Some say the third time is a charm. For ENR Southeast's third annual Top 20 Under 40 competition, the adage holds true.
This time, the publication received a record number of nominations. More than 80 up-and-coming Southeast construction industry leaders vied for recognition—which is earned based not only on an individual's professional accomplishments, but on community involvement.
This year's 20 Under 40 program was bigger in other ways as well. In response to reader feedback, ENR editors expanded the contest to include all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
As part of this expansion, ENR Southeast accepted entries from three additional places—Alabama, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. This was in addition to nominations accepted from its standard coverage states of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
To earn this distinction, Top 20 Under 40 nominees had to impress ENR Southeast's independent panel of judges with their accomplishments in the following areas: industry leadership; career progress; community outreach; and involvement in landmark or sustainable projects.
With more than 80 entries, this year's judges were challenged in their efforts to narrow the field to the final 20. Our panel of seven judges included four previous winners of the Top 20 Under 40 contest: Heather Denny, president of McDonald York Building Co., Raleigh; MacAdam Glinn, a vice president in the Chicago office of Skanska USA Building; Jenn McAlister, a project manager with Willis A. Smith Construction Co., Sarasota, Fla.; and Frank Rygiel, a senior project manager with Batson-Cook Co., Tampa. Other judges were Ted Garrison of Garrison & Associates, Ormond Beach, Fla.; Janet Puglisi, director of marketing with KHS&S Contractors, Tampa; and Denise Santiago, a vice president of Builders-Plus, Boynton Beach, Fla.
Our judges have chosen another impressive group. Read on and be inspired.
Green-building advocate achieved several sustainable 'firsts'
Abney + Abney Green Solutions, Palm City, Fla.
After working for several years as a project manager for a large commercial builder, Kyle Abney asked himself, "If I could do anything, what would I do?" The result was Abney + Abney Green Solutions, a sustainable building firm he founded with his wife.
Abney's 4-year-old green venture has more than a dozen commercial projects and more than 3,000 residential homes in the firm's portfolio. The success isn't that surprising, though. In 2001, Abney was the nation's first person to earn a master's degree in building construction with a concentration in sustainability.
Abney is active in the Florida Green Building Coalition and served as 2008-10 president of the South Florida chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. He is a veteran speaker on sustainability.
Industry veteran accepted into Harvard leadership program
37, Project Executive-Operations
Skanska USA Building, Tampa
As a 10-year veteran of Skanska USA Building, O.T. Delancy has earned a solid reputation as a company leader—so much so that the contractor sponsored his acceptance into Harvard Business School's High Potential Leadership Program. The course "readies emerging leaders for managing today's toughest business challenges," according to the school.
Delancy, who also has a law degree, has led several of the firm's Tampa-area outreach efforts—including its Construction Management Building Blocks programs—which consist of structured classes focusing on mentoring, instructional guidance and business development support for local and small businesses. While maintaining a focus on education projects, Delancy also helped lead Skanska's Tampa Museum of Art and related Curtis Hixon Park projects.
Has a knack for building effective teams driven by relationships
37, Senior Director-Business Development
Starr Electric Co., Raleigh, N.C.
Success in construction often boils down to relationships. David Evans excels at this aspect of the business, according to Ryan Wathen, a senior vice president with Charlotte, N.C.-based Rodgers Builders and a former Top 20 Under 40 recipient.
"David is the embodiment of the modern business development executive," Wathen stated in his nomination of Evans. "His ability to build teams is remarkable, and many of the best contractors and engineers in the Southeast depend upon him for his knowledge and expertise."
Evans has business development responsibilities for all five Starr Electric Co. offices. Additionally, he has worked to expand Starr's building information modeling department and has pushed the firm into the modular data center market.
Structural engineer is passionate about field's impact on humanity
35, Chief Structural Principal
Structural Engineering Partnership, Orlando
Over the course of his 13 years in the industry, Joel Figueroa-Vallines has racked up a long list of industry accomplishments. At age 21, he was the only undergraduate to participate in a graduate student program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that focused on a Caribbean heavy-rail project.
Since then, Figueroa-Vallines has worked as chief project engineer for the Duke Energy Center and Tryon Street Tunnel projects in Charlotte. He also founded two companies. And he served as structural engineer for a building hardened to withstand winds in excess of 220 mph.
Also, he is seeking a patent for a structural system that uses green strategies while speeding multistory construction. Currently, he is working on a project in Haiti where he plans to put this system to the test.