• Jim Rosa, Cadet Services Manager, USAFA, CH2MHill Academy Services, LLC

    This letter is intended as a reference and recommendation for Gregory Collier, LEED AP BD+C, and Don Johnson, experienced Construction Superintendent, as they move forward with their venture to create a new construction firm. Our primary dealings have involved a complex multi-million dollar construction phase of a project to complete the renovations of Vandenberg Hall, a large cadet dormitory on the United States Air Force Academy. You need to know these two are excellent – and I’ll outline below why I say that.

    For context, please be aware that my role in the Vandenberg project was to represent the primary user(s) during this rather complex project, which was complicated by having as many as 2,300 residents (cadets) living in the dorm throughout the construction period. Please note I cannot speak officially on behalf of the USAF Academy or the US Government; I can only report what I participated in and observed over nearly two years as they operated as part of the project team.

    First, let me reflect the three traits that they consistently exhibited, both individually and as a team, that struck me most: they LISTENED to us as customers (both what we needed and what we had learned from earlier phases); they were RESPONSIVE when they understood a need; and they were always SEEKING SMART (do-able) SOLUTIONS. These attributes made them stand out from many construction contractors we’ve dealt with on previous phases of this plus other projects.

    Among the challenges they effectively handled during this time were keeping the project moving on or ahead of schedule despite disruptive special events near the work site (often requiring everything to be “buttoned up” for a period), giving special attention to safety and security of all work areas since cadets were prone to ramble through regardless of signage or barriers, and keeping clear communications with both the Government and various users as they had to hop-scotch work around areas throughout Vandenberg. By the way, this dorm is a quarter-mile long with six levels, housing the 2,300 active cadets referred to before as primary residents, and more than 20 tenant organizations whose operations or offices are also in Vandenberg (to service cadet needs). So whether it was holding off jack-hammering because of a parade, working around special hours of operation for the barber shop during Basic Cadet Training, or figuring out a new way to better seat the replacement railings in the dozen or so major stairwells – Greg and Don found a way to “work with us” while still getting their job done.

    I’ll highlight one other important point about their approach. With many construction contractors, when we run into unexpected conditions (a frequent occurrence in a 60 year-old campus), some are prone to stop work and spend time calculating how much extra they should charge both for the fix and the delay. In this project, while still working to make sure their company wouldn’t lose money (an appropriate interest,) Greg and Don always approached any tough spot as a shared challenge that we could examine together to find possible solutions, giving “doing a good job” priority over negotiating a change order. This of course helped us in most cases arrive at faster and smarter answers, the kind where everybody wins. Both Greg and Don are marked by this type of attitude and tactic as they work through the project; it’s been refreshing.

    Clearly, I recommend you give their new venture strong consideration if you’re seeking a solid construction outfit to meet your construction needs. Frankly, I’ve found that professionals like this can’t “help themselves” but to operate this way in all that they do. Hope your choices are good ones and your project goes well. Feel free to call me if I can add anything to this testimony.