In preparation for the upcoming Future Leaders Lab, ABC named the three finalists for ABC’s 2nd annual Young Professional of the Year Award who were selected among a group of nominees representing 20 ABC chapters across the country. Finalists were chosen based on their career achievement, leadership and vision for future industry enhancement. 

Meet the three finalists below, and learn a little bit more about their journey with ABC and the construction industry.

1. Andrew B. Lopez - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Vice President, Cajun Industries, LLC 
ABC Pelican Chapter

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

Much of my life has been dedicated to service to the community that raised me and to an industry that forged me. My hope is that through service to the industry I give more than I take, educate more than ignore and inspire more than discourage.     As an active member of ABC, I aspire to help preserve one of the last true free-enterprise industries in this country.   There is no purer form of competition, across all industries and markets, than that found in Construction. It is not by chance that we call our conference room "The War Room" on bid day. This is because at a bid opening they don't read aloud the bidders race, gender, years in business or labor affiliation. By design they award on price; to interject anything into that would be an injustice.   As a young leader, my impact over the next ten years will be to promote competition by fighting every day to maintain what has been entrusted in us to carry on: The Merit Shop Philosophy.

What is one piece of advice you would offer other young professionals in the construction industry?

Out-work everyone! Our industry rewards effort above all things.

What is one thing about ABC you enjoy the most or one valuable thing ABC has taught you?
Through involvement in ABC, I quickly realized that by collectively investing our time, talent and treasure we could truly have a greater impact than acting alone, and that is a gratifying concept. I also have come to gain a deep understanding of the founding virtues of ABC and the Merit Shop Philosophy. These tenets have been instrumental in the success of my career and personal life.

2. Brooke Wenger – Hagerstown, MD

Director of Business Development, Triad Engineering, Inc. 
ABC Cumberland Valley Chapter

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

As I progress through my career as a young professional, I hope to gain knowledge and experience to be shared with the next generation.  With all the talk and evidence of a generational gap of personnel in the A/E/C industry, I feel some responsibility to help alleviate this situation.  If we as the current young professional don’t have conversation with those to come next, the message doesn’t get shared and the industry will not get the uplift we are all striving for.  I hope I have started to have an impact, even if locally, with my leadership and involvement with the YPG of our chapter. Not only do I get the chance to build my network and leadership skills, I get to ask for and encourage the young professionals around me to start having the conversation with those they know.  The younger generation needs to know having a lifelong career in the A/E/C industry is an option and very attainable.  If we can mentor and train young professionals already in the industry, we start the gap closure.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other young professionals in the industry?
One of my mentor’s once said, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”  This suggestion has proven invaluable for me. By speaking up, volunteering, asking questions, I’ve been able to gain confidence, build trust, and continually move forward.

What is one thing about ABC you enjoy the most or one valuable thing ABC has taught you?

ABC has provided exposure to powerful leaders within the industry which in turn has grown my professional network. Through interactions with these leaders, as well as other colleagues, I’ve become much more knowledgeable of and involved with politics. More now than ever, this is important to me because what happens today, affects my 4-year old daughter’s tomorrow.

3. Rob Griffith – Indianapolis, Indiana

Vice President, Gaylor Electric Inc.
ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter

What have you done to support and promote ABC's commitment to Free Enterprise and the Merit Shop Philosophy?
It all began with my involvement with ABC.  As a part of my family’s entrepreneurial efforts to run a Merit Shop company, we knew that ABC was the only trade association that aligned with our company vision.  I committed to ABC’s 4-year apprenticeship program in which I learned the electrical trade and honed my own views about performance, integrity, and merit.  I was blessed to graduate as top apprentice and win the State Craft Championship and literally became a merit and training ambassador.  I joined a leading merit shop member whose has the respect of all people in the industry as a model company for ABC membership and the merit shop cause.  At the same time I was honored to become the chairman of ABC Indiana/Kentucky apprenticeship trustees where I can fully impact the nearly 1,000 apprentices and be a spokesperson and role model in the industry.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other young professionals in the industry?
It takes discipline to stay the course, a willingness to take the necessary risks and the integrity to accept responsibility for failures.  The road to true success travels through deep valleys and over high peaks.   You must remain humble in your victories and determined amidst your defeats.  It will not always be easy, but each new day grants us the opportunity to strive to achieve our dreams.  

What is one thing about ABC you enjoy the most or one valuable thing ABC has taught you?

The core belief of the merit shop philosophy… it’s truly amazing that almost 21,000 members share common goals for the betterment of the Industry.  Since my first interactions with ABC, our members have demonstrated the willingness to share, support and educate fellow contractors to further their success.