High Point Climbing and Fitness Takes Shape in Memphis

High Point Climbing and Fitness will soon arrive in Memphis, Tenn. The EMJ Construction Special Projects team began work on the project in late 2017 and is on schedule to deliver the project to the client in early 2019.

Designed by PV Design, Inc., the unique, 32,000-square-foot facility will include several indoor climbing walls up to 50 feet tall, a 40-foot outdoor wall, a kids climbing area, a cardio room, weight room, and spaces for yoga and spin classes.

Drone flyover footage captured in August 2018.

The design includes a specialized exterior wall panel system that provides water tightness and insulation and required extensive coordination with various stakeholders to ensure the project stayed on track.

“It’s a very complex system that took the entire team working together to overcome the hurdles, to keep our original schedule,” said Jon-Michael Davis, EMJ Project Manager.

“On top of that, we had  multiple meetings involving every subcontractor that touched or penetrated the system to ensure water tightness per the manufacture recommendation.”

Having successfully installed the exterior wall system, the team began constructing the exterior climbing wall earlier this week.

“Working and coordinating with Walltopia, who provides and installs all the  interior and exterior climbing walls, has been the most interesting part of this project,” said Davis. “This group is out of Bulgaria, so coordination has been extremely important.”

High Point’s leadership team recently commended the project team on a job well done, and the EMJ project team attributes this to weekly collaboration meetings and excellent communication.

“We’ve worked hard to earn their trust,” said Davis. “The High Point team has been great to work with.”

Look for more updates on High Point Memphis in the coming weeks, and thank you to the project team for delivering an exceptional client experience.

Project team members include:

Mark Stepansky, Lead Superintendent
Marty Nielsen, Superintendent
David Lindsey, Level 1 Superintendent
Jon-Michael Davis, Project Manager
Evan Rector, Project Engineer
Jerry Campbell, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Craig Skidmore, Preconstruction Manager
David Haley, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Travis Darwent, Preconstruction Manager

Special Projects to build High Point Climbing in Memphis


CarMax in Norman Celebrates Grand Opening

Norman, Okla., now has a new CarMax store! EMJ joined CarMax in celebrating the grand opening of its new location on Wednesday.

This marks EMJ’s third project to date for CarMax, and another store is currently under construction in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“This was an outstanding performance by our project team, and they have continued to solidify our relationship with CarMax,” said George Heath, EMJ Vice President – Retail. “They have been a good programmatic client for us and have asked us to pursue three more projects in Texas and Mississippi.”

Dan Swope, CarMax Location General Manager, shares George’s sentiment, “It was fantastic being in our new home today.  We have been looking forward to this for so long, and we wanted to say thank you for the care and attention you put into our facility.  You have been awesome partners along the way!”

EMJ’s partnership with CarMax is what EMJ refers to as programmatic work—performing multiple projects for one client of similar scope and size. This type of relationship enables our team to develop a highly tailored, efficient construction process for the client that supports long-term consistency, accountability and trust.

Look for more updates on the team’s work with CarMax, and congrats to the Norman team on a job well done!

Jonathan Fair, Project Manager
Drew Halsey, Vice President of Preconstruction
Conner Kamps, Preconstruction Manager
Andrew Lackey, Project Engineer
Will Morris, Project Engineer
Rickey Palmer, Superintendent
Brenda Palmer, Administrative Assistant
Sheila Nazario-Thomas, Administrative Assistant
Mary Gross, Project Accountant



Influence v. Authority: Building Teams to Get the Job Done

When tasked with building a school in time for the new academic year, while knowing the project was already behind, what did EMJ Superintendent Nestor Praniuk do? He was honest.

“This is where we are; this is where we need to be. We’re a team. Together, we’re going to do this,” Praniuk said referring to his conversation with the owner. And, together, they did. Through collaboration and Nestor’s leadership, the team delivered a new lower school addition at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS) just in time for the school year.

“As a parent, I know the importance of starting the new year off right,” said Praniuk. “I didn’t want our work to impact the parents and teachers. To me, there was only one option and that was to open on time.”

On paper, getting the school completed by the August 13, 2018, deadline did not look feasible as various setbacks had already placed it 10 days behind. Through diligent efforts and consistent communication, Praniuk and his team, including Senior Preconstruction Manager Kyle Tippens and Project Engineer Devin Munczenski, aligned all trade partners with their goal and empowered them to make it happen.

Praniuk recalls challenging his trade partners and workers on site to understand the progress CCS is trying to make and the experience the school is aiming to deliver its clients. “I told them, ‘Think like a parent and what their needs are. What happens with their day if construction doesn’t come through on time?’”

Communicating an end goal is one thing. Getting all stakeholders to follow through on their commitment is another feat, one that requires thoughtful leadership and influence.

“It’s all about trust,” said Praniuk. “The key is creating healthy relationships with all involved. Get to know the other person and what’s important to them and why. Determine what you need to do to please them and then do it. You do what you say you’ll do, and you solidify that mutual trust.”

“In my many years of organizational leadership, [Nestor] is in a small group of unique leaders who I believe are critical to the ability of an organization to meet its goals and execute its mission,” writes Chad Dirkse, President of CCS, about Praniuk in a letter to EMJ.

“The core values EMJ espouses are embodied well in Nestor’s leadership. I know he cares deeply for CCS and for EMJ,” Dirkse continued. “He is not afraid to tell me no or challenge something he doesn’t agree with but works hard to meet my needs and expectations. He is also extraordinary at building healthy sub relationships.”

Praniuk’s approach to building great relationships with the trade partners, or subcontractors, on his construction jobs is simple: “Be a leader your subs want to follow, and treat them like you would like to be treated. We are only as good as our subs are. If they succeed, we succeed.”

At EMJ, we talk a lot about our project teams and how they extend far beyond our own employees to include the owner, designers, engineers, and all of the subcontractors that deliver a piece of the intricate puzzle that results in a building. Praniuk lives this. He manages each partner on the site as he does members of the EMJ team, with respect and as a valuable contributor.

“I get to know the workers as people and try to tap into their potential. 99% of their life is work. They’re sharing it with you on this project. Show them you care,” said Praniuk. “My goal is for them to take ownership and pride in the project, just like me. It’s much more than a task to be completed that day.”

Pictured are Director of Construction Gabe Thompson, EVP Chas Torrence, Nestor Praniuk, Kyle Tippens, Devin Munczenski, and VP of Construction Howard Smith.


The team’s hard work and strength of character shone brightly on the site.

The lower school at CCS was phase III of ongoing work the EMJ Construction Special Projects team is completing for the school. Praniuk and his team are now constructing an outdoor pavilion on the campus.

“The most rewarding part of our team’s work is meeting the client’s expectations and needs and creating great impact on the life of subs and our clients,” said Praniuk. “It’s more than a project. It’s personal.”

Nestor Praniuk joined the EMJ team in 2015. He has more than 18 years of construction experience, working at all levels from trade partner to site supervision. Earlier this year, he was honored with the Edgar M. Jolley Award for Outstanding Performance.


Related stories:

Sen. Corker visits Chattanooga Christian School expansion

EMJ celebrates 23-year partnership with Walmart

Last week, EMJ celebrated the grand opening of its 30th Walmart store, marking an important milestone in our 23-year partnership with the retailer.

The 200,000-square-foot store in El Paso, Texas, is a new prototype with a larger footprint and grocery home pick-up center.

“I am extremely proud of the project team,” said George Heath, Vice President – Retail, EMJ Construction Dallas. “They demonstrated selflessness, trustworthiness and grit and did an excellent job of executing this project and continuing our long tradition of success with the Walmart program.”

The EMJ, Walmart relationship began in 1995, but picked up steam in 2010 when the retailer ramped up their new store construction program. EMJ pursued their work throughout the West Coast and Texas markets and developed a programmatic team to handle the growth.

“We constantly trained new team members, created a rigid compliance and stormwater program to respond to the increasing demands of the Walmart Realty Department,” said Heath. “Our predictable execution yielded six negotiated projects and over $250 million of work in the past eight years.”

This partnership is what EMJ refers to as programmatic work—performing multiple projects for one client of similar scope and size. This type of relationship enables our team to develop a highly tailored, efficient construction process for the client that supports long-term consistency, accountability and trust.

We are thankful for our strong relationship with Walmart and for the many trade partners who support us in our work. We look forward to many more years of partnership.

Congrats to the Walmart El Paso team:

Conner Kamps, Preconstruction Manager
Cody Shulze, Project Manager
Andrew Lackey, Project Engineer
Aaron Scott, Level II Superintendent
Denver Moody, Superintendent
Ashley Turner, Operations Accountant I
Suzanna Trent, Administrative Assistant

Related story:

El Paso Times: New 24-hour West El Paso Walmart to open Wednesday, offer online grocery pickup


Improving the client experience during school renovation

Students at Graysville Elementary School will return to school next week to an active construction site. Work began in 2017 on the multi-phase school renovation and expansion and will continue through the 2018-2019 school year.

Renovations to the cafeteria, gymnasium and various other areas are complete and will welcome students next week. The renovated section connects the original school to a large, two-story addition that is well underway and expected to open in early 2019. After teachers and students move to the new space, additional demo and renovation will then be completed on the older portions of the facility.

Renovation to active, open facilities requires precision planning and execution to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption to the location. The EMJ team and its trade partners have taken large measures to remove pain points and ensure the safety of the teachers and administrators as they prepare for the school year.

In an effort to engage the teachers and students in the construction process and make the active construction site an exciting part of the new school year, EMJ Project Manager Adam Graves developed a plan to make the experience more enjoyable.

Graves and the EMJ team arranged balloons, brought a cake, requested site signage tailored to the students, and provided the staff with custom hard hats to wear as they were given a private tour by EMJ’s team to answer questions and offer a glimpse of what the updated school and classrooms will look like.

Graysville Principal Kerry Sholl addresses the group.


A possible inconvenience for the client was quickly transformed into a fun and enlightening experience thanks to the dedication of Graves and the EMJ team. This commitment to creating an exceptional client experience is the epitome of EMJ’s purpose—to be people serving people.

Congrats to the Graysville Elementary team on a job well done:

Adam Graves, Project Manager
James Williams, Director of Construction
Brad Folsom, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Kevin Fix, Project Engineer
Shane Hurley, Lead Superintendent
Chase Hirth, Level II Superintendent
Neil Forell, Level II Superintendent
Jake Mammen, Project Accountant
Melinda Ogle, Staff Accountant
Tina Brogdon, Senior Administrative Assistant

Keep up the great work!

Check back for future updates on the progress at Graysville Elementary.

Shaw team celebrates progress at Plant 65

The EMJ team joined Shaw Industries, E&H Steel, ROPAC Steel Erectors and other trade partners in celebrating the construction progress at Shaw’s fiber manufacturing plant expansion in Andalusia, Ala., on Wednesday.

All on-site team members gathered in front of the structure for a group photo and then enjoyed lunch together, complete with a raffle and door prizes.

The expansion and modernization of Plant 65 began in April 2017 and will be completed later this year. Construction includes a four-story tower and warehouse, totaling 300,000 square feet, in addition to a 6,700-square-foot underground electrical vault and a 10,300-square-foot chiller building.

The project involves numerous complexities that require precision planning and execution, and our EMJ team has done a great job leading the charge and promoting on-site collaboration, enabling the steel schedule to be accelerated by six weeks.

This is the fifth project on which EMJ has been fortunate to serve as Shaw’s partner.

“It’s great to be working with our friends at Shaw again, and we are proud of all the hard work the EMJ team, Shaw and our partners have been putting into the project,” said Jack Bowen, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction. “They have done a wonderful job so far, and we are excited to get to celebrate the progress they have made.”

EMJ team members on this project include Adam Ankers, B.J. Boone, Matt Uebler, Brad Johnson, Mason Hill, Chad Marler, and Jake Mammen. Espen Pittman, Safety Manager with CORE Safety Group, has also played a vital role in the project’s success.

Check back soon for more updates on the team’s progress in Andalusia.

Collegedale Church expansion makes headway

EMJ Construction is making progress on the Collegedale Seventh-Day Adventist Church expansion in Collegedale, Tenn.

The original church was organized in 1917 using six temporary facilities before building the current structure in 1965. It is home to over 3,000 members and is the official campus church of Southern Adventist University.

church expansion

EMJ’s work entails the construction of an additional three-story building, totaling more than 55,000 square feet. The addition includes space for the church’s daycare program, classrooms, a café and a catering kitchen.

This week, EMJ and its trade partners began installing pre-bricked, precast concrete wall panels using a 180 ft. crane. The project is on track and scheduled to open in early 2019.

church expansion

EMJ team members include project manager Adam Ankers, assistant project manager Chad Marler, project engineer Katie Haberberger, superintendent Steve Jensen, senior administrative assistant Tina Brogdon, and project accountant Robin Phillips.

Keep up the great work, team!

Read more about EMJ’s experience with places of worship here.

EMJ to begin Independence Mall overhaul

EMJ Construction is proud to announce its partnership with Brookfield Properties on the Independence Mall redevelopment in Wilmington, N.C.

“We are honored to be selected for this project,” said Jeff Brewer, EMJ National Account Executive. “We previously built Mayfaire Town Center in Wilmington and are looking forward to again serving that community.”

Originally built in 1979, the traditional, enclosed Independence Mall is being revamped into an open-air, streetscape-style shopping experience. The new development will be called the Collection at Independence and include 126,000 square feet of new retail space, 15,000 square feet of restaurants, and a new indoor-outdoor food court area.

The initial project consists of tearing down a portion of the mall and a Sears anchor store, replacing them with new, outward-facing retail, 10 new restaurants, and a 25,000-square-foot grocery store.

The ultimate goal for EMJ on the project is to provide a new look for the development while ensuring safety for employees and customers of the mall. Independence Mall presents several construction challenges due to its size and typical foot traffic during the day.

“We are tearing apart an existing mall that’s going to remain in operation,” said EMJ Senior Preconstruction Manager Joe Woolums. “This requires careful planning and coordination to ensure both safety and no disruption to operations while we complete the demolition and redevelopment.”

Construction plans are in full swing, and the team hopes to begin demolition this fall and deliver the first retail spaces in mid-2019.

The redevelopment of traditional, enclosed malls is a growing trend in the retail industry. Read about EMJ’s work on the mall redevelopment at Cool Springs Galleria here, and learn more about our team’s retail experience here.

Kissimmee 7-Eleven team receives state safety award

Congratulations to EMJ Special Projects’ 7-Eleven team for winning the Sunshine State Safety Recognition Award. This is EMJ Special Projects’ fourth award in the last two years.

This award, given by the University of South Florida’s Safety Consultation Program, was developed to motivate and support employers who emphasize safety through the implementation and maintenance of effective injury and illness-prevention programs.

The Kissimmee, Fla., 7-Eleven was a project for Equitas Management Group. It consists of a 3,000-square-foot building, four 8,000-gallon below-ground fuel storage tanks, and two overhead canopies on a 1.4 acre site. Ray Alamo, Superintendent, and Jon-Michael Davis, Project Manager, have continually encouraged and trained the team in safe practices to ensure that field staff works safely and efficiently on the job site.

Patrick Stark, OSHA Consultant at the University of Florida, presented the award to Alamo for his team’s commitment to workplace safety and health.

Congratulations to the team on this project: Ray Alamo, Superintendent; Zach Klassen, Project Engineer; Jon-Michael Davis, Project Manager, Mallory Harrison, Administrative Assistant, and Stephen Anderson, Intern. Thank you for your commitment to ensuring a safe work environment for all involved and continuing to positively represent EMJ Corporation.

Thanks also to CORE Safety Group who supports our teams through safety training and consultation and helps ensure that our EMJ Construction team’s are well-versed on the latest safety standards.

Alamo, who was recently awarded CORE Safety’s “Best of the Best” Superintendent Award, has continually been recognized for his commitment to safety. Read more about Ray’s previous recognitions here:

Superintendent Ray Alamo recognized for exceptional safety practices

Port St. Lucie Starbucks team awarded Sunshine Safety Award

7-Eleven team awarded Florida safety recognition

Accent Construction awarded Sunshine State Safety Recognition

Celebrating 50 Years: A New Name Heralds New Opportunities

A message from Burt Odom, CEO & President, EMJ Corporation

EMJ was founded fifty years ago with the sole purpose of providing an exceptional construction experience for one client, CBL Properties. But before long, others in the industry noticed how our approach to programmatic work and a mutual understanding of one goal benefited both contractor and customer, and looked to us to serve them in a similar way.

Though we didn’t know it yet, this work provided the foundation for how EMJ serves our clients to this day. It engrained in us the importance of knowing our client and deeply understanding their goals so that we customize our construction approach to exceed expectations. We have built similar programmatic relationships with clients all over the country, from Shaw Industries to Lidl to Public Storage, and we believe that this work is paving the way to a better industry standard.

I hope you enjoy this third excerpt from EMJ Corporation: The First 50 Years, a book developed to share the company’s story and honor those who built EMJ. Printed copies are now available, and look for more excerpts on the blog throughout the year.


Bill McDonald recalled that the transition from Independent Construction Company to EMJ Corporation was seamless. CBL remained the exclusive client of EMJ, and Ed Jolley was more than happy to continue that single-client relationship within the retail construction space. The two companies worked in harmony and grew in tandem.

“They were just part of the team,” says Ben S. Landress, who joined Independent Enterprises in 1961 and currently serves as executive vice president of management for CBL & Associates Properties Inc. “There was no question about who was going to build. [Ed] had to get pricing from suppliers and subcontractors, but he was going to be the general contractor. It was almost like [EMJ] was part of our own organization. It was very much a team effort. There was no question about it.”

Edgar M. Jolley (seated) with Bill McDonald (left) and Jim Sattler (right)

Upon the name change to EMJ, Ed Jolley officially became the CEO of the company, while Jim Sattler assumed the role of president and Bill McDonald became vice president. The EMJ team grew as well, with Jolley’s sons—Edgar M. Jolley Jr. and Jay Jolley—joining the firm. Also on board were Burt Odom, an estimator, and Ron Jobe, a project manager, both of whom would have a significant impact on EMJ’s development over the next several years.

The company continued to flourish throughout the 1980s, with the team continuing its close relationship with CBL & Associates, which eventually would help take EMJ’s work to a national level.

Boston, Massachusetts was the prime location for EMJ’s Northeastern regional office.

In 1987, CBL began to expand even more when Charles Lebovitz’s son, Stephen,joined the firm. To take advantage of retailers that wanted to move into and grow in the Northeast, such as The Home Depot and Walmart, the younger Lebovitz oversaw the opening of an office in Boston. To serve its exclusive client, EMJ set up a Boston location as well.

“EMJ was our partner in our development projects, and we relied on them to help us with the due diligence as we were analyzing potential sites, to develop budgets, to help us figure out the opportunities and challenges of new projects as we got into them,” notes Stephen Lebovitz, who currently serves as president and chief executive officer of CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

The geographic area proved to be more challenging than the Southeast region thanks to different environmental conditions, the dense population, and very specific government requirements. “It’s complicated to build in the Northeast, and we wanted to have [EMJ] close by,” Lebovitz continues. “We wanted them to have a regional office here and have the people on the ground to be available to help us out.”

Jim Sattler assembled a team to work out of the Boston office, which shared space with CBL and was visited often by Jay Jolley, who helped direct its growth. Much of the work involved the building of open-air power centers with retailers like Service Merchandise and Circuit City. Larger projects followed, including a major 750,000-square-foot center in New York. And just like the work being done out of Chattanooga, EMJ made a complete commitment to CBL’s Northeast interests.

“It was about more than just making money,” Stephen Lebovitz says. “It was about having a long-term win-win relationship between the companies.”