Eddie Stewart, president and CEO of Caddell Construction Co., is national vice president of AGC, a national life governor of AGC through the Alabama Chapter and past president (2006) of Alabama AGC. He is set to become president of AGC of America in 2018. Stewart will be the first Alabama AGC member to serve as national president.
A member of the founding team at Caddell, Stewart held various positions of increasing responsibility, including vice president of estimating and purchasing, executive vice president and chief operating officer before becoming president and CEO.
A native of Atlanta and a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Executive Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Stewart is a long-time resident of Montgomery, where he and Robin, his wife of 41 years, have raised five children and enjoy their eight grandchildren.
Following is a conversation with AGC of America’s vice president.
How long have you been involved in the AGC?
I attended my first AGC National Convention back in 1985, but didn’t really get involved until 1992. In 1995/96 I got involved in the Montgomery Section of Alabama AGC, then later at the state level. Caddell does a lot of federal work with the Corps of Engineers, NAVFAC, GSA and other federal agencies. We specifically got involved in the Federal & Heavy Division, one of the four occupational divisions within national AGC, which has a great relationship with the federal agencies with which Caddell does work. Having the opportunity to work one on one with the policy and decision makers of those agencies was a tremendous benefit for us.
Why do you think it’s important to have active involvement in AGC?
It’s like anything in life, you only get out of things what you put into them. We belong to a lot of organizations but aren’t super involved in most of them. However, we found the more involved we were in AGC, the more we got out of it. We’ve also formed many successful joint ventures because of the companies and individuals we met through AGC.
Has your involvement at the national level been of particular help to you and your business?
Caddell has definitely benefitted (especially at the national level) in having one-on-one contact with the top individuals at those agencies with which we do business. That direct communication with the key decision makers helps us keep better informed as to the trends and upcoming developments within those agencies. We are able to address concerns and issues we encounter in working with those agencies. We were able to find out about the government’s changes in project delivery, from design/bid/build to design/build, through our involvement with AGC National.
How important is it for the chapter and its members for an Alabama chapter member to be named president of national AGC?
Alabama AGC has always had an excellent reputation among national AGC and has consistently ranked at the top of its 92 chapters, year after year. I’m surprised that AL AGC hasn’t had more national representation before. We have a lot of individuals that are involved nationally, and our chapter has been recognized on numerous occasions. It seems quite fitting to have Alabama represented at this time, as AGC National begins its centennial celebration in 2018.
What are the biggest issues you see with the construction industry now — at the local level and at the federal level?
To me, the biggest issue we have is workforce development. The reality is we need workers, guys and girls that will get out there and learn a skill. We have made advances in construction with technology and prefabrication, yet we still need people to build our projects. It’s a local and national issue, but it must be dealt with at the local level in order to solve it nationally. Alabama is taking steps in the right direction with funding these workforce training initiatives.
What changes do you see coming?
Technology has changed our industry more than anything else. We are light years ahead of when I started my career with advances in building information modeling, the use of drones in construction, the incredible accuracy with which you can map buildings and so forth. Our dependency on all of this technology has become the norm, but the bottom line is, you still must have people to run it all.
We are problem solvers, and that’s what makes our industry so much fun at the end of the day. Every day is a new challenge. I always say, “If you don’t like what went on today, wait until tomorrow because your problems will be different.” No matter how much planning you do, you’re always encountering unexpected conditions, like people not showing up or materials not delivered on time. We are constantly trying to solve these problems to keep our schedule and the quality of the project intact. No two days are alike; every day presents itself with a new set of challenges. It’s the little successes and accomplishments that keep you going from day to day.
Text By Hannah Benak of BlackBenak // photo by cary norton