Six EKU Grads Worked on Gray Construction Project Touted by President Obama

Photo inside Siemens gas turbine facility, Charlotte

Six Eastern Kentucky University graduates – five from the university’s construction management program – played key roles in a job-producing project mentioned by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

The six are employed by Gray Construction, of Lexington, which was selected by Siemens Energy Inc. to construct a 490,000-square-foot gas turbine manufacturing expansion to its existing facility in Charlotte, N.C. At the time of construction, it was the largest project for Siemens worldwide – and the largest project in Charlotte in 30 years. Siemens, which builds and refurbishes gas turbines for U.S. and worldwide customers in the facility, hired an additional 700 workers since announcing the expansion and expects to bring in 400 more by 2014, hence the mention by Obama.

Brett Goode, a 1998 construction management graduate of EKU, served as Gray’s senior project manager for the Siemens expansion. Other Eastern grads involved with the project were Patrick McCowan, project manager; Troy Fraley, project manager; Mark Ruley, field engineer; Clay Turner, field engineer; and Neal Ratterman, safety manager. Ruley and Turner are 2009 graduates of EKU’s construction management program; McCowan, a 2000 graduate, and Fraley, a 1996 graduate. Ratterman is a 1996 safety and loss prevention graduate.

Goode said he and his colleagues were “thrilled” to hear President Obama talk about the significance of the project. “Manufacturing construction is a core market for Gray. We are so blessed to have a customer like Siemens on our resume, so it was like icing on the cake to have the President of the United States mention the project.”

The Siemens project in Charlotte also earned coverage in The Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Gray, which ranks third among U.S. green contractors in manufacturing plants construction, provided construction management, LEED certification coordination and building commissioning services for the Charlotte project. In all, 25 Eastern graduates are employed by Gray, which frequently hires Eastern students for internships. Goode is one of many interns who went on to full-time employment with the company.

“Every day you read an article … about the U.S. workforce not having the education or skills that companies need,” Goode said. “For me and for Gray, we have had the good fortune to hire some great graduates from EKU who possess the skills needed to manage and execute a complex project like the Siemens Gas Turbine Project.

“Gray has had great success partnering with EKU students and with the internship program required by the (construction management) program,” he added. “The students generated by EKU are well balanced and are well rounded.”

Last year, EKU presented Gray Construction with the Hall of Fame Constructor Award, honoring the firm’s positive impact on the university’s Construction Management Program. Gray was recognized for hiring EKU students, providing outside learning opportunities and playing an active role on the program’s advisory board. It was the second time in five years that Gray had received the award.

EKU’s Construction Management Program, accredited by the American Council for Construction Education, offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  For more information, visit www.technology.eku.edu/programs/con.html.

Published on March 15, 2012