EMJ Serves The Chattanooga Community Kitchen

EMJ’s Chattanooga employees took over the Chattanooga Community Kitchen  (CCK) to share the Christmas spirit.

“We love the mission of the Kitchen, which is to meet the most basic needs of hungry, homeless and vulnerable people in our community, while offering a clear path to self-sufficiency,” said Tina Brogdon, who serves as EMJ’s liaison with the Kitchen.

This was the seventh consecutive year EMJ hosted a Christmas party for the clients and employees of the Kitchen. EMJ partners with the Kitchen because it allows employees to support a great cause through service.

EMJ employees tooks shifts decorating the Kitchen, cooking and serving meals, and making phone calls to ask for donations for the organization. The team prepared and served nearly 600 meals.

The kitchen offers a variety of services to its clients. Through all of the services, it seeks to satisfy the spiritual and physical hunger of people in Chattanooga. There are no fees or requirements for receiving the Kitchen’s services; instead, they are offered out of love and compassion.

“Those who have been given great gifts have greater responsibilities,” said Brogdon.” We appreciate the Kitchen and are humbled to help in a very small way.”

The Community Kitchen relies volunteer support to accomplish its mission. Groups and individual volunteers are needed year-round. You may sign up to volunteer here, or by emailing volunteer@homelesschattanooga.org.

The universal principles of client experience 

This August, my wife and I welcomed our third son. After his arrival, I was charged with bringing our two oldest sons to the hospital to see their mom and meet their new brother. Little did I know that it would be a lesson in client experience.

Entering the hospital, I was nervous. It was hot. The boys were tired, and as excited as they were about their new brother, we were worried about how they would adjust to the change. It was a lot to process.

As we passed the reception area, I treated it like we were trying to slip past an old East German checkpoint—act like you belong, walk with a purpose, and don’t make eye contact. We were almost home free, when the receptionist shouted, “Wait, your boys need identification bracelets.” She left and returned with bracelets that said “Big Brother.”

The impact of this gesture was immediate. The boys were ecstatic, and seeing that, I was at ease. Undoubtedly, the hospital staff had seen thousands of weary dads in the exact same situation. They were taught to recognize it and empowered to engage with families to help alleviate stress.

What does this have to do with commercial construction? More than you might think.

Providing our clients an exceptional experience is at the heart of everything we do. By doing the little things, day by day, our employees strive to make the construction experience better and to provide value to our clients.

It doesn’t matter if you work at a hospital delivering babies, or if you’re a superintendent overseeing the construction and delivery of the hospital itself, the principles of a great client experience are the same. It’s as simple as every single employee paying attention to clients, empathizing with their situation, and taking actions to improve their experience.

Learn more about EMJ’s approach, designed to produce significant benefits for our clients and make the experience enjoyable.


Deron Smith leads the marketing and communications team in internal and external marketing and communication strategy. He has 20 years of experience as a consultant and in-house communications and marketing professional. Before joining EMJ in 2015, Deron served as the National Director of Communications for the Boy Scouts of America and held positions with notable public relations firms Edelman, Publicis Dialog and The Gooden Group.

More Than a Meal: Small Actions, Big Impact

The Principles of Client Experience are the Same, No Matter How You Slice It


Providing our clients an excellent construction experience is at the heart of everything we do. As in every venture and life, challenges and problems sometimes arise that our team must overcome. A true servant leader is someone who understands this and works to overcome challenges by taking responsibility and action, no matter who is at fault.

Recently, an American Airlines flight was rerouted because of weather, stranding its passengers. The pilot empathized with his customers and took action:

Passing out pizzas didn’t solve all the passengers’ problems, but you can bet that giving them a meal made the experience less difficult than it could have been.

We believe taking any action to improve our clients’ experience is meaningful, even if it seems small compared to the problem. In the construction industry, it can be as simple as taking time to talk with a client or trade partner, or assisting an employee with career goals.

By doing the little things, day by day, our employees strive to make the construction experience better and to provide value to our clients. We know by alleviating just one frustration, we are fulfilling our purpose to be people serving people.

We commend the pilot for his exceptional service. Read more about him on CNN.com.


Deron Smith leads the marketing and communications team in internal and external marketing and communication strategy. He has 20 years of experience as a consultant and in-house communications and marketing professional. Before joining EMJ in 2015, Deron served as the National Director of Communications for the Boy Scouts of America and held positions with notable public relations firms Edelman, Publicis Dialog and The Gooden Group.

How strategy drives meaningful employee engagement in the AEC industry


People are at the heart of every success in the AEC industry. Whether it’s a trade partner, a project manager or a superintendent, delivering exceptional experiences and value to clients and partners starts with motivated employees. So, how do companies motivate employees at all levels to maximize positive outcomes?

Experts have wrestled with this question for decades. Steve Coughran, Chief Financial Officer of EMJ, discussed how a well-defined strategy affects employee engagement in a recent interview with Procore’s Jobsite blog. 

“Companies don’t just need employees to be compliant—they need them to be engaged,” says Coughran. “This begins by incorporating both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, coordinating work through mutual adjustment, and aligning everyone on a well-defined strategy.”

Coughran cautions that demotivation can result if employees’ are tasked with responsibilities that do not clearly tie to the overall strategy.

“If employees are working hard—maybe putting in extra time, missing obligations to stay at work late—and can’t see the results of their labor, they will become disengaged very quickly. You must ensure that your employees’ efforts tie to meaningful, tangible strategic outcomes.”

Coughran notes that for a company’s employee engagement strategy to be successful, it must be at the heart of its business strategy. That is a guiding principle for EMJ’s People Department, which works to ensure the company is engaging its employees in a variety of ways. The team engages all employees, but all of its activities are defined by the company’s strategic plan, which says “Invest in our people and work together effectively as one team.”

“At the end of the day, engagement stems from winning in a meaningful way,” said Coughran. “When’s the last time you saw a Super Bowl championship team that was not engaged? Tackle the tough strategic challenges and make the difficult decisions, and engagement will improve.”

Read Steve Coughran’s full interview with Procore’s Jobsite blog. Learn more about just one way EMJ engages its employees.


Steve Coughran serves as the CFO for EMJ Corporation. Before joining EMJ, Steve authored the book, Delivering Value, and founded a firm where he counseled construction clients on services including strategy, financial management, and operational effectiveness. To schedule some time to talk with Steve about your strategy or how it impacts engagement, please email marketing@emjcorp.com.


Thank you, Brock Insurance, for 50 years of partnership

Founded only five years prior to EMJ in 1963, Brock Insurance Agency has partnered with and served our employees for more than 50 years.

Earlier this month, Brock Insurance was gracious enough to present the Chattanooga office with a beautiful gift in honor of EMJ’s 50th anniversary. The gift was a glass sculpture by artist Chris Mosley of Ignis Glass in Chattanooga.

“The sculpture represents a fusion between art and cityscape and carries monolithic shapes meant to connect the design of buildings with the design of the sculpture,” Mosley explained.

Mark Brock of Brock Insurance Agency and Jay Jolley, EMJ Chairman of the Board

The piece serves as a token of appreciation for the ongoing partnership and was received by Jay Jolley, Chairman of the Board, on behalf of the past, current and future employees of EMJ.

Thank you, Brock Insurance, for helping us celebrate EMJ’s 50th anniversary.

Read more about the relationship between Brock and EMJ in this excerpt from EMJ Corporation: The First Fifty Years, which tells the story of EMJ’s founding, relationships, project and growth.



Loyalty Personified: A Vendor’s Perspective

For Ed Jolley, business was about relationships. And while he famously focused on the relationship with his company’s main client, the dedication and loyalty he afforded from day one actually extended to everyone he worked with, including vendors. No one has felt that more keenly than Mark Brock, owner of Brock Insurance. His father, John Brock, who founded Brock Insurance, began working with Independent Construction Company in 1968, handling all of the organization’s insurance and bonds. When Independent Construction Company became EMJ Corporation in 1978, the relationship never wavered. Sadly, John Brock passed away in 1983, leaving his company to his sons—Paul, who was 27 at the time, and Mark, who was only 22. “At that time, Mr. Jolley and the folks at EMJ were extremely helpful to our agency as far as continuing to work with us,” Mark Brock says. “It was a major account for our agency, and we were able to continue the relationship for years and years.”

To this day, even after Paul’s unexpected passing in 2008, EMJ and Brock Insurance remain connected, working together as both companies evolve. The agency insures all of EMJ’s projects and construction activity, as well as all of the companies that have become part of the EMJ family.



Read more excerpts from EMJ Corporation: The First Fifty Years in these blogs:

Celebrating 50 Years: A New Name Heralds New Opportunities

Celebrating 50 years: Above and Beyond

Celebrating 50 years: How it all began



EMJ leaders featured in CityScope Business Edition

In its annual business issue, CityScope Magazine featured two EMJ leaders, CEO and President Burt Odom and Chattanooga Executive Vice President Jack Bowen.


Burt Odom was featured in the magazine’s “Importance of Mentors” section, in which he shares how he first became interested in construction as a teenager and the significance of mentoring in his life.

“My interest in construction began at age 14 when a contractor building stairs in my parents’ home allowed me to work alongside him,” says Odom.

“I was inspired by his passion and love for his job, and his investment in me began my more than 40-year journey in the construction industry. Much like Mr. Wilhite, there have been countless people in my life who have guided me to grow, advance, and succeed both personally and professionally.”

Last year, CityScope’s business issue also featured Odom talking about the importance of strong leaders and serving those in your sphere of influence.

Read his full response in this year’s “Importance of Mentors” section here.



CityScope also highlighted Executive Vice President Jack Bowen in its 2018 Gold Club for Leadership, an annual selection of 30 outstanding area business people who have been recognized by their peers or others within the community for their exceptional leadership skills.

Bowen, who has been with EMJ’s Chattanooga team for more than 13 years, has exhibited his ability to lead in various roles, from job site superintendent to vice president of construction. His more than 21 years of construction experience has led to long-standing relationships with nationwide clients and the completion of some of EMJ Corporation’s largest projects in company history.

See Bowen’s full spotlight here, and see the entire list of 2018 Gold Club members here.




EMJ ranks #59 among Top Contractors in Southeast

Houston is nearing completion and has signed on a handful of national anchor tenants. A nearly 500,000-square-foot retail development in west Houston is nearing completion and has signed on a handful of national anchor tenants.

ENR Southeast Top Contractors

EMJ Corporation ranks #59 among the Top Contractors in the Southeast, according to recent rankings published in Engineering News-Record (ENR).

ENR annually ranks the Top 400 Contractors in the country according to their revenue in a calendar year. The Southeast rankings recognize work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Puerto Rico and come a month after ENR’s overall rankings for the nation, in which EMJ ranks #86 in the U.S.

Building the Southeast

Founded in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1968, EMJ has continually had a strong presence across the southeast, from hometown projects like Hamilton Place Mall and the Hunter Museum to repeat work for Shaw Industries Group, Inc., in Georgia and Alabama.

Our ranking this year is due to projects completed during fiscal year 2017, including stand-out projects such as Shaw Create Centre, Market City Center, Signal Mill, Lee Vista Promenade, FedEx Ground and programmatic work for Lidl, 7-Eleven, and more. Additionally, EMJ’s work on several hotels in Florida played a large part in the ranking.

With the recent completion of a Publix grocery and Ruby Falls in Chattanooga and other notable projects underway in Decatur, Ga., Wilmington, N.C., Andalusia, Ala., and Hobe Sound, Fla., the outlook for 2018 is bright as EMJ continues to build relationships in the Southeast and gain knowledge of the unique needs of the region.

Congratulations to our EMJ team on this ranking. Thanks for your continual hard work and dedication to service, and many thanks also to the clients and partners who helped us achieve this ranking!

EMJ’s Top Southeast Projects 2017

The Shaw Create Centre is a 67,000-square-foot office building in Cartersville, Ga., built to serve as home to Shaw Industries Group’s commercial marketing, design and innovation teams. Designed by architecture firm, Gensler, the EMJ team constructed the unique facility and performed all site work.

Market City Center is the highest structure built in Chattanooga since 1972 and is located between three downtown buildings on bustling Market Street. Designed by Stevens & Wilkinson and developed by The Simpson Organization with support from River City Company, Market City Center is playing a key role in the revitalization of downtown Chattanooga. The LEED® Certified™ Silver 10-story building offers 125 apartments with parking along with 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space and 21,000 square feet of office space on the second floor.

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.

The 237,000-square-foot FedEx Ground distribution center in Chattanooga was built in partnership with Saad Development Corporation. EMJ’s team completed the project in just eight months, handing the facility to the developer more than two months early.


A leading publication in the construction industry, ENR provides engineering and construction news, analysis, commentary and data to nearly 48,000 paid subscribers and more than 196,000 unique visitors to its website each month.

Related articles:

EMJ ranks No. 86 among ENR’s 2018 Top 400 Contractors


Matterport scans assist Lakeview Middle School renovation

While preparing for the Lakeview Middle School renovation in Rossville, Ga., EMJ’s Chattanooga team determined that the use of a Matterport scanner would greatly benefit the project.

A Matterport scanner is a device that captures 360-degree pictures and compiles them to create “virtual tours” of building areas. In recent years, Matterport composites have become mainstream through Google Map’s Street View and used in various industries from engineering to hospitality.


In construction, Matterport visuals display the existing conditions of a building space more effectively than through laser scanning or individual pictures. The scans take less than a minute to complete and can be performed by anyone with a tablet. With thorough documentation of every detail of a job site, construction teams are provided with valuable intel before a project begins.

Will Callery, EMJ Virtual Construction Manager, and the construction tech team have used Matterport on several previous projects including Shaw Create Centre, The Sheridan at Hobe Sound, and West Towne Marketplace. Based on this experience and after speaking with the team about their client’s goals, Callery felt the technology would be a good fit for the Lakeview renovation.

“It does a much better job of giving us a visual of a project than just a person with a camera,” said Callery. “It captures everything, documents more, and makes it much simpler for the entire project team to be on the same page.”

In this case, the team needed to ensure that after construction was complete, the school was in working order in time for the new school year. That meant using the technology to return every desk, bookcase, and smart board to its proper place by the time Lakeview’s faculty returned to prep.

“Projects never wait on you, so we had to be decisive and act quickly,” Callery said. “Ultimately, we decided that the benefit of the scanner outweighed the cost, so we decided to fit it into our schedule.”

As technology in the construction industry continues to grow, EMJ teams continue to show excellent adaptability and versatility. The implementation of this technology at Lakeview Middle School shows excellent forethought and demonstrates the team’s commitment to providing an exceptional client experience.

For more information on Matterport or to enlist the Construction Technology team’s help with a project, contact ConstructionTechnology@emjcorp.com.


Related posts:

Photogrammetry offers easy, accurate solutions for owners and trade partners

Wegmans: 3D BIM coordination aids through-slab MEP planning

Grit: The key to 50 years of progress


Who is successful and why?

Angela Lee Duckworth spent over a decade investigating this query among various groups, from West Point cadets to middle school spelling bee champions, and she discovered the common thread between high-achievers is their grit.

Duckworth speaks on her research in this TED Talk.

“Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals, and working really hard to make that future a reality,” Duckworth says.

In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth recounts how various studies and interviews with successful people led her to three components of gritty people: having a purpose in life, being willing to work hard for it, and having resilience when faced with setbacks.


Grit, one of EMJ’s core values and a defining trait in founder Edgar M. Jolley, is a large reason the corporation is celebrating 50 years of service this year.


Jim Self, former Superintendent and Vice President of Construction at EMJ, who worked closely with Jolley, said, “When we started a project, we knew when we had to finish it…and we did whatever it took to accomplish that.”1

Empowered by our purpose to be “people serving people,” the emphasis on working hard to meet commitments remains at EMJ and continues to help our team build strong relationships with clients and partners across the U.S.



“Whether it’s analyzing drawings to identify cost savings for a client or staying up all night to oversee a concrete pour, I see our people going above and beyond every day to serve our clients,” says Doug Martin, President of EMJ Construction.

We recognize and celebrate wins, but we also embrace a culture of growth and persevering through challenges. We promote transparency about issues and lessons learned on projects, improving quality and efficiency on current projects throughout the family of companies.

“I could tell you a story about my first year in construction 36 years ago, when I was working as a project engineer and made such a huge mistake, I should’ve been fired,” says Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation. “Fortunately, my manager gave me grace. I learned from my error and corrected course. I tell that story to new employees as a lesson to never give up…and don’t forget to double-check your spec book.”

Success isn’t about being the smartest or most talented person in the room. Further, grit empowers anyone with drive to be successful, as long as they are willing to work for it and persevere through difficult circumstances.

Watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s full TED Talk here.



1 – EMJ Corporation: The First 50 Years (Bookhouse Group, Inc., 2018) 10.

Digital mock-ups streamline Brookhaven Village construction

EMJ’s Construction Technology (CT) team recently created a digital mock-up for EMJ Construction Special Projects’ Brookhaven Village retail project in Addison, Texas.

A digital mock-up is a 3D visual representation of proposed construction that allows a team to see how their current methods and materials will come to life on a project. Typically the architect designs the mock-up, but this can be complex when coordinating between owner, contractor and subcontractors.

Brian Tiehen, Quality Manager, saw an opportunity to utilize construction technology on the project. At the project kick-off meeting, Tiehen proposed that the CT team design a digital mock-up to submit to the architect to avoid delays.

EMJ Construction Special Projects Superintendent Tom Rue jumped at the opportunity. Within only a few days, Roger Aasheim, EMJ Virtual Construction Engineer II, had coordinated with him to create the mock-up.

“It’s a little bit like a Tetris puzzle,” Aasheim said. “We had to look at all the materials and possible situations and make them fit together in a small space. All the conditions need to be met for it to be useful.”

The digital mock-up allowed all parties to make necessary design adjustments before performing the full-scale structural mock-up.

“The beauty of this is being able to give the entire team a visual of how the mock-up should look,” said Rue. “You take that to the architect, they make several changes to their plans, and it simplifies the entire process before you’ve even started construction.”

“We sent it to the architect, and he approved it with minimal changes, which expedited the whole process,” Aasheim added.

The team then moved forward with the structural mock-up wall, giving the entire project team peace of mind to move forward efficiently into construction.

“I spoke with the architect after the fact, and he was absolutely thrilled,” Tiehen said. “Helping him get a visual representation together took something off his plate, made his job a lot easier, and set expectations for the project.”

The team’s efforts constructing this digital mock-up in only a few days served the team, the architect and ultimately the client to deliver an exceptional construction experience. Congratulations to the Brookhaven Village team on their proactive behavior!