Published on September 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine0
Young Guns! Under 40 Stars Making Their Mark
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As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age the need for sharp, skilled, hard working individuals in the A/E/C industry has never been greater. Utah Construction & Design is proud to feature our ‘Young Guns’ of 2013, 11 individuals who are making their mark within their respective industries and helping lead their companies to greater heights, including four who have the title of either President or CEO.
Firms represented by these 11 people include three general contractors, two firms who function as a general contractor and a subcontractor, a mechanical sub, two architects and two engineers.
Clint Sorensen, 34
Director of Construction Services
Sorensen Companies, Inc. (SCI)
Never has the term ‘Young Guns’ been more appropriate in describing up-and-coming talent in the construction industry than with Chad and Clint Sorensen.
The brothers – who comprise two of four sons of Syracuse-based Sorensen Companies, Inc. (SCI) founder Craig Sorensen that help run the family business – are world-class trap shooters in addition to their leadership roles within the company. Chad, 37, serves as SCI President, while Clint, 34, is the Director of Construction Services. Brothers Cody, 32, and Chase, 30, perform accounting/IT and estimating duties, respectively.
Chad and Clint said they’ve been around guns for as long as they can remember, having grown up hunting deer and water fowl. They were introduced to trap shooting during their early teenage years when they would accompany their father to trap shooting events sponsored by contractor associations such as the Intermountain Utility Contractors Association. From there, the brother’s passion for the sport grew exponentially. >>
“We grew up with a hunting background, got into the contractor (association) shoots, and it evolved from there,” said Clint. “Since then we’ve traveled all over the country, won a lot of competitions and have been able to maintain a place in the Utah Trap Association Men’s State Team (among the Top 10 trap shooters in the state).”
“I’ve always been handy with a shotgun,” said Chad, who bought his first shotgun at age 12 from money he earned selling a litter of puppies. “Once I got a taste of real trap shooting at a real gun club in 2005 I really started chasing competitions all over the state and country. I’ve been shooting thousands of rounds a year since.”
Chad recently competed in the 113th annual Grand American Trapshooting Championship in August in Sparta, Illinois, an 11-day event that draws up to 3,000 participants per day. Chad and Clint both describe the competition as the ‘Super Bowl’ of trapshooting. Chad broke 199 out of 200 traps in the single clay target event from 16 yards, yet didn’t place as 28 of the 2,500 competitors recorded perfect 200 for 200 scores. He also participated in the Western Grand American event in September in Vernal, breaking 100 of 100 traps to claim the doubles championship.
“Its fun competing against the best in the world,” said Chad. “I also love the fact that Clint is an avid shooter and we’ve had the opportunity to shoot together competitively for several years. Besides work it’s something we enjoy doing together.”
As for running the family business, both brothers admit that the industry has been very challenging in recent years. SCI specializes in various underground utility work including telecommunications, fiber optics, traffic signals and other infrastructure, in addition to owning Wasatch Barricade. A 17-year contract it previously had with Qwest expired at the end of 2011 and new owner Century Link went in another direction, forcing the Sorensen brothers to look at other markets and different clients.
“It’s been difficult at times,” said Clint. “That was three-fourths of our revenue at one point. Turning the ship around and maintaining our revenues has been tough. But I believe we’re better, stronger and more diverse because of it. There are a lot of bright spots in our future.”
“It’s been like a roller coaster,” added Chad, who has served as SCI President since 2005. “But it’s been good to diversify ourselves. We’ve been bidding more projects, but we still have the opportunity to be selective on projects that have better margins. The rest of this year looks good and 2014 looks even better.”
Government and Public Affairs Manager
Granite Construction Company
The way Abby Albrecht sees it, the mainstream public’s perception of the construction industry as a ‘blue collar’ industry is simply inaccurate.
“It’s classified as a blue collar industry, but it’s really not,” said Albrecht, 33, who serves as Government and Public Affairs Manager for Granite Construction Company’s North Salt Lake office. “There is so much more to it than meets the eye.”
Promoting the construction industry and helping change perceptions is something Albrecht excels at. As the public liaison of Granite, she gets to rub shoulders with many of Utah’s political movers and shakers, something she thoroughly enjoys doing.
“That’s probably my favorite part of my job – government relations,” said Albrecht, who also manages Granite’s marketing and business development activities. “Anything related to the outside world, any jobs that impact the public, I manage those processes.”
A native of Butte, Montana, Albrecht, 33, was recruited by Granite out of Butte-based Montana Tech, where she was studying business management and marketing. Initially, she took a semester off from school and accepted a co-op position for Granite in Park City as a cost/field engineer. After graduating, she continued in that role for two years then worked remotely from Utah for Granite’s corporate office in Watsonville, California as a Field Information System (FIS) Project Manager, where she helped implement a new electronic system to field crews company-wide. Albrecht ultimately moved into her current role five years ago.
She is also politically active with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Utah, the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, and serves as Program Manager for the Utah Transportation Coalition, which aims to continually improve the heavy/highway construction market.
“Our mission is to collaborate with our partners and with the legislature to make smart choices and secure transportation funding,” she said. “It’s refreshing to live in a state that sees value in what we do as an industry and that understands that an active, diverse and state-of-the-art infrastructure drives the economy. We’re lucky. ”
Albrecht, who in addition to her full-time job and outside public affairs work is the mother of a daughter age three and a son age one, said she intends to remain an active proponent of construction throughout her career.
“In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I probably would have gone into political science,” she admits. “I like making a difference on Capitol Hill and working with the AGC, the Chamber and others on legislative issues. I’d like to stay in the government relations arena and be an advocate for this industry.”
Van Boerum & Frank Associates
When Brad Welch was a child he requested, and received, a broken television for Christmas one year. It was a precursor for his eventual career as a mechanical engineer.
“As a kid I enjoyed taking things apart and putting them together,” said Welch, 33, a Project Manager at Salt Lake-based Van Boerum & Frank Associates (VBFA). “It was fun taking apart that TV. My dad made sure I didn’t touch any parts that would hurt me.”
Welch didn’t envision a career as a mechanical engineer while attending school at the University of Utah, even though he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2005. He said he geared his studies towards aeronautical design, and wound up working for a firm that made airplane parts for three months before he was recruited by VBFA.
“I liked what I saw from the environment and figured it was a good firm to work for,” Welch said. He has designed projects such as recreation centers, swimming pools and ice rinks, in addition to K-12 schools and municipal buildings. He also specializes in energy conservation and sustainable design. Welch said ice rinks are unique projects that require a unique design approach.
“Ice rinks are fun,” he said. “They’re a little more challenging to design. You have to look at things you wouldn’t consider compared to a typical office building.”
He is currently working on an ice rink project at Weber State University in Ogden, in addition to completing an energy model for the Midvale Municipal Center for Midvale City, which will determine how many LEED points the mechanical system will earn.
“We take the system we’ve designed and compare it to the least efficient system that the (building) code will let us design,” Welch explained. “We run a computer simulation with the two different systems and see how much energy savings we can achieve.”
He said the minimum system that will meet code is a packaged variable air volume (VAV) system, while the system VBFA designed is a group loop heat pump system that uses the earth as a heat exchanger.
“Typically on a ground loop heat pump system we see anywhere from a 15% to a 30% energy savings,” said Welch. “We use our past experience to determine which system is most efficient for the particular project.”
As a kid Darin Zwick used to strap on a tool belt and build forts in his backyard. He always felt a strong desire to follow in his family’s footsteps and work in the construction industry.
“I grew up watching job sites with grandpa and dad; it’s always been in my blood to build things,” said Zwick, 36, who is the President/CEO of Zwick Construction, a company founded by his grandfather in 1969, and one the younger Zwick started back up in 2007 after being shuttered for 18 years.
Indeed, Zwick Construction was a major player in Utah’s commercial construction arena when Darin’s father, Craig, accepted a calling from the LDS Church to serve as a Mission President in Chile in July 1989 when Darin was 12 years old.
The younger Zwick ultimately attended college at Brigham Young University, where he studied Construction Management and worked for Salt Lake-based Okland Construction part-time as a Project Engineer. Upon graduating from BYU in 2000, Zwick took a full-time position in Okland’s Tempe, Arizona office, where he stayed for two years before taking a job with Suffolk Construction in Irvine, California. Zwick said all along he envisioned starting up Zwick Construction again. >>
“It was always part of my plan to ultimately resurrect the family business,” said Zwick. “I wasn’t clear on the timing of it. Frankly, I wanted to start it sooner, like as soon as I graduated from school. But my father said ‘you’re not even close to being ready…go get some experience and then we’ll talk.’ I appreciated his advice then, and he continues to be a great consultant to me.”
Zwick also said he appreciates having started the company back up when he did; otherwise he might never have gotten it off the ground.
“It was fortuitous that we started in ’07, because when the recession hit in ’08-’09, it made us figure out how to run a business during the toughest times I had seen in my career,” Zwick said. “I’m grateful to have worked through (the recession). As a company we’re lean and mean, we control our overhead, and it’s been an invaluable experience to run a profitable business in tough times.”
Zwick said his company is in the midst of a significant growth curve, with overall revenues expected to top $70 million in 2013, up from $42 million in 2012. In addition to its Salt Lake headquarters, the firm has an office in City of Industry, California, and projects currently underway in six states including Utah, California, Arizona, Montana, Minnesota and Florida.
“The most impressive part of our growth is that it’s controlled, and that it’s with repeat clients who are taking us into these new areas,” said Zwick. “One of the greatest pieces of advice my father gave me is to make decisions based on value and integrity, not on dollars and cents. You make the right decision first and then determine whether you lost or made money. If we give back to our clients, they’ll give us more work in the future because they
Senior Project Architect
As an architect who specializes in the design of K-12 schools, Philip Wentworth also serves as an adjunct professor at Salt Lake Community College during fall semesters, where he teaches a computer graphics class. His experience as a teacher has given him a unique perspective on how students best learn in a classroom environment, which he then can carry over into his design philosophy.
“Every client we talk to, they want to know our thoughts on what the classroom of the future is like,” said Wentworth, a Senior Project Architect at Salt Lake-based NWL Architects, where he has worked since 1998. “We see the trends. The room itself is still a four-sided room, but we talk about flexibility of space, about smart boards, and going one-on-one with students. Could a student be learning on the steps of a hallway versus a traditional classroom? The classroom makeup is definitely changing, and architecture has to be there to support that.”
Wentworth’s interest in architecture came about initially when he took a drafting class at the College of Eastern Utah in Price at the suggestion of his uncle, Ross Wentworth, a long-time principal at NWL Architects.
“Ross told me to take a drafting class with the intent that he could get me some summer work at his firm,” said Wentworth. “Ross took me under his wing and that has turned into me being here 15 years and loving every minute.”
After completing his freshman year at CEU, Wentworth started at NWL in the summer of ’98 and transferred to the University of Utah, changing his major from art to architecture in the process. He started at the same time the firm moved into its present location in downtown Salt Lake. He spent those first few weeks working as a part-time draftsman and a part-time mover, helping get everyone settled into the new office.
He graduated from the U, earning a Masters in Architecture in 2004, and began managing projects on a full-time basis. He’s worked on numerous K-12 projects in his career, including Wasatch Elementary in Davis County, Timpanogos Elementary in Provo, and Delta High School in Delta, which is slated for completion in October. He’s excited about the future of educational design and appreciates what he’s learned from Ross and other NWL leaders.
“I’ve learned to have patience, and to not make rash decisions,” said Wentworth about his uncle. “Nobody carries that forward like he does. I appreciate his work ethic and the way he goes about getting things done.”
Growing up in India, Rajeev Surapaneni’s father used to take him and his brother on vacations twice a year which consisted of traveling to various historic palaces, monuments, temples and other grand structures which had been built by emperors and rules.
The biannual vacations – including two visits to the nearly 500-year-old Taj Mahal in Agra – proved not only educational for Surapaneni, but extremely inspirational.
“It was fascinating to me that buildings could stand the test of time – literally thousands of years,” said Surapaneni, 33, a structural engineer at BHB Engineering in Salt Lake City. “When you visit these structures you start imaging things, like how they built it. It had a profound influence on my decision to study structural engineering.”
He ultimately earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Osmania University in Hydrabad, India, and then was able to score a teaching assistant position at the University of Utah, which helped fund his graduate tuition fees. Surapaneni ended up landing a research assistant position at the U under Dr. Chris Pantelides, a professor of Civil Engineering.
After receiving his Masters in Civil Engineering, he went to work for BHB in 2005 and has climbed the ranks to his present Associate position. He admits his experience in Utah has been quite different than what he expected based on stereotypes of America that he developed in India.
“Utah was a place I could not have imagined,” said Surapaneni. “I always had some preconceived notions about America based on what you see from Hollywood. It’s so different from what I had imagined growing up. The people in Utah are very nice, and the LDS (Church) culture is very much like conservative Indian culture, which appealed to me. America is great because you always have the latest technology at your fingertips. I also enjoy the ability to learn from other cultures – that is a bonus for people in this country.”
Surapaneni has designed structural systems for projects in a wide range of markets, including K-12, corporate offices, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities. He enjoys the diversity of engineering, and hopes to continue furthering his career at BHB.
“Long term I want to help grow the business, expand our markets, and bring in bigger and better projects,” he said. “I enjoy what I do and appreciate the company I work for.”
Despite growing up working summers for his father’s construction company, Michael Bodell didn’t have any grand designs of making it a career. Yet, after nearly 20 years in the industry, he finds himself in a position to eventually take over Salt Lake-based Bodell Construction when his father, Michael Bodell Sr., retires.
“I never intended to go into the industry until after I graduated from college,” said the younger Bodell, 35, who graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Finance in 2002 and currently serves as Executive Vice President. “I wanted to get some work experience after college but banks weren’t hiring, so I took a job with the family company with the intent to get some work experience and then go to graduate school. But I liked what I was doing so I stuck with it.”
Bodell started working for the family business in 1994 and learned a variety of skills early on. He did concrete work, carpentry, operated equipment and demolition, which he said was his
favorite job. >>
“I got a pretty broad exposure to a lot of things,” he said. “I enjoyed demo the most – I love that stuff.”
Upon graduation he moved from the field into the office, doing project management, estimating, and helping support other project management teams. He said the diversity of his job was a major factor in him choosing to remain at Bodell Construction.
“I decided to stay in construction after being exposed to an office building remodel project in Salt Lake,” Bodell recalled. “I liked the variety of work involved. I did financial and accounting for the project, some marketing, management, safety training and leadership. The variety of work that is involved, the skills that are needed, was interesting to me. And seeing what you built is impressive.”
When he was promoted to his current position in 2007, he started overseeing things on a more company-wide basis, which gave him even greater appreciation for construction.
“It’s very satisfying to see multiple projects come about, to see a team built, and learning to deal with different kinds of people,” said Bodell. “Even the failures, after you recover, you’re glad you had them because you learn from them.”
He said working directly under Mike Sr. has also been rewarding. He appreciates the core values his father established within the company, which was founded in 1972 and has a satellite office in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The firm specializes in heavy industrial and civil-type projects, but also is adept at general building projects. Recent projects Bodell has helped oversee include the Central Weber Wastewater Treatment Plant in Weber County, the Western Zirconium Laser Facility and General Administration Building in Weber County, and Kern River Gas Compression Stations in Utah County.
“My father has been very good to work with, as far as him trusting me and allowing me to make decisions,” said Bodell. “Not every family business is perfect. I thought it would be more bumpy, but it hasn’t been. I imagine in the next couple of years he’ll formally retire. The transition of leadership has been happening naturally and I’ve been gaining more responsibility each year. It’s a slow and steady process, so it works for me.”
VO Brothers Mechanical
In April 2010, Josh Van Orden was named President of VO Brothers Mechanical of Ogden, taking over the reigns from father Chet, who founded the firm in 1994 with his brother Scott. Not bad for someone just 30 years old. But the younger Van Orden has been unfazed, having worked at the family business since he was 14 and possessing the same drive and motivation his father has.
“I inherited ambition through my father,” he said. “We’re always trying new things, seeing what sticks and throwing what doesn’t to the curb. It’s not easy to start a new company, get it branded, and build up a reputation from scratch. You have to be really connected. He let me learn by fire and I’ve screwed up along the way…but it makes you a better person.”
When Van Orden started working at VO in 1994 he was a self-described ‘grunt’ who would do anything from tearing out concrete to cleaning job sites to pushing brooms.
“There is nothing wrong with learning how to work,” said Van Orden, 33.
He has worked full-time at the company since graduating high school and even moonlighted for a couple of years as an erosion control business owner until demand for his time at VO became too great to do both jobs. He said he’s always had a passion for construction.
“I like building stuff, getting involved with schematic design, and partnering with a team and seeing a project through the end,” said Van Orden. “I’m a hands-on guy.”
He said a couple of his favorite recent past jobs include the Weber State University Central Plant in Ogden, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Headquarters in Park City, and the Utah State University Recital Hall in Logan. VO is currently working on the Xactware building in Lehi.
Van Orden is also active with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Utah, serving as a board member and in line to become Chairman in 2015. He is optimistic about his company’s future and in forging the next chapter of his career.
“My goal is for us to be at the forefront of technology, of modeling, and to become more efficient with BIM projects and more adaptive overall,” he said. “I’m passionate about what we do. I have a lot of friends who work with me and it makes it worth getting up in the morning. We need to stay solvent and keep serving our customers.”
Green Construction, Inc.
As one of three brothers helping run the family business, Morgan Green has taken to heart the lessons he has learned over the years from father Brad, who founded Green Construction, Inc. (GCI) of North Salt Lake in 2004.
Green, 30, took over as company CEO at the end of 2011, and recalled the advice he got from his father on how to run the show.
“He gave me three pointers – treat our customers and clients like gold, treat our employees like family, and relentlessly manage our risks,” said Green. “Those are the three things he told me I can’t screw up.”
In addition to Morgan, older brother Micah Green handles the financial side of the business and younger brother Mason does project management.
All three brothers started out in the field, an experience Morgan said is invaluable to anyone who expects to make construction a career.
“The transition in leadership would have never worked had I not been in the field and gained respect there,” said Green. “So when I show up on a job site, our guys know that I understand what is going on. It made it easier for guys in the field to embrace.”
GCI operates as both a general contractor and a subcontractor that specializes in municipal/utility, concrete paving, site work, excavation, and underground construction. As the firm nears its 10th anniversary, Green is confident the firm is on track for greater growth and better productivity.
“We’re optimistically growing,” he said. “We have a good track record of growth, even during these past few years. I used to be driven by (gross) revenue at first, but I’ve learned that it’s about quality and watching the bottom line. We’re pushing hard to get our name out there with our underground utility and excavation work. Not as many of the big general contractors know that we do underground construction and excavation so we’re pushing hard for complete site packages.”
GCI recently completed all underground utilities on the massive NSA project in Bluffdale, and is currently doing concrete site work on LDS Temples in Payson and Ogden, including curb and gutter, concrete paving, stairs and architectural walls for fountains and planters.
“We like to general contract projects when we can,” he added, “but we also like being a sub to generals, both in the civil and commercial building worlds.”
Jesse Allen said he was always interesting in creativity and using his imagination, whether it was building tree forts or playing with Lego blocks and spending hours at a time creating virtual worlds with SIM City video games. So pursuing a career as an architect seemed like a natural progression, even as he switched his path from civil engineering to landscape architecture to architecture. He ultimately earned a Masters in Architecture from the University of Utah.
“I definitely wanted to go into something where I could create and design,” said Allen, 32, a Design Architect at Salt Lake-based GSBS Architects since 2007. “I realized I had more of an artistic ability, which is why I switched to design rather than stay in engineering.”
Allen said he enjoys working at a large architectural firm like GSBS, consistently one of Utah’s top five firms based on annual revenues. He mentioned Dale Berreth and Kevin Miller as two principals who have been valuable mentors to him.
“Dale has been real influential in >> giving me opportunities to design and work on very significant projects at an early point in my career,” said Allen. “He’s taught me a lot of rules and methods regarding conceptual design and space layout. Kevin has mentored me from more of a professional development and leadership side, while Dale has mentored me from a project design side.”
Allen has been part of the design team on two highly significant projects in the past three years. He worked on the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah, helping design the faceted atrium walls in the lobby which involved complex geometry that required advanced software and analysis. He also got to design curved linear spaces in the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, including the atrium, main lobby stairway, and curved community rooms.
“I like working at a large firm and being on projects that require a whole team of professionals, where everyone uses their strengths,” he said. “I enjoy working at GSBS and look forward to designing more exciting projects and working towards a leadership position.” n