The Texas and Louisiana construction market continues to be among the healthiest in the country, thanks to a booming energy sector and ample need for the infrastructure, residential and commercial growth that goes hand in hand with a strong economy. It is not only the established men and women who make the region's construction sector strong but also the rising stars who are becoming major players in helping to grow the industry.
To honor these new faces, each of ENR's regional publications highlights the achievements of 20 outstanding young construction professionals in the annual Top 20 Under 40 competition.
Winners in the 2014 class include presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, founders and managers. Roughly 50 entries were submitted for individuals who work primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
Some honorees found their career paths early in life, influenced by a love of drawing or building. Others followed a family member into the construction field or credited the help of supportive companies that guided them early in their careers. Several winners have already founded their own companies.
An expert jury of industry leaders spent several weeks considering the nominees based on career experience, industry leadership and community service, among other factors.
For 2014, our judges included: John S. Marshall, vice president, Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc.; John Hero, business development manager, Hill & Wilkinson; and Jennifer Woodruff, director of marketing, Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston. Also on the panel were Jennifer Berthiaume, GIS analyst, ARCADIS U.S. Inc., and Kendy Guillaume, associate principal/director at Houston, Jordan & Skala Engineers Inc., both of whom were past recipients of the Top 20 Under 40 award.
We hope that you'll read on to learn more about some of the region's top young professionals and their many accomplishments.
Stephanie L. Bache
Recognized water project expert
39, Project Manager/Office Manager
Parsons Environment & Infrastructure
Stephanie Bache began her civil engineering career by joining the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Zambia, doing grassroots water and sanitation projects in a rural, subsistence-farming village.
"The four years I spent in Africa after college were instrumental in both my life and career," Bache says. "Prior to Africa, I hadn't thought about specializing in water projects. I have focused on water since."
Bache joined Parsons in 2004. As office manager for the Water Division in Dallas, she leads all business development endeavors while working on high-profile water-supply projects such as the Tarrant Integrated Pipeline Project.
Bache is a Parsons High Potential Employee and part of the General Management Acceleration and Leadership Council programs. She has also served in leadership positions in several professional societies.
James M. Benham
IT expert innovates in own start-up
34, President and CEO
JB Knowledge Technologies Inc.
James Benham founded JB Knowledge Technologies Inc., an information technology firm, from his dorm room while in his final year at Texas A&M University.
"A general contractor found my company in 2006 and asked us to customize an automated, Web-based bid invitation platform. We were approached by several more contractors looking for something similar and quickly realized there was a need in the construction-tech industry we could address," Benham says. The resulting platform, SmartBidNet, now has 400-plus clients and 7,000-plus users.
In 2013, Benham established the Research Valley Technology Council and serves as a mentor for his former Corps of Cadets outfit at Texas A&M. Benham currently serves on the Bryan Chamber of Commerce as well.
Colombia native drives diversity
36, Associate, Arch III
Yesenia Blandon began her career in her native Colombia as an elementary school teacher. She transitioned to architecture "with the hope of being a first-generation college graduate after experiencing first hand how good design and social responsibility can change the lives of entire communities," she says.
Blandon earned a bachelor's degree and a master's in architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. She joined Perkins +Will in 2007, working on several large-scale projects, including the Texas Woman's University Science Building, the University Hospital of San Antonio and the Overland Park Medical Center.
Blandon is a LEED Accredited Professional specializing in building design and construction. She co-founded the American Institute of Architects' Dallas Latinos in Architecture Committee in 2010.
35, Project Manager
Parsons Transportation Group
Russell Clark is currently the deputy project manager for Parsons on the $1.2-billion I-35E Design-Build Project in Dallas. He is also responsible for managing road projects in Parsons' South Jordan, Utah, office, plus all of Parsons' engineering marketing efforts in Idaho. Clark is one of Parsons' youngest design-build project managers and currently one of the firm's few certified project managers. He is also Parsons' leading expert on diverging diamond interchanges.
Clark is involved at both a local and national level with the American Council of Engineering Cos. in both Utah and Idaho.
"My goal is to lead a billion-dollar-plus design-build project before I am 40," he says.