EMJ Construction Featured in City Scope Magazine’s Annual Business Issue


EMJ Construction is proud to be featured in the 2020 CityScope Magazine Annual Business Issue. The magazine is the most comprehensive local business publication for the Chattanooga area.

Each year, over 200 executives from 170+ companies are showcased in articles featuring local companies, people and organizations, industries and trends, entrepreneurship, strategy and leadership, and management.

This year the magazine asked Burt Odom, President and CEO, EMJ Corporation and other local CEO’s to share their best-kept hiring secrets. Specifically, Burt shared thoughts about what exactly he looks for when building a world-class executive team. Following is his response.

In addition, EMJ Construction was proud to place an ad in this year’s edition, celebrating its history and impact on the Scenic City. The add features key Chattanooga-based projects and others in key sectors across the country.


“Chattanooga is a great place to live, work, and play,” said Chas Torrence, EVP, EMJ Construction. “We’re honored to be a part of this magazine – along with other world-class companies and leaders – and celebrate our hometown.”

For more, read the CityScope Annual Business Issue.

EMJ Employees Serve Chattanooga Community Kitchen

For the eighth straight year, EMJ hosted a Christmas party for the clients and employees of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen .

The kitchen offers a variety of services to its clients. Through all of the assistance offered, 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.

EMJ partners with the Kitchen because it allows employees to support a great cause through service. This year EMJ employees raffled gift baskets to raise money to cover the cost.

On the day of the event, employees took shifts decorating the Kitchen, cooking and serving meals, and making phone calls to ask for donations for the organization. The team prepared and served more than 750 meals, which set a new record.

The Community Kitchen relies on 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 Beach Company Breaks Ground on the Massive River Rock Development

Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Following Monday’s groundbreaking, Beach Company of Charleston, (SC) President John Darby, center, stands with partner Marc Leder, left, and Beach Company Development Manager Alan McMahon and talks about the new River Rock development that will take over the downtown block of land they stand on for a large condo project located between 3rd and 4th Streets.


The Beach Company recently broke ground on a massive mixed-use project in Chattanooga. EMJ Construction will serve as the general contractor. The Chattanooga Times Free Press covered the ground breaking. Here is an excerpt of its report:

A Charleston, South Carolina, developer of downtown condos, apartments and retail stores across the South will soon bring one of the biggest new mixed-use projects to Chattanooga’s downtown.

On a former Unum surface parking lot just a couple of blocks from the Walnut Street Bridge, the Beach Company announced today it will soon start construction on a 3.5-acre complex of 151 apartments, a dozen condominiums and 16,000 square feet of commercial space built around a 300-space parking facility just north of Unum’s corporate headquarters.

“We’ve invested all across the Southeast, but not in Chattanooga until now and we’re really excited to be here,” John Darby, the third generation CEO of the Beach Co., said today during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new River Rock project. “There’s a lot about Chattanooga that reminds me of my hometown (Charleston), including that both cities are now in the top 10 list by Conde’ Nast of the best small cities to visit.”

Beach Company Development Manager Alan McMahon said the developers hope to have the first apartments ready to rent by the end of 2020 and the entire complex, which will include a half dozen buildings from three to five stories in height, completed by 2021.

“The Beach Company is a visionary developer and this work will have a lasting impact on Chattanooga,” said Chas Torrence, EVP, EMJ Construction. “We’re proud to be a part of this important work in our hometown.”

Read the entire article: Work on one of the biggest mixed-use projects in Chattanooga’s downtown to begin soon near Unum.


Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff photo by Tim Barber / Hamilton County Commissioner David Sharpe, right, stands with a line of officials at Monday’s groundbreaking for the new River Rock development between 3rd and 4th Streets. From right are Sharpe, Marianne Chaney, Erskine Oglesby, Jr., David Beard, Kim White, Darryl Reyna, Marc Leder, John Darby, J.C. Darby, Alan McMahon, Tim Bowman, Tyler Cooper, Dan Doyle, Mayor Andy Burke and Mayor Jim Coppinger.


EMJ Promotes Senior Preconstruction Leaders

Left to Right: Alex Miller, SVP, Preconstruction and Keith Starkes, VP, Preconstruction.

EMJ Construction has promoted Alex Miller to Senior Vice President of Preconstruction for its Chattanooga-based team, and Keith Starkes to Vice President of Preconstruction for its Dallas-based team. 

In these roles they will plan, organize, and direct the activities of the Preconstruction Department, provide overall leadership and management of the client experience process. Additionally, they serve as a champion for EMJ’s strategic vision.

Miller attended the University of Tennessee – Knoxville where he earned a degree in civil engineering. He joined EMJ Construction in 2008 as a Project Engineer. Since that time he has held several successive roles including Senior Project Estimator, Director of Preconstruction and Vice President of Preconstruction.

“At a construction firm, one of the key roles is leader of the preconstruction department because that department is the key to delivering a great client experience,” said Chas Torrence, EVP of EMJ Construction, Chattanooga. “Throughout his many years with EMJ, Alex has demonstrated expertise in the construction industry and an unquestionable dedication to serving our clients, partners and colleagues.”

While at EMJ, he’s served on several high-profile projects in Tennessee including: Wacker Polysilicon, a polysilicon production plant in Bradley; Market City Center, a massive mixed-use project in downtown Chattanooga; and, the high-profile renovation work for Ruby Falls, a 145- foot high underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain.

Starkes attended the Texas A&M University-Commerce where he earned a degree in construction science. He joined EMJ Construction in 2004 as a Project Engineer. Since that time he has held several successive roles including Superintendent, Project Manager, Senior Project Estimator, and Director of Preconstruction.

“Keith has displayed a dedication to serving his colleague and clients from the day he started at EMJ,” said William Mosher, EVP of EMJ Construction, Dallas. “Our preconstruction department sets the course for the project and it’s where we first earn trust from our clients. He’s passionate, fair, and humble. He will continue to be a steady and pragmatic voice helping to ensure we deliver value on each project.”

While at EMJ, he’s served on several high-profile projects in Texas including: Farmer Brothers Co. Headquarters, an office building and distribution center in Northlake; various programmatic projects for Lowes, Kohl’s and Walmart; and, the upcoming Alpha + Inwood project, a massive mixed-use development that includes a hotel, office building, and retail space, in Farmers Branch.

Market City Center, downtown Chattanooga.


A rendering of the The Alpha + Inwood project.

EMJ Participates in the Urban Land Institute Event

Recently, the global think-tank Urban Land Institute hosted its annual forecast on real estate and development trends for 2019 in Chattanooga. EMJ Corporation sponsored the event in partnership with the AGC of East Tennessee, AIA Chattanooga, Chattanooga Design Studio and River City Company.

Anita Kramer, Senior Vice President at ULI Center for Capital Markets & Real Estate started the event with her presentation on the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2019 report. The report is annually published by ULI each year. The Emerging Trends report is considered one of the most credible and well-regarded forecasts in the real estate industry. Drawing on insight from industry leaders, the report considers industry wide variables including U.S. investment and development trends, real estate finance and capital markets, property sectors, metropolitan areas, construction influences and other real estate issues.

Following ULI’s macro-forecast of the 2019 U.S. real estate trends, a panel of local experts gathered to provide a more specific discussion on Chattanooga’s 2019 outlook. The panelists included Chas Torrence, EVP of EMJ Construction, Tiffanie Robinson, CEO of Lamp Post Properties, and John Clark owner of Tennessee Development Resources. The panel was moderated by Jim Williamson of River City Company and covered a range of topics from the impact of Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds to rising construction costs and qualified labor shortages in Chattanooga.

The event was a first of its kind in Chattanooga and one that EMJ and presenting partners hope will help establish a ULI presence in Chattanooga permanently. Industry partners attending the event came from as far as Nashville and Atlanta and consisted of various developers, investors, designers, and more.

EMJ hopes to be a driving force behind Chattanooga’s affiliation with the Urban Land Institute while also helping to unify Chattanooga’s real estate development leaders and build upon continued growth in the same community where EMJ was founded in 1968.

Report by, Sam Marks, EMJ Construction 


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.

Measure twice, cut once: Using drone data to calculate concrete volume

Earlier this year, EMJ completed an expansion at Ruby Falls, a tourist attraction in Lookout Mountain, Tenn., that boasts the nation’s largest public underground waterfall. Our team constructed a new lobby, retail space, pedestrian mall, and more next to the original, historic castle that sits more than 1,000 feet above the underground waterfall.

The expansion required removal of a significant amount of rock to create a pad for the new construction. Considering the site’s location on a mountainside above an underground cavern, the team carefully drilled out the rock section by section, rather than blasting. As documented in a recent Ground Up podcast, the rock removal process required precision planning, logistics, and execution by all project team members. It also required careful consideration for how to prepare the resulting site to endure the elements for many years to come.

Among those considerations was waterproofing and the best method to ensure the exposed rock could withstand the elements. Of particular concern was a void between the new building and the rock wall. This gap was created when the team carved out the rock to create the building pad. The design team presented two options for EMJ to consider: apply a vinyl-waterproofing product or fill the space between the building and the mountain with concrete.

But, here was the catch. While the team could estimate the cost of the vinyl waterproofing, it was impossible to measure the gap and estimate the cost of the concrete.

The team called on Caleb Wickersham, EMJ Virtual Construction Engineer and licensed drone pilot, who had already flown the site and created a 3D model of the mountainside using photogrammetry.

Caleb layered the architect’s building model next to his mountainside model. Using his previous calculations, he was able to determine the volume of the space between the building and the mountain, which provided the amount of concrete needed to solve the waterproofing issue.  From this, the team calculated the concrete cost, and in comparing it with the vinyl-waterproofing cost, the vinyl product was the more cost-effective and prudent option for Ruby Falls.

There is an old adage that applies to construction, “Measure twice and cut once.”  In a figurative sense that means to plan and prepare in a careful, thorough manner before taking action. Using construction technology, that is exactly what the Ruby Falls team did, helping make sure its recommendation to the client was accurate.

Check out this video of Caleb’s handywork.

Related story:

EMJ’s Chattanooga team wraps up Ruby Falls expansion


Founders’ Hall opens in Collegedale

Last week, EMJ joined the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation and others to celebrate completion of Founders’ Hall, an event venue for farmer’s markets, weddings, community events, and more.

Photo by Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation Inc.


Founders’ Hall served as phase II of EMJ’s ongoing work at The Commons, an eight-acre cultural and recreational space serving the Collegedale, Tenn., community.

Phase I, which opened in late 2017, included a clock tower, Redwood tree grove, and an open-air pavilion, and Phase III will include the addition of a sound stage for concerts. It is expected to be completed in 2019.

The Commons is the culmination of joint efforts by Collegedale leaders, the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation, and the public to bring this center to the community.

“We are honored to be a part of bringing this project to Collegedale,” said Matt Elliott, EMJ Project Manager. “The Foundation and community leaders have worked hard to make it possible, and we are glad to be a small part of giving this strong community something to enjoy for years to come. Thanks to all of our trade partners and colleagues for their hard work in getting us here.”

Congratulations to the EMJ team on this project:

Ryan Colbert, Project Engineer
Matt Elliott, Project Manager
Blake Johnson, Lead Superintendent
Joe Woolums, Senior Preconstruction Manager

Pictured (left to right): Matt Elliott, Project Manager; Alex Miller, Vice President of Preconstruction; Ryan Colbert, Project Engineer; and Blake Johnson, Lead Superintendent


For more information on the new space, visit TheCommonsTN.com.

Related stories:

Chattanooga celebrates grand opening of The Commons

Virtual planning aids healthcare renovation project

Parkridge Health System is getting an upgrade, thanks to support from HCA’s FacilitiGroup. The hospital kicked off a $3.1 million chiller and cooling tower replacement project last month in partnership with the EMJ Construction team.

According to Parkridge, “This significant upgrade will improve the facility’s ability to manage its interior climate controls and overall utility efficiency.”


The new structure is being built within a mechanical “bull-pen” full of multiple utilities and services, leaving little to no room to spare. This complexity, combined with the need to continue operations at the hospital without disruption, required extensive planning and critical analysis before construction began.

“After reviewing the drawings, Lee Company and EMJ Superintendent David Taylor had concerns that the new chiller equipment wouldn’t fit into the roll-up door considering the adjacent air-cooled chiller located only a few feet away,” said Lance Truett, EMJ Project Manager.

If the equipment could not fit through the roll-up door, the team would need to identify an alternative method for installing the new equipment. To test the installation scenario, the project team enlisted the help of EMJ’s Construction Technology Department, which specializes in building information modeling (BIM) and other virtual imaging techniques.

“Employing laser scanning for existing conditions was the perfect solution for the Parkridge project since we were dealing with a high degree of complexity and congestion,” said Jonathan Deming, EMJ Director of Construction Technology. “This process has enabled our team to move forward with complete confidence and certainty.”

A “scan” is a powerful laser recording that captures a site’s shape and appearance and converts those conditions into 3D models and structural drawings at sub-millimeter accuracy.

“Roger Aasheim and Will Callery laser scanned the existing conditions and overlaid the new construction along with a 3D model of the chiller equipment provided by the chiller manufacturer to see how it was all going to go together,” said Truett. “With their help we were able to demonstrate that moving the building 18” east would eliminate all concerns and site constraints. Moving the structure also makes the installation safer and the future maintenance possible.”

With a modified construction plan approved and in place, the team and its trade partners kicked off the Parkridge renovation in late August. Demolition of the existing cooling tower is complete, and temporary towers are fully operational.

Working in conjunction with the technology team at HVAC company Lee Company, the EMJ team is currently modeling the pumps, piping, and control panels of the new space to fully understand the structure and ensure smooth and efficient construction continues throughout the project’s duration.

The Parkridge project is on track for early 2019 completion.  Congrats to the EMJ Construction Healthcare team on a job well done!

Roger Aasheim, Virtual Construction Engineer II
Will Callery, Virtual Construction Manager
Zach Klassen, Project Engineer
Lance Truett, Project Manager
Sam Marks, Preconstruction Manager
Cody Stubblefield, Project Engineer
David Taylor, Superintendent

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