Less than 90 days into his CEO position at Rosendin, COVID-19 deconstructed construction, creating slowdowns, shutdowns and intensifying the downturn in the national and global economies. The San Jose, Calif.-based company builds large-scale, high-technology commercial and industrial projects nationwide, including data and renewable-energy centers and manufacturing, semiconductor, transportation, health care and utilities projects.

At the time, Greenawalt was entering the top position at the firm, generating $1.87 billion in revenue and in 2019 ranked No. 3 nationally for electrical contractors by ENR.

Now, the future of the company was uncertain. “I’m flying back and forth to San Jose on a regular basis, and this hits, and everything is derailed. I went home—I’m not an emotional person—I went home in tears, asking how could this happen to me? My entire life I’ve worked so hard,” says Greenawalt, a longtime resident of Gilbert, Ariz., southwest of Phoenix.

“Monday morning rolls around, and, poor me, poor me, I’ve got more than 7,000 people needing me as their CEO. Bonding companies and banking companies are wanting to talk about my plans. You get over the ‘poor me’s, poor me’s’ real fast,” he recalls.

To survive, he knew that Rosendin had to keep jobsites open, maintain work environments that were safe from the virus and continue to provide employees steady work to maintain their trust. So in early February 2020, he gathered teams to create ‘what if’ scenarios, empowered company leaders to innovate safety procedures, provided IT department resources to develop secure work-from-home plans and ensured employees they’d get their paychecks.

“We came up with ideas and we grew our business,” he says. “We grew our shareholder price. We grew our revenues and our profits. We kept our employees safe and healthy, and we provided for their families. We did it.”


Greenawalt worked with DeWalt to design and create a two-handed saw with enhanced safety features.
Photo courtesy of Rosendin

In the Trenches

He was a “classic C” student; traditional schooling didn’t interest him. But fixing things did. He fixed cars and lawn mowers and tried to fix watches, although he never got the watches back together again.

After graduating from Sunnyslope High School in north Phoenix, he attended Glendale Community College in west Phoenix to pursue a vocational career in car mechanics, although at that time the career was low paying. A neighbor noticed his dexterity and suggested an electrical apprenticeship. The program was competitive to get into, but he cleared the vetting process.

He had never considered that path but, interested, he quickly learned what electricians did. “I thought you just twisted wires together and screwed in light bulbs,” he recalls with a laugh.

In 1979, he began the Comprehensive Employment Training Act program through assistance from the Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee; he was 19. Eight months later, he was working at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power plant in the far west Valley, riding a city bus at 4:45 a.m. for an hour and, later, joining a van pool with other electricians.

The program was challenging, but the journeymen around him were good mentors, and he liked the hard work. “Apprentices spend a lot of time digging the holes. On my first day, they threw me in a ditch with a shovel to get the rocks and all of the cobblestones out. I didn’t know what dirty was until I became an apprentice,” he says.

His parents were supportive, and he had a site-hardened 50-year-old mentoring him in the ditches. “He’d use every cuss word he could think of yelling at you to lift your hand faster,” he recalls. “Working with men in the heat of the summer was a major challenge; I was not ready for it. But it certainly makes you an adult.”

He says Palo Verde was a transformative, career-changing project, as was the Denver International Airport a few years later. In the Valley, some of his landmark projects include the original downtown Sheraton Hotel and its update, the Maricopa County Court Tower renovation, Phoenix Civic Plaza and the Sky Harbor Car Rental Facility. Currently, he’s overseeing Rosendin crews at the two largest semiconductor projects in the Phoenix area.

Every time he drives by Palo Verde on I-10 with his son Connor, he proudly mentions that he worked on the nuclear plant as a young man. “That was a major achievement just to be involved with that,” he recalls. “I was molded by my experience there.”

Greenawalt working with a student

Greenawalt working with a student at Grand Canyon University, where he helped develop a pre-apprenticeship program for university students.
Photo courtesy of Rosendin

Home at Rosendin

After satisfying the required fieldwork and classroom hours, Greenawalt joined the IBEW Apprenticeship program in 1979, eventually becoming a journeyman wireman. He then worked for Phoenix-area subcontractors from 1993 until 2002. That year, Rosendin hired him as Southwest division manager. He was promoted to vice president of Southwest operations in 2011, developing a small modeling team in the Tempe office that has become the Technology Development Center with more than 200 people focused on BIM, VR/AR and prefabrication integration and data analysis. Four years later, he became senior vice president.

The Phoenix Business Journal named him its Most Admired Leader in 2020, and NAWIC honored him that year with its National Safety Excellence Award.

Greenawalt meets with workers

Greenawalt meets with workers at the MAZ data center project in Mesa, Ariz.
Photo courtesy of Rosendin

Legacy Of Service

“Mike’s leadership during his career has not only made a significant contribution to Rosendin but to the construction industry as a whole,” wrote Tom K. Sorley, chairman of the board and former CEO for Rosendin, in his nomination of Greenawalt for the Legacy Award.

Sorley says Greenawalt looked for Rosendin to “set the standards” for the construction industry and to share those standards with others, whether by working with tool manufacturers for safer tools, local community colleges for better construction-related programs or within K-12 schools to spread awareness of the exciting careers in the construction industry.

Those safety programs have included Rosendin’s Stop Work card, 5Why Accident Investigation form and Pretask Planning form to identify potential hazards. For these efforts, Rosendin received the AGC’s Grand Award for Construction Safety Excellence in 2018.

In 2020, when several Rosendin employees lost homes to wildfires, Greenawalt established safety protocols including working with local authorities to monitor air quality and provide PPE, and he removed workers from jobsites until the air quality improved. His crews also helped evacuate families and set up temporary power for communities in need.

“Mike’s leadership during his career has not only made a significant contribution to Rosendin but to the construction industry as a whole.”
—Tom K. Sorley, Chairman and Former CEO, Rosendin

In 2019, under Greenawalt’s guidance, Rosendin collaborated with tool manufacturer DeWalt to produce a double-switch band saw to prevent some of the accidents that had occurred with earlier single-switch units. The revised tool aligned with the company’s safety-first culture to care, share, listen and innovate. “We want [our workers] to go home every night, with no cuts, bruises or scars," Greenawalt said at the time.

Greenawalt serves on the National Board of Directors Advisory Council for the ACE Mentor Program and on the Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, which helped him begin his career. He also helped found the Rosendin Foundation, a nonprofit to support community organizations in 17 cities where Rosendin has offices. TRF has given more than $1.87 million in grants and sponsors annual summer camps that introduce students to the joy of building.

In 2023, he was invited to be an inaugural member of the Arizona Economic Education Commission, a partnership through Arizona’s Dept. of Education to bring skilled training back to high schools to get students career ready upon graduation.

At the college level, he recently encouraged Rosendin to collaborate with Grand Canyon University to develop, teach and help fund a 15-week pre-apprenticeship program that saw nearly every one of its 78 first-year students move on to an apprenticeship.

Joe Veres, senior vice president for student success at GCU, says Greenawalt has been a visionary for taking action on the critical shortage of electricians in Arizona and throughout the country. "Mike is an incredible leader with a huge heart for the industry and developed a vision to sustain the growth and need for electricians,” he says.

“I never took anything for granted, and it never went to my head,” Greenawalt says. “But now I’m looking back after 45 years. For a kid starting off in a government program as an apprentice and then retiring as CEO of a company like Rosendin: Wow, it’s been quite an achievement. It’s been quite a ride.”