of the drywall industry, she is also a seasoned skater and the committee chair for the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls roller-derby team.
Nonetheless, her career ascent has come through brains rather than her elbows. After earning a bachelor’s degree in construction management at California State University, Chico, Huss started with KHS&S in Las Vegas, working on West Coast hospitals, casinos, theme parks and other projects. While in Las Vegas, she became director of the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. It was a natural affiliation. Huss credits her lifelong interest in the industry to watching her mother work for 31 years as a building inspector in Palm Springs, Calif.
Joining ICI in 2015, Huss made an immediate impact. She’s credited with playing a key role in landing two of the company’s biggest projects—the UHS Centennial Peaks Hospital in Louisville, Colo., and the new Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs. She’s also committed to improving the profession as director of the Denver Chapter of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling industry.
Constructor works on a variety of projects, helps community thrive
28, Project Manager
Keyes began his career with Sletten as a summer intern at Boise State University. That led to a full-time job during his final three semesters. Since graduating in 2012, he has risen from a project engineer to his current position of project manager. He also recruits employees, does project estimates, markets to new clients and supports Sletten’s community work.
Keyes’ leadership has been rewarded by an employee-of-the-year designation at Sletten, along with increasing responsibility on more than 20 projects over the past six-plus years. He’s worked on assignments ranging from education and health care to retail and hospitality. The largest of those has been the multi-phased, $40-million Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca, Nev.
Keyes has helped burnish Sletten’s reputation in the community through causes such as the Idaho Foodbank’s Picnic at the Park, which provides food to young people during the summer. He also works with Catch Inc., a local nonprofit that helps the homeless, and NeighborWorks’ Rake Up Boise event, where volunteers remove leaves for the elderly and disabled.
Experienced builder manages a variety of large, complex projects
38, Project Executive
Kiewit Building Group Inc.
A rising star at Kiewit, Kucera began his career there in 2001 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb. He also later earned an MBA from Nebraska’s Bellevue University. Kucera pursues new projects and manages both their preconstruction and construction. Over the last five years, he has managed an average of $70 million worth of work annually and supervised preconstruction of more than $200 million in work. During his career, he has been involved with more than $1 billion of construction in various markets. Kucera played a key role in the 17,000-seat CenturyLink Center arena project in Omaha and in the city’s 2,000-seat Holland Performing Arts Center.
Kucera serves on the board of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the executive leadership team for the Colorado chapter of the American Heart Association. His industry memberships include Downtown Denver Partnership, Urban Land Institute, National Association for Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP), Associated General Contractors and Hispanic Contractors of Colorado.
Project exec embraces role of mentor, industry outreach leader
38, Construction Executive
M.A. Mortenson Co.
If it’s a big or difficult project, chances are that Mortenson wants Kuntz to manage it. He served as project manager for the $258-million Ralph L. Carr Colorado Justice Center in Denver. The project came in two months early and 4.5% under budget. Kuntz also managed construction of the $174-million Charles Schwab corporate campus in Lonetree, Colo.—a project that took just 16 months. He’s now in charge of the $163-million redevelopment of Denver Water’s main operations center in Denver.
Colleagues describe Kuntz as “the mentor for mentors” and say he “is constantly looking for new ways to improve processes within Mortenson for the benefit of our team members and our clients.” Adds Gene Hodge, vice president for project development at Mortenson, “We entrust him with some of our most complicated projects, but more importantly, our highest-potential team members.”
Outside the office, Kuntz regularly participates in Colorado Construction Career Days and is active with the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado and the Black Construction Group within the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce.
“We entrust [David Kuntz] with some of our most complicated projects, but more importantly, our highest-potential team members.”
—GENE HODGE, Vice President for Project Development, Mortenson
Designer pushes sustainability and technology to younger colleagues
An emerging leader at Gensler, Marvez serves as the project architect for One Belleview Station, a 635,000-sq-ft commercial office building in South Denver. She also contributed to the design of the 730,000-sq-ft Westin Denver International Airport and Transit Center. Her current work is focused on aviation and commercial offices, integrating both their design and technical components.
Marvez holds a master’s degree in architecture and environmental design from the University of Colorado Denver and is known for her strong commitment to sustainability. Many architects tend to specialize either in design or technical proficiency, but she has developed both as key aspects of her practice. Says a colleague, “It’s these interests and openness to learning that make her one of the industry’s top young professionals.”
Marvez sees mentorship as a core responsibility for architects. She directs Gensler’s fall internship, in which a student from the University of Kansas joins the Denver office for the fall semester.
Professional race-car driver takes a turn overseeing jobsites, workers
38, Project Manager
Minegar literally raced into the construction industry. A stock-car driver for 12 years, he was selling parts and working as a mechanic when a client opened a racing shop and asked Minegar to help staff his racing team. The same client also owned a construction company, so Minegar thought he’d give the business a try.
That was 10 years ago. Since then, Minegar has emerged as a sought-after manager for his ability to relate to his construction crews and juggle numerous projects. At Layton, he’s considered a strong mentor whose leadership and ability to connect with people—he was a marketing major at Boise State—have translated into business opportunities for the company. He also has built a reputation as a skilled estimator.
Outside the office, Minegar is still mentoring people. With two young sons on the field, he coaches youth football, basketball and soccer. A colleague says Minegar “knows how many kids need a good father figure in their lives, so he enjoys being a role model and an all-around good influence.”
“[Dave Minegar] knows how many kids also need a good father figure in their lives, so he enjoys being a role model, father figure and an allaround good influence.”
—AMY FISCUS HEADLEE, Corporate Communications, Layton Construction
Talented BD professional brings public-sector savvy to construction
31, Director of Business Development
Working for Layton Construction for just the past year and a half, Nay is already credited with ringing up $254 million in new business. Included in that total are the Wasatch Dialysis Center, projects for Reliance Steel, Affiliated Metals and Cummins Atlanta and several jobs for United Parcel Service. Nay also has increased Layton’s presence in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Oregon, with plans underway to land work in other states.
With a master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University, Nay came to Layton from his position as director of business development for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. There, he twice earned the prestigious Utah Governor’s Award for attracting new businesses to the state.
Nay’s volunteer work also has focused on the public sector. He’s worked with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to help the agency improve hunting and fishing opportunities. He helped his hometown of Gunnison, Utah, recover from widespread damage caused by a gas leak in an underground storage tank. Three years ago, he stepped in as a temporary coach for the Salt Lake YMCA’s flag football league—and he’s still at it.
Sought-after project specialist gets high marks from her customers
34, Senior Project Manager
M.A. Mortenson Co.
In a high-pressure business like construction, a project manager might be expected to tick off a client at least once over a period of 10 or more years, right? Not Ostoyich. She has received Mortenson’s Pinnacle Award for Exceptional People from every customer she’s ever worked with.
Here’s what Jennifer Ray of aerospace and engineering firm Woodward said about Ostoyich after she helped deliver the company’s new campus in Fort Collins, Colo.: “She has acted as a mentor and teacher for me on many occasions during this project, answering questions about construction details and schedule options with my subs, and helping me communicate best solutions to our leadership.”
An engineering graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, Ostoyich also helped manage construction of facilities at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., the new Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and Charles Schwab’s corporate campus in Lone Tree, Colo.
Ostoyich returns to her alma mater annually to teach a course in underground construction management, to network with women in engineering and officiate at track-and-field meets.
“[Jessica Ostoyich] has acted as a mentor and teacher for me on many occasions during this project, answering questions about construction details and schedule options.”
—JENNIFER RAY, Woodward
Experienced PM started his construction career in high school
37, Senior Project Manager
JE Dunn Construction
Work hard, play hard. That’s Pennick’s motto. He’s a person who combines his corporate and volunteer responsibilities with an off-duty schedule that includes family bike rides and tennis; coaching youth soccer, basketball and baseball; and playing softball two nights a week.
Pennick has worked in construction all his life, starting as a laborer for GE Johnson Construction while still in high school. After earning his undergraduate degree in construction management at Colorado State University, he rejoined the company and eventually moved to the Lake Tahoe area, where he managed the building of the Village at Northstar ski-area development.
Moving to JE Dunn in 2007, Pennick transferred back to Denver and has led the construction of Sugar Cube, a mixed-use project near Market Street Station; the Denver Crime Lab; and Colorado Center Tower 3, also in Denver.
In addition to teaching leadership classes at JE Dunn, Pennick volunteers with the Denver Chamber of Commerce’s education committee and Junior Achievement Rocky Mountain.
Electrical engineer leads launch of new technical services teams
38, Regional Global Practice Manager
Burns & McDonnell
Sherman was Burns & McDonnell’s first transmission-and-distribution professional in Denver a decade ago. Since then, he’s built a staff of more than 100 T&D experts. His group is responsible for projects in the substation, transmission line, telecommunications, civil and structural sectors, and Sherman is currently developing a team for gas pipelines and distribution. The group’s revenue, meanwhile, has set records every year since he arrived, rising to $21.5 million last year.
Sherman oversees activities in the Western U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, and parts of Canada. In June, he will venture across the Pacific to take charge of Burns & McDonnell’s India operation. He plans to double employment there to 600 people within four years and expand the company’s regional services, which now focus on oil, gas and chemicals.
A graduate of Montana State University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Sherman works with students at the Colorado School of Mines, where he leads Burns & McDonnell’s sponsorship of senior-level design classes. He’s also active in the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.
Health care construction guru touts value of prefabrication on jobsites
38, Mechanical & Electrical Manager
GE Johnson Construction Co.
Greenwood Village, Colo.
A graduate of Colorado State University’s construction management program, Sweeney began his building career as a summer intern. Today, he’s not only an expert in health care construction—having worked on numerous hospital projects in Colorado and Wyoming, he’s also passionate about continuous improvement, working to boost the industry’s productivity in a time of looming labor shortages.
In particular, Sweeney has worked to spread the use of multitrade prefabrication, which works especially well in hospital construction because of the nearly identical components in most patient rooms. Over the years, he’s spoken at numerous professional events about the benefits and potential pitfalls of prefab. In the words of a colleague, Sweeney believes that “anyone who isn’t on board with increasing our industry’s productivity with new techniques will become obsolete.”
Sweeney is active with AGC of Colorado and enthusiastically supports the Colorado Construction Career Days event, which encourages high school students to consider jobs in the building industry. He also works with the Colorado chapter of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering and holds certificates in health care construction and infection control.
“Anyone who isn’t on board with increasing our industry’s productivity with new techniques will become obsolete.”
—PAUL SWEENEY, 38, Mechanical & Electrical Manager, GE Johnson Construction Co.
Oil-and-gas production expert gives his time to families with sick kids
38, Projects Director
Halker Consulting LLC
An engineering graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, Wellen began his career designing facilities for the U.S. Army to destroy chemical weapons that date back to World War I. He joined Halker Consulting in January after spending his entire career at AECOM and related companies. There, he worked on the Army project and others, including the commercial demonstration facility for an ExxonMobil technology that reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by capturing and storing carbon.
At Halker Consulting, Wellen runs the project management group, overseeing oil-and-gas producers in the Permian Basin in Texas and the Bakken Formation in the upper U.S. and Canada. Not content to manage projects from the office, Wellen spends considerable time in the field.
Wellen’s substantial volunteer efforts have involved people close to his heart. His twin daughters were born nine weeks premature, and he has cooked meals at the Ronald McDonald House for families who must spend long stretches of time at nearby hospitals.