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Construction Executive introduces 12 rising stars who have spent the first part of their collective careers living, working and breathing construction. These industry leaders have overcome personal boundaries, taken on significant leadership roles, developed companies, and conceived, dreamed and celebrated significant achievements with their companies. From small leaps personally to giant steps professionally. From small towns to world cities. From making strides in safety and workforce education to introducing technological advancement and strategic partnerships that shift the entire industry. 

Read on to gain these up-and-comers’ perspectives as they share their unique journeys.

Jonathan Coccorese
Project Superintendent
KBE Building Corporation
Farmington, Connecticut

Which professional development opportunities have benefited you and the industry most? 

Foremost, becoming chair of the ABC Connecticut Chapter’s Emerging Leaders Group has been by far the most rewarding professional development opportunity for me for reasons including networking, educational seminars and the opportunity to present to large groups of peers and industry leaders. I have also been placed on KBE’s “Seller-Doer” team, which consists of our business development and field operations departments teaming up to attend networking events to chase future projects and build relationships in the industry.

Have you worked to mentor or instruct students through an apprenticeship or craft training program?

As a volunteer at ABC’s Career Days event, I had the privilege to be an instructor for students interested in learning about heavy machine operations. Our station had a CAT excavator, and we would teach the students how to safely operate the machine and work their way up to excavating one pit while filling in another. This event was a great opportunity as a young professional to identify that the construction industry has so much to offer the upcoming generation. It is important that we continue to spread the word on how gratifying of an industry it truly is.

How do you personally demonstrate a commitment to world-class safety leadership in your company?

As a project superintendent, one of my most critical roles is acting as the safety officer on the construction site. Since starting with KBE in 2015, I have had zero injuries on my jobsites. My father passed away a couple years ago from lung cancer, which was diagnosed as a result of working with and around asbestos piping. I take safety very seriously by not only enforcing it, but also teaching it through current toolbox talks, safety discussions and stand-downs. KBE also has won ABC safety awards for several consecutive years.

Dan Coffey
Cianbro Institute Manager
Cianbro 
Pittsfield, Maine

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career? 

When I look back over the last 10 years of my career, I see an accumulation of small, steady accomplishments. A contributing factor to my growth has been through continuously saying “yes” to the opportunities and challenges that the company puts in front of me. Many times, this has involved a significant change and a leap into the unknown but, in the end, these risks and challenges have been the catalyst for my learning. 

A key element to my achievements has been living by the words, “No one is smarter than all of us.” Cianbro introduced me to this saying, and I believe it has helped me in my progression from an administrative role to the management role I hold today.

Which personal achievement are you most proud of?

I put a lot of energy into my work because I’m passionate about what I do and strive to represent Cianbro to the best of my abilities. However, at the end of the day, I have a wonderful family to support at home: my wife and two boys (7 and 9 years old). They are what I’m most proud of and are a large part of my motivation to succeed and constantly challenge myself. I’m proud that through my professional achievements, I have the ability to support them and give us the opportunities, such as traveling and camping, to spend memorable times together as a family. 

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

There seems to be a negative perception associated with the construction industry and working within the skilled trades. People tend to think folks end up in construction because they lack the intelligence to make it elsewhere. I couldn’t disagree more, as some of the brightest people I know work in construction. As an advocate for the industry and the men and women who use their hands and minds to safely build America each and every day, I hope to have an impact in shifting this perception by educating people about the incredible opportunities that await them in the construction industry.

Leah B. Curran
Sales & Marketing
TRI-Supply & Equipment
New Castle, Delaware

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

TRI-Supply & Equipment recently partnered with Amazon Business. Amazon has had limited success in our space, and we were approached by them to help fill a void. Amazon was attracted to TRI by way of our website, which I was responsible for developing for our company. At TRI-Supply we fully understand the impact the internet has on our marketing strategies, the exposure Amazon can give to our brand and, ultimately, the potential for a global revenue stream. I am responsible for maintaining the Amazon relationship and our newly developed e-commerce profit center.

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

The construction industry is in my DNA. I was born into the industry, with both my parents and two uncles all working for rental properties and hardware stores, so I’m not surprised I entered the industry one year after college graduation. Fast-forward 10 years, and I cannot imagine doing anything different. 

A key component for the successful future of our industry is workforce development. As one woman who helps to make up the 9.1% of us in the construction industry, I want to influence other women to join me and share my successes. We need to steadily educate and promote the importance of careers in our industry, starting as young as grade schoolers. As an active ABC and NAWIC member, I am passionate about promoting the construction industry as a viable career path, whether male or female. There is a career for everyone in construction. 

Which professional development opportunities have benefited you and the industry most? 

My professional development manifests itself through two key tracks: the first is jumping in and doing, learning via experience; and the second is through deliberate training, seeking courses and workshops that assist in my journey to be a better person and a better leader. I have been afforded many opportunities to grow professionally, primarily through my involvement with ABC.

Brian J. Fish
General Superintendent
Hensel Phelps
Greeley, Colorado

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

My biggest professional accomplishment was becoming an executive of Hensel Phelps prior to turning 37 years old. I feel that the key to my success has been my dedication to Hensel Phelps throughout my more than 16-year career, always doing what they have asked of me despite it not always being convenient for me and my family. I have been hand-selected for challenging projects my whole career and have always gone into these situations maintaining a positive attitude and looking at them as growth opportunities.

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

I hope to make a significant impact in both workforce development and training, a topic that is plaguing our industry and one that I am very focused on. I am a member of ABC Northern Virginia’s workforce development committee and have taken an active role in assisting Hensel Phelps’ mid-Atlantic district to get younger individuals interested and involved in construction. I am also actively involved in coaching and training through both ABC Virginia and Hensel Phelps to continue to develop and train individuals who have entered the industry.

How do you personally demonstrate a commitment to world-class safety leadership in your company?

Safety is all about creating a culture. There are people who just “talk the talk,” and there are those who “walk the walk.” I organize and participate in monthly craft trainings and staff safety training sessions, in which our employees are exposed to different safety-related topics each month. I also conduct safety walks on our projects with our younger team members each week in order to train them in what to look for and how to correct unsafe acts. Additionally, I am involved in planning our safety award barbecues on jobsites to promote the outstanding safety cultures that our jobs create and maintain.

William Griffith Jr.
Executive Manager
Tri-County Pump Service, Inc. 
Boonsboro, Maryland

Which has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

I believe my biggest professional accomplishment is successfully continuing my family’s legacy. I’m second generation with the company. My parents established Tri-County Pump Service in 1991. I re-joined the family business in 2014 and since then, we have doubled in size. My parents were a dynamic and inspiring team. Before 2014, I thought my career would be spent in the insurance industry, but in one day, everything changed. We unexpectedly lost my mother, which initiated my return. This was a difficult transition and learning curve, given the circumstances, as I assumed leadership roles and responsibilities. We have been greatly blessed with growth during that difficult period, but it did not come without hard work or sacrifice. During this time, my father has slowly stepped into the shadows, allowing me to carry the reins and assume leadership of the company. 

Have you worked to mentor or instruct students through an apprenticeship or craft training program?

I have helped catalyze relationships in the community to promote both apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and I developed an initiative at my company that sends our apprentices to trade school. It is important to invest more company resources toward developing new talent (than hiring talent) given the rising labor shortage. We offer educational opportunities to our employees at the company’s expense. 

Recently, our local school system joined up with the Department of Labor to create an on-the-job pre-apprenticeship program. I’m proud to say a high school student has successfully completed his pre-apprenticeship program with us. We hired him on full-time after spring graduation, and he has just applied to a trade school. 

What community organizations or programs are you involved with outside of the workplace? 

As the ABC Cumberland Valley Chapter’s 2018 Young Professional of the Year, I’m most proud of the work I do in the local community that hopefully impacts others long-term. Often, we never know how we’ve impacted others, and I believe that’s where the true power of our intentions and actions can be found. 

I have been involved in my church through their LOVELOUD initiative that volunteers time toward the community. I started an “Evening of Caring” were we go as a company to the local soup kitchen to serve. Also, I’ve helped initiate a partnership between our chapter’s young professionals group and the Washington County Chamber of Commerce’s GenNext network to create an initiative called Revitalize Hagerstown, which hosted live moderated segments discussing the community’s opioid crisis, economic development and workforce development needs. I’m very proud of the great attendance and inspiration generated at those events. This event has catalyzed other community initiates that are tackling some of these issues head on. 

Greg Gutierrez
President/CEO
Truitt Oilfield Maintenance Corporation
Bakersfield, California

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

My biggest professional achievement has been achieving the goal of purchasing my company. I started working for Truitt when we had 25 employees in 2005. I saw the opportunity to work for a growing company and continued working through college. I helped lead the company to grow to over 450 employees. I also pursued my Executive MBA during my role as general and administrative manager. Once I finished my graduate degree, I worked with the then owners on a succession plan to purchase the company. With focus, hard work and creative structures, I completed the purchase of my company in 2018. I’ve led my company through the cycles of the oil industry, and I am eager to continue our growth.

Which personal achievement are you most proud of?

The personal achievement I am most proud of is a fundraiser I led in 2013 for the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). The group I led climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and held a “fun run” to raise money for Bakersfield’s CMN Hospital. My group raised more than $30,000 for CMN and presented the money at the annual telethon in 2013. Community involvement has always been a personal priority of mine.

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

I want to have an impact on the industry by promoting the merit shop philosophy specifically in California. I have seen firsthand, with my company, how legislation and regulations influenced by non-merit shop philosophies can negatively impact the industry. I have testified in Sacramento for Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) reform and have been involved in labor committee meetings at the state capital. I will continue working closely with local/state government and trade groups to ensure our voice is heard for fair and open competition.

Joe Jenkyn
Director of Employee Relations
Fortune-Johnson General Contractors
Peachtree Corners, Georgia

Which personal achievement are you most proud of?

I do not come from a construction background or family, but I have capitalized on the opportunity to reach an executive position within Fortune-Johnson General Contractors in six years. I am very proud of the results we have been able to achieve. By creating a culture of teamwork, we have reduced our turnover rate to around 5% and increased our overall footprint and revenue—all while maintaining the brand our customers have come to expect. It fills me with a tremendous amount of pride when I see a young man or woman achieve an incredible level of success, both personally and professionally.

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years? 

I hope to continue to build future leaders and professionals within the construction industry. As director of employee relations, my responsibility is to build men and women rather than buildings and structures. The recession hit everyone in the industry hard, but instead of throwing our hands up and accepting what was given to us, we are always looking to the future to grow the talent we have, and to infuse them with the knowledge to fill the leadership void that was left in the downturn.

How do you personally demonstrate a commitment to world-class safety leadership in your company?

Helping to create and establish a culture of safety at Fortune-Johnson begins in the orientation period of each new employee upon hire. I personally spend 45-60 minutes orienting each new employee with the importance of safety. I walk them through the procedures to conduct safety audits, navigate the safety website and utilize our “cheat sheet” cards that they carry on the jobsite each day.

Joshua B. Mauney
CEO
Paragon Safety Group, Inc.
Raleigh, North Carolina 

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

Paragon Safety Group started as a personal vision, and from that has grown into a successful safety consulting company, thanks to my incredible team. I have the pleasure of leading a talented staff whose main goal is to ensure that workers go home to their families each night. It is truly worthwhile work and, by forming strong partnerships, we fulfill our mission, which is to inspire our clients to reduce risk and protect their greatest assets—their people, property and financial resources. That’s a great reason to feel excited about going to work every morning.

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

Paragon Safety Group will continue to focus on delivering the very best outsourced risk management and loss control services to our industry. In a few short years, we have grown from a concept into a company that provides services to hundreds of clients across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Over the next 10 years, our goal is to become the largest provider of safety consulting, staffing and training in the country. We strive to bring the safety industry into the 21st century by further developing our digital safety platforms. We are especially excited about our cloud-based safety management software, the Paragon Safety Portal, which gives our clients easy-to-use tools that make their safety programs and daily operations more efficient and effective. We are also looking forward to opening offices in Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando and elsewhere across the East Coast to more easily serve our clients in growing markets.

How do you personally demonstrate a commitment to world-class safety leadership in your company?

Just as ABC is built on successful partnerships formed in order to achieve mutual goals, at Paragon Safety Group, we focus on building relationships with employees and clients, which helps serve our objective of reducing risk and keeping workers safe and productive on the job. I take a lot of pride in being resourceful and work constantly toward building purposeful connections with others. These aren’t self-serving relationships, but authentic partnerships and friendships that are lasting and meaningful to us as a company whose mission and total commitment 
is safety.

Michael Menke
Project Engineer
FCI Constructors
Frederick, Colorado

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

Winning the current project I am working on: Platte River Power Authority Headquarters Campus, which manages and distributes the power for the cities of Loveland, Fort Collins, Estes Park and Longmont, Colorado, as well as provides communication infrastructure for numerous large companies, plus emergency dispatch for the state’s first responders. 

I had the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge I gained from competing in the ABC Construction Management Competition to prepare a presentation, pitch the angle to one of our vice presidents and be a part of the interview for this $40 million project. After evaluating the project documents, I was given the opportunity to put together all of the presentation items per the RFP. With the help of one of my peers, we developed a video of a 3D model to fly through to discuss how we will build the project. Currently we are under way onsite and have been using the site plan, public management and sequence of construction I initially developed. 

What have you done to support and promote ABC’s merit shop philosophy? 

For the past five years, I have been involved with the Colorado State University ABC Student Chapter. As the liaison, it is my responsibility to look out for the students’ best interest and expose them to the industry side of ABC, as well as to educate them on why association involvement is important. 

I have been able to increase participation in the student chapter by helping to create a “student ticket” for various ABC Rocky Mountain Chapter events that allow the students to attend for free and mingle and learn with the members. We have also increased student chapter membership by holding small boot camps and lectures by industry professionals. 

What community organizations or programs are you involved with outside of the workplace? 

I coach lacrosse for my local youth club, The Loveland Titans, where I have been head coach for five years. I am deeply passionate about coaching youth sports because I believe everyone needs the opportunity to compete openly and fairly. I have kept in touch with the players’ families, and I even have one of my player’s dads as the superintendent for a subcontractor on my current project.

Megan Vallach
Director of Business Development
Donohoe Construction Company
Bethesda, Maryland

What has been the biggest professional accomplishment of your career?

My biggest accomplishment was receiving the ABC Metro Washington Chapter’s J.P. Blase Cooke Leadership Achievement Award, which recognizes one graduate from each cycle of ABC’s Leadership Development Program who demonstrates leadership skills and a commitment to the industry and the chapter. The 15-month program includes site tours, teambuilding and education on “hot” legislative topics and presentation skills. I graduated at the highest level (Platinum). This award meant so much to me because it was selected by my fellow classmates and the program’s advisory council. 

Which personal achievement are you most proud of?

Since the age of three, I have been involved with gymnastics, dance and cheerleading. While I was a student and a member of the competitive cheerleading team at the University of Maryland, I had the opportunity to win a national championship. My greatest personal achievement, however, is not winning this title but using that experience to pursue another one of my passions: coaching. Upon graduation, I began a youth competitive cheerleading program that grew to include more than 80 athletes and four coaches. I oversaw the staffing, financials, marketing, fundraising and choreography while head-coaching several of the more advanced teams. Our program focused on supporting well-rounded female athletes, encouraging excellence both inside and outside of the gym. 

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years?

I hope to help increase the diversity of our workforce. Over the past two years, I have helped lead the creation and implementation of ABC’s Women Building Washington committee. This group focuses on increasing the awareness of, and opportunities for, women in the construction industry. We have created several professional development programs that have helped our female members connect with each other as well as attend industry meetings without feeling out of place. We have also participated in outreach and education programs for young girls to ensure the next generation of women know that construction is a viable and exciting career option for them. 

Plus, I’ve worked with Rebuilding Together Montgomery County on several community projects; last year, our committee created an event called 
“She Builds”—strategically planned around Women in Construction Week—which supported low-income female homeowners by creating safer and healthier homes.

Jason Weeks
Vice President / Division Manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
Birmingham, Alabama

Which professional development opportunities have benefited you and the industry most?

I take a deliberate approach to professional (and personal) development. While I’m forever learning how to be a better builder, my focus these past five years in development has been heavily focused on leadership. I was fortunate enough to be invited to our company’s leadership program, which I found to be extremely valuable. I recently completed The Real Estate Council’s Associated Leadership Program, which is a competitive and intensive one-year leadership program in Dallas. I also meet regularly with a few more seasoned business leaders, who have so much wisdom to impart about trying to grow a business. I also meet quarterly with my pastor. I feel that this “tribe of mentors” helps me become a better leader and overall better person.

Which personal achievement are you most proud of? 

I’m most proud of my family—they are my rock! My wife and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we have three beautiful children. The construction business demands a lot of hours and hard work, but I keep my family in the forefront and I’m very determined to set a good example to my children regarding a healthy, balanced life. I was fortunate to have a father in the construction industry who showed me that hard work and family life can be compatible. I want to demonstrate this to my children as well. 

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years? 

I strive to operate with a sense of integrity and transparency, and I hope that I can further instill these values into our industry, especially on a localized level in Dallas. Too often I hear about someone in the construction industry who has taken advantage of a client. I think our industry often struggles with the perception of being dishonest or too self-serving. I firmly believe in leaders being grounded in solid values. My hope is that my employees, clients and subcontractors see my values and that they, in turn, try to exemplify these characteristics in their lives and work. 

Silvia Zurita
Director of Marketing and Business Development
Synergen
Houston, Texas

Which personal achievement are you most proud of? 

My greatest achievement was moving across the globe to Italy and living on my own in a completely different country for eight months, while learning a new culture, not being able to speak the language and not knowing anyone, either. I basically had to start from scratch to find my way. I made this conscious decision to see if I could withstand the difficulties and prepare myself at a young age for what I wanted to accomplish in the future. I built up the strength (without any help) to become more independent, responsible and fearless of any situation a person could encounter. 

What impact do you hope to have on the industry over the next 10 years? 

I’ve developed a great passion for the growth and success of the construction industry. I’m continuously learning from seasoned colleagues and industry leaders. I plan to help the younger generation to become knowledgeable about crucial aspects of the industry and to properly prepare them to take lead roles in the future. Through collaboration and alliances, I foresee a successful transition working through the differences, learning from old procedures, as well as implementing new techniques and technology/system innovations—orienting millennials into an industry that will continue evolving.

Which professional development opportunities have benefited you and the industry most?

I continuously attend numerous conferences in Texas and in other prominent emerging cities for construction. In addition, I attend many seminars to gain different perspectives from leaders in growing industry sectors, such as commercial, industrial and oil and gas. I’ve had the opportunity to make presentations to ABC’s Board of Directors, guide chapter committees and work closely with the ABC staff to develop high-value events. At work, I try to immerse myself in numerous tasks that will deepen my education about construction and project management.

I am involved with editing websites for the Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio Bar Associations, covering topics including construction, oil and gas, in addition to international law. I also participate with the Women’s Energy Network, Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Texas Bar Association.

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