Sara Beth Wilcox signing a beam at a topping-out ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Sara Beth Wilcox
Allison Stewart-Harris pictured with her son in a local community garden.
Photo courtesy of Allison Stewart-Harris
Daniel Nickols Jr. performs resident engineering services and construction management at Flagler Executive Airport.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Nickols Jr.
Aneesh Goly is pictured working with some of the testing equipment he developed.
Photo courtesy of Aneesh Goly
Rachael Bisnett on site at the Red Rock Hydroelectric Dam project.
Photo courtesy of Rachael Bisnett
Ryan Nash shows pride in prefab work being done by his company.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Nash
Kalyan R. Piratla (right), does field work with a Clemson University student.
Photo courtesy of Kalyan R. Piratla
Jonathan Williams (left), mayor of Spencer, N.C., recognizes the outgoing town manager in late 2020.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Williams
An expert in parking and mobility strategies, appropriately located in Atlanta. A geotechnical engineer who was inspired by her civil-engineer mother. A deep-foundations expert who developed new technologies to assess existing infrastructure. Multiple multitalented community leaders making impacts across the Southeast.
That is just a sampling of the impressive, and inspiring, talent represented in the 2022 class of ENR Southeast’s Top Young Professionals. Indeed, in 2021, the Southeast construction industry needed the best efforts of these talented up-and-coming leaders to not only overcome the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, but also to address massive challenges such as water quality and the coming impacts of climate change.
And while the construction industry’s long-term struggle to attract a sufficient number of workers continues, it’s reassuring to learn that such considerable talent—as is represented in the following pages—is already at work in the Southeast’s construction industry.
The annual competition recognizes up-and-coming construction industry professionals who exhibit notable achievements in terms of career and industry leadership, community service and creating landmark projects for the region.
This year, ENR Southeast enlisted the services of four outstanding industry professionals as our Top Young Professionals judges. In fact, all of this year’s judges were named Southeast Top Young Professionals a year ago. They include: Wheeler Crook, vice president of engineering, Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood Inc., Montgomery, Ala.; Erika Grace, project manager-environment, AECOM, Greenville, S.C.; Bradley Lockwood, vice president, Moseley Architects, Raleigh; and Jennifer Todd, founder and president of LMS General Contractors Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.
ENR Southeast invites readers to peruse the profiles of this year’s Top Young Professionals and review the honorees’ accomplishments.
Talented leader also works to develop tomorrow’s builders
Shawmut Design and Construction
Over the past four years, Lisa Bendas has established herself as one of South Florida’s most versatile construction managers. Her impressive portfolio includes multiple projects for luxury electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors, a 45,000-sq-ft STEM facility for Ransom Everglades School and amenity spaces and tenant fit-outs for Related Companies’ retail centers. Bendas developed detail-oriented processes for consistently delivering high-quality work while also capturing valuable insights and lessons learned, enhancing the knowledge base of current and future colleagues.
Her commitment to empower and inspire the next generation of builders includes dedicating time to Girls Go Build, which introduces Delray Beach, Fla., middle school students to the AEC industry and encourages them to explore and expand math- and science-based learning. Bendas also regularly participates in panel discussions to share her experience and passion for construction, helping young women learn about the industry’s many different career avenues.
Managing 12 project managers and assistant project managers, including some based in Boston and Chicago, Bendas is known for building strong relationships. Additionally, her past experience includes remotely managing projects in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Geotechnical engineer was inspired by her mother, a civil engineer
Inspired by her mother, a civil engineer in the hydropower industry, Rachael Bisnett turned her childhood curiosity about how propeller turbines work into a successful career as a geotechnical engineer with special expertise in the analysis, design and construction of hydroelectric projects. Early in her career, she served as geotechnical engineer for civil operations and maintenance for the addition of lock complexes at the Panama Canal. Bisnett now plays a key role in managing the Corps of Engineers’ Orange County Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, spanning 26.5 miles of levee and floodwalls near the Texas coast. She also served as the lead geotechnical engineer and project technical lead for the award-winning Red Rock Hydroelectric Project.
An active member of the U.S. Society on Dams, Bisnett has authored more than a dozen technical papers and participated in numerous workshops. She also welcomes opportunities to return to her alma mater, Purdue University, to share her experiences with student groups and teach prep courses in engineering fundamentals.
Water/wastewater expert seeks out projects using alternative delivery
Southeast Distribution and Conveyance Lead
Phillip Dieckmann has applied his expertise in water/wastewater distribution and conveyance systems to enhance the quality and safety of municipal infrastructure systems across the Southeast. In 2021, he oversaw completion of the city of Columbia, S.C.’s $23-million Lake Katherine Gravity Sewer project, an effort that integrated 3,500 linear ft of 30-in. sewer pipe within an existing residential development and around a 150-acre lake, and required extensive coordination with other utility projects in the vicinity.
Dieckmann has also been on the forefront in managing projects that utilize alternative-delivery methods. He served as design and construction manager for the Belmont Water Main Project, which was delivered using the engineer-procure-construct method. From the outset of his career, Dieckmann has strived to expand industry knowledge and information via conference presentations and special-topic webinars developed for AECOM colleagues across the country.
Atlanta-based professional focuses on parking and mobility strategies
Jeffrey Elsey has worked to influence local and national progressive land use development by developing cutting-edge parking and mobility strategies for some of the country’s most complex urban development projects. For example, he spearheaded creation of modeling software that calculates and minimizes parking demands in urban environments, reducing carbon emissions and lowering construction costs.
Several of the nation’s leading land-use and planning organizations have adopted the model as the “gold standard” for right-sized parking. Elsey’s industry participation also includes serving on committees tasked with tackling the challenges of creating healthier, more livable environments within existing cities.
Equally passionate about diversity and inclusion (D&I), Elsey has helped lead several internal initiatives, including establishing Kimley-Horn’s first LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group. In the local community, he serves on the Midtown Neighbors Association Committee.
Devloped new technologies for assessing existing infrastructure
Riviera Beach, Fla.
Combining his experience in deep foundation testing, predictive analytics and other technical disciplines, Aneesh Goly has designed and developed several innovative tools for assessing the condition of foundation piles, analyzing hydrological data and budgeting water resources. In addition to multiple conference presentations and technical articles, Goly has collaborated with universities on research projects to better understand the performance of underground foundation structures under various conditions. That expertise made Goly the ideal person to lead SmartStructures, which uses wireless embedded data collector technology to help transportation agencies and infrastructure system owners assess pile capacity and integrity in real time. Along with working with other firm leaders to streamline company processes and outcomes, Goly has implemented programs aimed at encouraging employees to upgrade their professional skills while also fostering an environment that promotes work-life balance and community involvement.
Leads tech adoption, investment arm for design-builder
Director of Strategy and Technology Investment
The Haskell Co.
Cutler Knupp’s team focuses on validating the application and value of emerging technologies that hold the promise of revolutionizing the AEC industry. He also directs pilot programs for emerging technology across Haskell projects and combines targeted measurements with user feedback to fully gauge their effectiveness. In this role, he looks beyond merely employing the latest technology and investigates potential growth opportunities, either by investment or future acquisition.
Knupp’s proudest industry achievements are connectedd with his efforts to advance safety in the field. For example, he helped develop a virtual reality safety training and hazard awareness platform modeled after actual jobsite risk situations and collaborated on a patent-pending device to conduct remote pressure testing of mechanical systems.
In 2020, Knupp joined other industry leaders in forming the NEXT coalition, which encourages technology start-ups to find solutions to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic’s current and long-term impacts. He also enjoys mentoring young students and is a guest lecturer on enterprise technology at the University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business.
Works equally hard at giving back to community groups
Vice President of Operations
Coastal Construction Co.
Throughout his career, Nick Krarup has consistently proven himself as a versatile project manager, leading the construction of high-rise office and residential towers, educational buildings and large military facilities across Florida. Additionally, he has facilitated training programs for younger professionals entering the industry and helped mentor younger employees embarking on their own careers. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Krarup facilitated a partnership between the United Way of Monroe County and the nonprofit arm of ABC’s Florida East Coast Chapter to provide financial support to contractors and construction industry professionals affected by the storm.
Also, Krarup recently participated in the Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Miami Program. There, he helped lead a team of 14 professionals to win the Outstanding Project of the Year. The project entailed renovating a church building into a multi-use day care facility for Branches, an urban and social justice nonprofit organization. He was able to obtain pro-bono donations from various firms to facilitate the renovation, including new flooring, paint, light fixtures and a revamped electrical system.
A graduate of the University of Florida’s Rinker School of Construction Management, Krarup helped establish a highly successful fishing tournament that has raised nearly a half-million dollars for the school.
Keeping busy upgrading network infrastructure across the country
Cybersecurity Sector Lead for Utilities and Transportation
1898 & Co.
Jeff Macre has led more than 300 information and operations technology projects across the Southeast, including network infrastructure upgrades, configuration of security information event management systems and identification and implementation of appropriate compliance standards. Since the 2019 launch of 1898 & Co., Burns & McDonnell’s technology consulting arm, he has led or facilitated nearly 70 technology implementation consulting efforts for clients such as FP&L and the U.S. Air Force.
As a leader in cybersecurity, Macre participates in conferences and other industry events to share his expertise and advance the industry’s knowledge of best practices. He also serves as an adjunct professor for the cybersecurity defense program at the University of Central Florida. In the community, Macre regularly volunteers for Read2Succeed, an Orange County Public Schools tutoring program that supports students in need of literacy development assistance.
Leads diverse teams to implement solutions for environmental issues
Environmental Services Manager
Erin Murphy’s demonstrated skill in balancing infrastructure needs with stewardship of the environment has helped communities, transportation agencies and energy companies find sustainable, resilient and socially equitable solutions to often complex development challenges. She leads a diverse 30-person team of environmental planners, ecologists, air/noise specialists, historians and archaeologists that has provided services for high-profile projects funded via the Georgia Dept. of Transportation’s $11-billion Major Mobility Investment Program. Murphy is also active in the Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality, which strives to strengthen relationships between GDOT and state consulting engineers.
Along with helping raise the profile of women as leaders in the AEC industry, Murphy is a regular participant in VHB’s many community activities, including the Atlanta Community Food Bank and cleanup work along Atlanta’s Beltline.
Helped launch two new divisions for his company
Nash Plumbing & Mechanical
Ryan Nash’s skill as an engineer and project manager has been consistently demonstrated through a variety of complex, high-profile projects for the military, government, financial and health care clients. His biggest accomplishment may well be helping the company successfully navigate the coronavirus pandemic, overcoming staffing and supply obstacles to deliver high-profile jobs on time and on budget. Nash’s efforts allowed Orlando Health Horizons West Hospital and the Center for Advanced Healthcare focus on their mission of serving their communities while also implementing critical building systems upgrades. Aditionally, under his leadership, Nash successfully launched two brand new divisions, Special Projects and Commercial Service.
A life-long learner, Nash encourages his team members to grow both personally and professionally via seminars, industry groups and internal professional development programs. In addition to his degree in building construction management, Nash also has earned state certification as a plumbing contractor, mechanical contractor and medical gas contractor and is a certified quality control manager by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also participates in efforts such as iBuild Central Florida and the Jacksonville-area HVAC Apprenticeship Program.
Water industry leader expertise backed by academic background
Water team leader
Plummer Associates Inc.
Boasting a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a doctoral degree in environmental engineering from the University of Central Florida, Andrea Netcher has proven herself a passionate advocate for the water industry. In addition to working to find new, improved water-treatment options, Netcher also advocates for advanced education and industry licensing. Her dissertation research—which was partly sponsored by the Water Research Foundation—focused on the application of alternative chemical and biological treatment processes. Netcher’s findings had real-world impacts, helping the County of Maui, Hawaii, Dept. of Water Supply save $5 million in construction costs by identifying and evaluating alternative integrated treatment strategies. Netcher recently joined Plummer Associates after working for a national consulting firm, where she gained broad experience with bench and pilot testing, membrane treatment, disinfection and disinfection byproduct control, water quality compliance and design, permitting and construction administration.
As Florida water team leader for Plummer Associates, she works with area, practice and team leaders and the executive team to support developing Plummer’s Florida business. She enjoys diverse responsibilities that vary between business development, marketing, project delivery and project management on a regular basis.
Also, Netcher currently is the incoming chair of the Central Florida section of the American Water Works Association, where she earned recognition in 2019 as Volunteer of the Year.
Daniel Nickols Jr.
Improves the firm’s project delivery process for aviation work
Assistant engineering manager
GAI Consultants, Inc.
Rising in the ranks of GAI’s aviation division, Daniel Nickols is doing so through a combination of contributions to notable projects as well as charitable work. Shortly after graduating from Michigan State University with a civil engineering degree in 2009, Nickols would soon serve as construction inspector at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, where he worked on two projects totaling more than $70 million. With GAI since 2016, Nickols now leads the firm’s Florida aviation team, managing engineers responsible for projects totaling over $2 million in design and construction management fees annually. Nickols works with the team to develop and implement practical design solutions for GAI’s clients.
Additionally, Nickols was recently tasked with creating and standardizing engineering workflows, processes and templates for GAI’s aviation design. Pulling from experience, he was able to simplify and standardize GAI’s project delivery process for its aviation projects, allowing for smoother on-boarding and training of the firm’s staff of aviation professionals.
Originally from a blue-collar family, today Nickols seeks to give back to his community, and has provided his support to a diverse group of organizations, including the Jewish Pavilion, Jewish Community Center, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Rotary Club of Flagler Beach, Fla.
Kalyan R. Piratla
Professor works to discover new approaches to challenges
Associate professor of civil engineering
Kalyan Piratla, the Liles Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Clemson University, earned his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, and obtained his PhD in construction management from Arizona State University.
During his nine-year academic career at Clemson, Piratla’s research has focused on critical infrastructure management, such as pipeline leakage detection, resilient water infrastructure management and trenchless utility construction practices. He has taught multiple classes at Clemson on topics such as underground construction methods, construction estimating and project control, building information modeling and economic evaluation of projects.
Additionally, he directs Clemson’s Center for Research in Underground Infrastructure Systems Engineering (CRUISE) lab. The lab is externally funded and supports research carried out by multiple undergraduate, graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher.
Turning his attention of late to the subject of efficient transportation project delivery, Piratla has helped secure more than $2 million in external funding for research from agencies including the National Science Foundation, the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. For his research efforts, he has been recognized by the North American Society for Trenchless Technology as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Helped lead his company to lofty heights in the solar market
President – solar
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Since first joining Moss Construction as a project engineer in 2007 after graduating from the University of Florida, Edwin Perkins has risen to now lead the contractor’s nationwide solar business unit, which earned $800 million in contracts during 2021. In this role, he oversees day-to-day operations, strategic planning, preconstruction and completion of utility-scale solar projects throughout North America and the Caribbean, managing a team of more than 350 salaried employees and 900 hourly workers.
In 2019, Perkins worked with the Moss safety team to implement JobSiteCare, a physician-led medical-technology platform supporting the contractor’s remote solar teams with health care for any injured or ill workers. The successful initiative proved well-timed, as Moss was able implement the platform universally in 2020, helping the firm to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.
He recently helped coordinate a $105,000 donation from the Moss Foundation to Student ACES, a nonprofit organization that funds a solar workforce development program that exposes students to jobs in the solar industry. Perkins offered all 25 graduates of the program’s first class with positions at Moss Solar.
Atlanta planning manager is a sought-after speaker
Community planning manager
With more than 15 years of experience guiding local, long-range planning projects throughout the Southeast, Allison Stewart-Harris, has helped create a new land use and community planning practice at VHB. By developing relationships with transportation planners and engineers, real estate professionals and environmental resource specialists, she’s emerged as a recognized leader and sought-after speaker for cross-industry organizations focusing on urban planning trends and best practices.
Her efforts led to her selection for the Arts Leadership of Metro Atlanta class of 2020, and she is under consideration as a finalist for the Urban Land Institute Atlanta Center for Leadership Class of 2022. Additionally, she is active within ULI Atlanta’s Women’s Leadership Initiative Committee, where she leads a bi-monthly book club that focuses on the goal of raising the profile of women in the world of real estate development.
Stewart-Harris also previously served as vice president of programs with the 1,000-plus member Georgia Planning Association, where she was responsible for planning two state-wide conferences per year.
Seeks solutions to the challenges of climate change
Senior director resilience and sustainable development
Coral Gables, Fla.
Lauren Swan’s role as director of resilience and sustainable development for AECOM’s U.S. East and Latin America region is a big and important one—helping clients adjust to the coming impacts of climate change. Adept at bringing together technical specialists, community stakeholders and public officials to address specific looming challenges, Swan’s success comes from her ability to bring disparate parties together around resilient and sustainable solutions.
For example, during her involvement with the Greater Miami and the Beaches Resilient305 Strategy effort, she helped officials with Miami-Dade County and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach find agreement for a joint resilience strategy. She then brought together the remaining 32 governments in the county to collaborate toward implementing the overall strategy. The challenging assignments continue, with Swan now working as project manager for the Miami Carbon Neutrality Plan.
Has helped lead numerous design-build projects for Airbus
Vice president and division manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
Starting out at Brasfield & Gorrie as a co-op, Michael Tortorici has risen in the ranks, having overseen more than 70 projects with a combined total value of more than $800 million. He now serves as aerospace and industrial division manager, where he is responsible for securing the division’s work and supporting its project teams. In this role, he’s helped lead numerous design-build projects for Airbus in Mobile, Ala., including the $110-million A220 Final Assembly Line and Logistics Center.
Tortorici also has been involved with exemplifying Brasfield & Gorrie’s One Company approach. For example, he recently got the aerospace and industrial division to join forces with another company division to share resources, experience and talent to secure a major project. This effort led to a successful project win, with Tortorici assigned to oversee the $175-million Royal Canin greenfield pet food manufacturing facility project in Lewisburg, Ohio, which recently commenced construction.
Recognized as Young Engineer of the Year in 2017 by the Engineering Council of Birmingham, Ala., Tortorici is heavily involved in leadership development within Brasfield & Gorrie by serving on the recruiting steering committee and engagement with the diversity and inclusion committee. He also is a member of the United Way Young Leaders Society.
Aimee S. Turner
Multi-talented engineer boasts technical, leadership skills
Traffic department manager
One of Croy’s youngest department leaders, Aimee Turner has excelled in her role by helping land new clients and projects while adapting to the reality of the COVID pandemic in finding creative ways to lead public involvement activities virtually.
With experience contributing to more than 60 traffic studies and over 10 transportation planning studies, the Georgia Tech civil-engineering graduate recently tackled the recent SkyTrain Way Traffic Flow and Simulation Study for the city of College Park, Ga.
Instrumental in winning the city as a new client, Turner not only helped develop Croy’s winning proposal, but served as the project manager and lead traffic operations engineer to assess the most appropriate lane configuration for the project, currently under construction.
Committed to her professional development and to becoming a company and industry leader, Turner has participated in several leadership development courses, including ACEC Georgia’s Future Leaders Program in 2021, Georgia ITE’s Leadership Program in 2019 and the Cobb Chamber’s Next Generation Mentoring Program. Turner is a certified professional engineer in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. She is also a certified professional traffic operations engineer and is a Level III certified International Municipal Signal Association traffic signal technician.
Sara Beth Wilcox
Talented manager works to mentor women in the industry
Senior project manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
A 16-year construction industry veteran, Sara Beth Wilcox has spent the last nine years with Brasfield & Gorrie. In that time, she has already managed an estimated 80 projects worth a combined total of nearly $240 million.
A graduate of Auburn University with a degree in building science, she joined Brasfield & Gorrie in 2012. Internally, Wilcox leads the company via her involvement in its Women’s Operational Resource Group, which aims to support women through networking, mentorships and education opportunities.
She’s also active in the company’s Recruitment Steering Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, among others. She also spends significant time assisting with Brasfield & Gorrie’s recruitment efforts by participating in interviews and regularly speaking at recruitment and orientation events. She also serves on Auburn University’s McWhorter School of Building Science Industry Advisory Council.
From an early age, his scientific mind led him to engineering
Deputy water business group operations manager
As an intellectually curious youngster, Jonathan Williams would enter science fairs to explore topics like hurricane forces on roof structures. In eighth grade, that interest led him to connect with Clemson University professors who operated a wind-tunnel test facility, thus encouraging his interest in engineering. After starting his career at HDR in 2006 as a structural engineer, Williams later became involved with water-supply planning for Duke Energy and several river basin organizations.
That eventually led to his leadership as deputy program manager for the $200-million Yadkin Regional Water Supply project for Union County, N.C., which provides the county a sustainable water supply.
Additionally, Williams recently served three years as chair of Spencer, N.C.’s Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment, which spurred him to seek out other leadership roles and public service. As a result, Williams now serves as mayor of Spencer. Also, he is involved with planning the annual tri-state Confluence Conference for the American Water Works Association’s North Carolina chapter and is active in the Water Environment Federation and American Public Works Association.
Scott Judy is Deputy Editor for Regions, and editor of ENR Southeast, one of Engineering News-Record's 10 Regional publications. His roughly 27 years as a construction journalist began with an 11-year stint covering Midwest construction projects. In 2000, Judy helped launch the publication now known as ENR Southeast. He often delves into controversial aspects of the construction industry such as bankruptcies and fatal accidents, and wishes he would never have to cover another accident but suspects that he might.
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