Signal Mill named among 2017’s Outstanding Projects

In 2016, EMJ launched the Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence to recognize exceptional work within the family of companies. The “Jolleys,” named in memory of EMJ’s founder, are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.


In this five-part blog series, EMJ highlights our Outstanding Project recipients and why they were selected for these awards. Directors and Vice Presidents of the corporation nominate for Outstanding Project, which is given to a project team that delivered an exceptional client experience, added value, overcame challenges, demonstrated exemplary planning and execution, and built client relationships.

This year, EMJ recognized five projects with this award:

Signal Mill, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Tranquillity 8 Solar, Fresno County, Calif.
West Towne Marketplace, El Paso, Texas
Market City Center, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Wegmans, Medford, Mass.

In the coming weeks, we will highlight each project and the team that brought it to life on the blog. This week, we’re featuring EMJ Construction Special Project’s historic renovation at Signal Mill.

Originally constructed in 1916 as a textile manufacturing facility, Signal Mill is a two-and-a-half-story, 34,560-square-foot structure in Chattanooga’s sought-after North Shore District.

EMJ Construction Special Projects partnered with North Shore Project, LLC, the Woodbery Group and Hefferlin & Kronenberg Architects to renovate the building in 2016. In 2017, the high-end, mixed-use development opened to the public, featuring space for boutiques, specialty food shops and offices as well as Edley’s restaurant at the opposite end from a second restaurant, Food Works, which remained in operation during the renovation.

Together, the team navigated and overcame challenges including weather delays, considerations for an operating tenant, late changes to finishes, and tight deadlines to complete a beautiful historic renovation.

“Our team kept the client relationship and the client’s goals at the forefront throughout the duration of the project,” said Chas Torrence, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction Special Projects. “They effectively collaborated with the engineers, architect and owner to resolve conflicts and keep the project moving with a keen eye for quality and long-term maintainability.”

The resulting client experience has opened the door for EMJ to perform work for this client in other cities across the Southeast.

Congratulations to the Signal Mill team from EMJ Construction Special Projects:

Gabe Thompson, Director of Construction
Matthew Schaller, Project Manager
Bert Carden, Superintendent II

signal mill

Pictured, from left to right, are Gabe Thompson, Bert Carden, Matthew Schaller and Chas Torrence.


EMJ commemorates 50 years with anniversary meeting

EMJ commemorated 50 years of service with a celebration and meeting for the entire family of companies last week. Employees of the EMJ family of companies gathered at the Gaylord Texan Resort, where the festivities began with an evening of dinner, games, photos and prizes.

On Thursday morning, the team gathered for a brief review of EMJ’s history with Jay Jolley, Chairman of the Board of Directors. He shared memories of his father and company founder, Edgar M. Jolley, and reflected on the ways in which the organization has grown and evolved, and the many ways it has stayed true to its roots.

Jay Jolley

Jay Jolley, Chairman of the Board of Directors, speaks to employees in front of a photo of his father, EMJ founder Edgar M. Jolley, and grandfather.


Jay also introduced EMJ Corporation: The First 50 Years, a book developed to commemorate the company’s history. (Read excerpts from the the book here and here.)

Next, CEO and President Burt Odom shared plans for EMJ’s next 50 years, with an overview of short and long-term goals for the organization.


He thanked employees for their hard work and service, saying, “The future looks bright for EMJ, and it is because of the people in this room. Each one of you are the reason I get to stand here today—celebrating 50 years of EMJ and 35 years as an employee. Because of the work you do day-in and day-out.”

Employees then divided into three groups for inspiring and informative breakout sessions about EMJ’s Client Experience, Safety Training and Engaging Employees.

Steve Coughran leads the team in a discussion about EMJ’s client experience.


CORE Safety‘s Scott Lydick shares common OSHA violations on job sites and how to prevent and resolve them.


After lunch, Odom invited leaders from each business unit to share the latest developments, new projects and goals for their offices. EMJ employees were also able to ask various questions about the state of the company, future plans and more during a Q&A session with company leaders.

Finally, the Best of the Best Superintendent, Years of Service Awards, and Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence were presented. The “Jolleys,” named in memory of EMJ’s founder, are presented annually in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.

CORE Safety’s Jorge Torres presents EMJ Construction’s Ray Alamo with the “Best of the Best Superintendent” award.


Thursday evening, employees gathered at the Glass Cactus for dinner and entertainment. Jay Jolley toasted to employees, saying how proud his father would be to see how far EMJ has come from a Chattanooga-based firm serving one client to an international, billion-dollar family of companies.

On Friday morning, employees returned for the meeting’s conclusion: breakfast and an inspiring address by Clint Bruce, former NFL linebacker and Navy SEAL about the importance of never quitting, being part of a “tribe,” and what it means to be “elite.”

Burt Odom closed the meeting by challenging employees to live EMJ’s purpose—starting now. “Understand that people serving people means asking, but also sometimes to just listen. Be the people who care more about others than themselves.”

EMJ is proud of how far we have come since 1968.  Thank you to our clients, partners and colleagues who have been a part of the company’s rich history, and here’s to the next 50 years!

Related posts:

Celebrating 50 years: How it all began

Celebrating 50 years: Above and Beyond

Employees honored for Outstanding Performance

The Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence recognize exceptional work within the EMJ family of companies. The “Jolleys,” named in memory of EMJ’s founder, are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project. This is the first in a seven-part blog series about the 2017 Jolley recipients. 


The peer-nominated Jolley for Outstanding Performance is awarded to employees who go above and beyond in their roles by expanding their range of responsibility, developing junior team members, demonstrating initiative and creativity in tackling challenges and building relationships with clients.

Congratulations to the following high-caliber employees who were honored with the Jolley for Outstanding Performance:

Kile was presented the award at the annual meeting by Jack Bowen, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction Chattanooga.

As a Warranty Manager at EMJ Construction Chattanooga, Billy Kile’s work ethic, adaptability and dedication to mentoring put him in this year’s outstanding performance category.

Described as a “team player” and a “very valuable asset” by his nominator, Billy goes above and beyond to get any task done, regardless of whether it falls under his job responsibilities.

He serves those around him, building trusting relationships with architects and subcontractors, while guiding them to bring value to our clients. He guides subcontractors to ensure our finished products are strong representations of the corporation. He is diligent and efficient, following up with a variety of team members to ensure that everyone is accountable and any outstanding issues are resolved.

His nominator writes, “If anyone I have worked with this year deserves this award, it would definitely be Billy Kile. I was very fortunate to get to work with him and learned a lot.”


Totzke (right), shown with Jack Bowen, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction Chattanooga.

Steve Totzke, Project Manager in EMJ Construction’s Chattanooga office, serves clients and those around him by continually going above and beyond on any task. He simultaneously worked on three Lidl stores last year, and is completely dedicated to his work—even taking work-related calls as late as midnight to instill trust with the client.

He puts forth continuous effort to represent EMJ positively through his work ethic and service-minded attitude. Steve’s nominator wrote, “The relationship that Steve has built with Lidl is a strong one, and I’ve seen firsthand how much they respect, trust, and like Steve. He is able to communicate with people in a way that specific to the individual, and is always very in-tune with the client’s wants and needs.”

Steve’s nominator also wrote about his dedication to growing his employees, saying he has “put forth more time and effort into my career development than anyone I’ve ever met. He consistently looks for learning opportunities for me and challenges me on a regular basis.”

Lastly, Steve dives head-first into challenges, learning new techniques and training others in valuable skills. He is “always there for his team, and will not shy away from any issue— regardless of how messy.”


Pfeiffer, shown with Jack Bowen, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction Chattanooga.

Anita Pfeiffer, Project Manager, EMJ Construction Chattanooga, regularly goes beyond her role to ensure that her team is successful on every project. She moved from Tulsa to Chattanooga midway through 2017, and jumped into what her nominator called a “very complicated project,” but “she did not let these challenges get her down or impact her attitude.”

Anita took a strained relationship and turned it around by dedicating herself to the client and guiding her team to create an experience rich with unique value.

Her forward-thinking leadership helps her team plan ahead and she leverages various team members’ skills to ensure success. She inspires her team with her consistently positive attitude and encourages them to do their best work by example.


Praniuk (right), was presented the award at the annual meeting by Chas Torrence, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction Special Projects.

Nestor Praniuk
, Superintendent for EMJ Special Projects, managed the construction team on the Public Defenders of Tennessee offices last year. He received a request from the client to cut the construction schedule by 25%, took ownership of the task, and put the effort in with his team to get the job completely early.

Through this, he has served EMJ by “developing a relationship with the owner of his project like no one else has been able to in the past. The owner has given EMJ repeat business and will not accept any other superintendent to lead his jobs except for Nestor.”

Nestor always has a positive attitude and leads his team by example. His nominator writes, “Even on a hard project for the sub-contractors, the attitude and energy of the job site is always high and positive. Nestor rewards good work and makes the job site a place where people enjoy working.”

Lastly, Nestor has exceeded expectations of the client and his team and has become a better superintendent doing so. His recent performance has increased his value and the value of those he has led throughout the job.

Congratulations to all recipients of the Jolley for Outstanding Performance!


ACE Mentor students develop plan to revitalize Chattanooga

A model of the ACE Mentor team’s plan to revitalize an underused area of Chattanooga

Each year, EMJ team members partner with area high school students in Chattanooga, Tenn., to design hypothetical projects as part of ACE Mentor Program‘s annual scholarship competition.

From September through February, the high school students spend one afternoon per week at the EMJ office or visiting a construction site, learning about careers in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. The students are also given a design and construction project and work with their mentors to complete it. At the end of the six-month period, the teams present their designs to a panel of industry experts who judge and select the best construction solution.

Students tour The Village at Waterside, a retail development, in Chattanooga with their mentors.

This year, the students were charged with developing a plan to revitalize and update a plot of underused land that promotes a vibrant, mixed-use economy and encompasses sustainable technology, a rich public realm for healthy living, and elements that make Chattanooga more welcoming to visitors.

With the guidance of their mentors, students Ryan Mattox of Heritage High School, Carter Smith of Ooltewah High School, Given Daum of East Hamilton School, Nia Houston of East Hamilton School, Kevin O’Boyle of McCallie School, and Jonathan Roach of East Hamilton School, developed plans for a modern, four-story retail, office and residential facility. The structure was accompanied by ample parking space, including a 380,000-square-foot parking garage, and outdoor recreation and entertainment space.

Check out the video at the top of the page developed by the students using 3D modeling software, a skill they were taught by their mentors, and click here to download a PDF of the team’s presentation.

The team presents their development plans at the ACE awards banquet on February 1.

The competition came to a close with an awards banquet on February 1, 2018. EMJ Project Engineer Katie Haberberger led the EMJ team with support from mentors David McCallen, EMJ Preconstruction Manager; Steve Totzke, EMJ Project Manager; Ben Fryar, Engineer, March Adams; Blake Garrison, Garrison Investments; Emanuel Huber-Freely, Architectural Intern, Chattanooga Design Studio; and Justin Rehagen, Construction Planning Specialist, Volkswagen of America.

In addition to ACE’s mentoring efforts, the organization also financially supports students through scholarships and grants and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships to students across the U.S.

Three of the outstanding students on the 2017-2018 EMJ team, Ryan Mattox, Carter Smith and Given Daum, received scholarships.

EMJ Project Manager Steve Totzke presents student Carter Smith with his ACE scholarship.

From all of us at EMJ, congrats to this year’s participants on a job well done!

To learn more about the ACE Mentor Program, please visit

Photogrammetry offers easy, accurate solutions for owners and trade partners

A site capture of Firestone in Opelika, Ala., offers measurements at 1-inch accuracy through use of survey control points.


Construction of the Firestone store in Opelika, Ala., required a series of cut and fills before construction began. Wanting to ensure that the site’s grade was maintained and that stormwater drainage requirements were achieved, the EMJ Special Projects team enlisted the help of Caleb Wickersham, Virtual Construction Engineer and licensed drone operator.

Using GPS coordinates and other data, Caleb conducted programmed, automated flights along the same path at each stage of the site’s preparation. During the flights, the drone captured high-resolution images of the site from which Caleb applied photogrammetry.

“Photogrammetry offers construction teams the ability to capture measurements and record the site how it was at the time of flight,” said Caleb.

The measurements obtained through this process are within an inch of accuracy and offer endless applications in the construction industry.

“It allows us to go back if something goes wrong and see where and when the problem occurred or can be used to hold project participants accountable for their contracted responsibilities,” said Caleb. “Taking measurements can also offer data that would otherwise take extra time, effort and money to obtain. For example, after a drone flight at the Hampton Inn site in Decatur, Ga., we captured the height of surrounding buildings. This was then used to discuss crane logistics and security camera locations for the site.”

At EMJ Construction’s Ruby Falls project in Chattanooga, Tenn., the team requested Caleb’s help in determining the amount and estimated cost of concrete.

“It allowed the project team to see how much concrete would be needed to fill the space between a wall and cliff face and make decisions based upon that volume estimate,” said Caleb.

This photogrammetric 3D model was used for confirming measurements at Ruby Falls. Green photo projections represent where the photos were taken in 3D space.


Drone flights cost roughly $500 per flight, but the cost can vary based on the number of flights and the job site location. Teams receive their drone deliverable package typically within 48 hours of the drone flight, and Caleb and his team can provide them anything from an orthomosaic sitemap (a top down view of site at high resolution) and volumetric calculations to 360 photos and video.

“Additionally, EMJ clients are able to see the data as we capture it,” said Caleb. “This allows them to see a timeline of the building as it rises from the ground and assists in communicating progress. Subcontractors also benefit from the data and the availability of an active, up-to-date map of the site as they develop their execution plans.”

For more information on photogrammetry or to enlist the Construction Technology team’s help with a project, contact

Caleb Wickersham joined EMJ Corporation in 2017 and is focusing on building EMJ’s field technology capabilities, such as drones, Matterport and laser scanning, as well as assisting with BIM coordination and other related tasks.

Thank you for supporting the Austin Hatcher Foundation

Left to right: EMJ Chief Operating Officer Doug Martin; Austin Hatcher Foundation Family Service Coordinator Abriana Busbee; and Austin Hatcher Foundation President Amy Jo Osborn


EMJ team members collected nearly $2,000 in cash and gift donations for the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer during the month of December.

On Friday, January 12th, EMJ Chief Operating Officer Doug Martin presented the Foundation’s President Amy Jo Osborn and Family Service Coordinator Abriana Busbee with the donations at EMJ’s Chattanooga headquarters.

“The Austin Hatcher Foundation is a phenomenal organization that provides a unique service to those impacted by pediatric cancer,” said Martin. “On behalf of our people, we are honored to assist this organization in its important and life-changing work.”

The donations were collected through Hatch’s Giving Trees in EMJ’s Boston, Dallas and Chattanooga offices. Employees were able to choose an ornament from the trees and fulfill donation requests listed on the ornaments. Each ornament represented specific needs for children and their family members who receive services from Austin Hatcher. The foundation provides a variety of innovative services free of charge toward the mission of erasing the effects of childhood cancer and optimizing each child and family member’s quality of life.

Thank you to all of our generous EMJ team members who contributed to this worthy cause and demonstrated our company’s commitment to serving our community.

“EMJ got involved and then really got behind our efforts during the 2017 holiday season,” Osborn said. “And not only did their local office contribute, we also received donations from EMJ’s offices in Boston and Dallas. That was especially gratifying to see such support from outside our area.”

Read more about EMJ’s partnership with the Austin Hatcher Foundation and learn how you can get involved at

Related article:

Join us in supporting Austin Hatcher Foundation

People Serving People: Thank you to our generous team

Our EMJ purpose to be people serving people extends beyond our office doors. In addition to clients, colleagues and partners, our teams are dedicated to serving the communities in which we work, and we do so throughout the year, by participating in charitable events, fundraising initiatives, volunteer construction, and more.

Knowing the holiday season can be an especially challenging time for those in need, our teams make an extra effort to give back during the month of December.

Our Boston and Dallas offices collected boxes of playthings for Toys for Tots, and company-wide our employees are collecting donations for the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.

And, for the sixth year in a row, the Chattanooga office hosted a Christmas party for visitors to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

Fundraising for the Community Kitchen event began in November with Chattanooga employees pitching in more than $1,500 by early December. Those funds were then utilized to buy food, supplies and decorations.

Employees cooked at home the night before and then prepared and served 520 plates to the city’s homeless population on Friday, December 15th.

“You came. You cooked. You served. You cleaned. And, you touched many hearts along the way,” said Tina Brogdon, Senior Administrative Assistant, who led the Community Kitchen effort. “You all did a wonderful job in helping to make this event a success.”

Chattanooga Community Kitchen

Thank you to our generous employees who donated their time, money and talents to help so many this holiday season. We are thankful that you are a part of the EMJ team!

To learn more about the organizations EMJ supported this year and to get involved, visit the links below.

Chattanooga Community Kitchen
Toys for Tots
Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer

Related story:

Join us in supporting Austin Hatcher Foundation


Preparing for winter weather on your job site

Lidl construction site; Danville, Va.; early 2017

The first official day of winter is December 21, though many areas across the country are already experiencing its hazards in full force.

While many occupations need only to worry about dressing appropriately and tracking the changing forecast, winter brings unique hazards and challenges to construction job sites.

Here are some tips from the EMJ team on preparing job sites for wintry weather.


Every superintendent’s top priority is the safety of his or her people, and winter brings risks that can be less noticeable than heat-related conditions. For example, fingers and hands are less nimble in the cold, which leads to accidents, and warm layers can hide signs of dehydration and overheating.

“To avoid these conditions, site leaders should designate a heated space for teams to warm up throughout the workday when temperatures are especially low,” says Brian Tiehen, Quality Manager at EMJ Construction. In addition, remind employees to bring winter gear in case of unexpected conditions.


The unknowns of winter months can lead to project delays and frustration for both contractors and clients. Teams should take advantage of good weather and perform site work as quickly and efficiently as possible when conditions are positive for construction. However, know when it’s time to stop work and remain off of the job site during unsuitable weather.

“When possible, stay off of the site during severe weather conditions. It makes more of a mess than the work your team will be able to accomplish,” says Shane Hurley, Lead Superintendent of EMJ Construction Chattanooga. “And, cover all site work as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Meadow Glen Marketplace; Medford, Mass.; January 2017



There are several unique tactics that should be considered and budgeted for in advance of building through the winter season.

“On occasion, we’ve tented the building to avoid weather delays. It is, of course, an added cost, but is well worth it when we complete the project on time and the client can begin bringing in revenue,” says Tom Rue, Superintendent of EMJ Special Projects.

“Make sure you budget for concrete blankets, heaters, etc. in advance of pouring in winter months. Those add up surprisingly quickly,” says James Busbin, Lead Superintendent for EMJ Construction Chattanooga.

“It’s better that you return some cash back to the client after closeout if you don’t end up needing to purchase them, rather than adding cost if you do.”

Meadow Glen Marketplace; Medford, Mass.; January 2017



Though not all delays due to unfavorable weather can be avoided, tools such as screens, heaters and anti-freeze can assist teams in preventing them.

“Use screens on scaffolding to raise the temperature at the building surface to allow subcontractors to apply materials such as mortar, EIFS and paint,” says Rue.

“Natural gas heaters (salamanders) can raise interior temperatures to allow work to continue and maintain manufacturers requirements for storage of materials,” he continues. “They can also protect piping such as sprinkler lines that once tested are usually holding pressurized water.”

However, if using gas heaters, ensure positive airflow to maintain breathable air. “I use RV anti-freeze in the P-Traps because sanitary tends to hold water during the winter,” says Busbin.

RV anti-freeze does not contain glycol, is environmentally friendly, and is designed to be flushed into the sanitary systems.

Questions about how to prepare your site and team for winter weather? Contact Jonathan Horne, EMJ Director of Quality, at or 423.490.3280.

Join us in supporting Austin Hatcher Foundation

EMJ Corporation is proud to support the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer this holiday season with Hatch’s Giving Trees in our Boston, Chattanooga and Dallas offices.

EMJ employees and visitors to our offices this December will be able to choose an ornament from our Christmas trees and fulfill the donation request listed on the ornament. Each ornament represents a specific need for Austin Hatcher families, ranging from baby wipes and snacks to gift cards and monetary donations.

Established in 2006 by Amy Jo and Jim Osborn in memory of their son, the Austin Hatcher Foundation’s mission is to erase the effects of childhood cancer and optimize each child and family member’s quality of life through essential specialized interventions.

In the 1960s, the five-year survival rate for the most common childhood cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), was 4%. Today, it is approaching 90%. Though this is promising for families affected by this devastating disease, patients, parents and siblings are often unprepared for the psychological and emotional effects of cancer survival.

40% of childhood cancer survivors report neuropsychological late effects which makes survivors 10.5 times more likely to have severe cognitive dysfunction than their peers.

The Austin Hatcher Foundation provides services to cancer patients and their families to help prevent and minimize these effects through Industrial Arts, Diversionary Therapy, Psycho-Oncology, and Healthy Lifestyle Education.

The Foundation serves families across the country and is the official charity of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

The Hatch’s Giving Trees will be set up in each EMJ office the week after Thanksgiving and be displayed through the end of the year. If you are unable to visit an office to select an ornament but would like to participate, please visit the Austin Hatcher website and donate on behalf of EMJ.

If you have questions about EMJ’s efforts this season, please contact Dottie McCallen at 423.490.3289 or

Learn more about Austin Hatcher Foundation’s services in the video below and visit

Thank you for joining EMJ to support this deserving organization!


EMJ raises $5,000 for hurricane relief

During the holidays, we make an extra effort to give back—but this year, EMJ’s efforts began even earlier in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

EMJ employees from all offices raised nearly $2,500 for relief efforts, which was matched by EMJ Corporation.

EMJ Executive Vice President Ray Catlin (right) presents a check to Jeremy Kaspar, Regional Director of Corporate Partnership, Red Cross, on behalf of EMJ Corporation.


As a result, more than $5,000 was donated to the American Red Cross. All funds were presented to the organization in a brief ceremony on Friday, November 5.

The American Red Cross uses donor funds to provide shelter, food, and emergency support for individuals and families affected by the hurricanes—as well as assisting with recovery efforts to get those impacted back on their feet.

In addition to fundraising, several EMJ employees traveled to Houston and surrounding areas to aid in recovery efforts. The Dallas office also hosted an emergency blood drive for the building through the Red Cross.

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm which landed on the southeast coast of Texas on August 25, devastated coastal cities with extreme flooding in Texas and Louisiana.

Hurricane Irma followed shortly after, hitting several Caribbean islands on September 6-9 before directly hitting the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm and traveling up through Florida.

Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane on September 20, before churning northward into Turks and Caicos.

To learn how your organization can get involved with hurricane relief efforts, visit