EMJ’s CFO Presents at CFMA Annual Conference

EMJ Corporation’s CFO, Steve Coughran, participated in the 2019 CFMA Annual Conference teaching courses about strategy and financial management.

This week, EMJ Corporation’s Chief Financial Officer, Steve Coughran, participated in the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Annual Conference at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Steve led two sessions about Finance and Accounting. The CFMA Annual Conference & Exhibition provides educational opportunities, including general sessions, mini-conferences, breakout sessions – including advanced sessions – peer groups, and networking opportunities. This year’s theme was “Success Encompassed.”

Steve Coughran, CFO of EMJ Corporation, speaks at the 2019 CFMA conference.


Steve’s sessions focused on the connection between strategy and financial management and gaining strategic insight and financial acumen to make value-based decisions that enhance cash flow and the bottom line.

In addition to serving as EMJ’s CFO, Steve is a keynote speaker for national associations and universities and the author of “Delivering Value: A Holistic Approach to Strategic-Powered Growth,” and the recently released book, “Outsizing: Strategies to Grow Your Business, Profits and Potential.”

At the University of Denver, Steve teaches a course entitled “Strategic Financial Leadership.” Steve is a CPA and earned his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business. He graduated with his MS in Accountancy from the University of Denver.

EMJ Corporation Ranks on ENR’s Top 400 List

EMJ Corporation is #164 on ENR’s Top 400 List of contractors. This ranking includes the work of EMJ Construction and Signal Energy.

EMJ Corporation has once again landed on ENR’s Top 400 List of contractors. This year EMJ ranks number 164. This ranking represents EMJ’s corporate work including EMJ Construction and Signal Energy.

“I am proud of our employees and their work which earned this ranking,” said Burt Odom, President and CEO of EMJ Corporation. “But more than that, I am proud of how they provide value and exceptional experiences to clients every day.”

Since 1968, EMJ and its family of companies have delivered billions of dollars in building and renewable energy projects across the U.S. This year Signal Energy entered the Australian large-scale solar marketplace, opening regional headquarters in Sydney where it has contracts for two major solar projects.

The corporation’s history and experience are unique, but what elevates EMJ is the client experience. With more than 50 years of diverse experience, thousands of partnerships across the country and numerous satisfied, repeat customers, EMJ challenges clients to expect more —one project at a time.

EMJ Construction Recognizes Outstanding Work

The Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence recognize exceptional work. The Jolleys, named in memory of EMJ’s founder, Ed Jolley, Sr., are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.

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, Ed Jolley, Sr., are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.

“We are proud of our all our employees who work to fulfill our purpose, to serve our clients, partners, and colleagues,” said Jack Bowen, President, EMJ Construction. “It is important to stop and recognize extraordinary achievements and employees throughout the year and celebrate great work. Congratulations to all this year’s award recipients and thank you for continuing the legacy of EMJ Construction.”

Outstanding Performance


The award for Outstanding Performance is EMJ’s highest individual performance honor. This award is given to one employee each year. Employees are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. Nominees are judged against the following criteria:

  • Exemplified strong work ethic, performance, and responsibility
  • Modeled servant leadership and developed additional team member
  • Demonstrated initiative and creativity in tackling difficult or unusual challenges


This year’s Jolley for Outstanding Performance is awarded to Jon Fair, Project Manager, EMJ Construction Dallas. Jon is the client relationship manager for the CarMax program.

Jon Fair, Project Manager, EMJ Construction Dallas


Jon provides an exceptional experience to the client and, along with the team, responsible for successful projects. Jon leads by example and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, this year he led the way to create a weekend rotation program for the project team, providing relief for the field staff. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Shane Hurley, Lead Superintendent, Chattanooga
  • Rickey Palmer, Superintendent, Dallas
  • Sheree Quarles, Divisional Controller, Chattanooga


Servant Leadership


The award for Outstanding Servant Leadership is EMJ’s highest recognition of an individual who exemplifies servant leadership as defined by EMJ’s core values. This award is given to one employee each year. Employees are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. Nominees are judged against the following criteria:

  • Lead by example
  • Inspired and served others
  • Exhibited EMJ’s core values


This year’s Jolley for Servant Leadership is awarded to Mike Coyne, Superintendent, EMJ Construction Dallas. Mike is the epitome of Superintendent.

Mike Coyne, Superintendent, EMJ Construction Dallas


Mike is willing to go wherever EMJ needs him and is relentless with it comes to meeting any commitments. He has moved offices and projects multiple times. Whatever his assignment, Mike is selfless and gritty. Leadership trust him he provides an exceptional experience to the client and, along with the team, responsible for successful projects. He lives out the EMJ purpose, to be people serving people.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Charles Grothe, Project Engineer, EMJ Construction, Dallas
  • Matt Johnson, Accounting Manager, EMJ Corporation, Chattanooga
  • Jonathan Woolsey, Project Manager, EMJ Construction, Chattanooga


Outstanding Project


The award for Outstanding Project is EMJ’s highest recognition of a project team. This award is given to one project team each year. Projects are nominated for this award by office leadership, and a committee selects the recipient. The team receiving the Jolley for Outstanding Project will meet at least four of the following criteria:

  • Managed the team, schedule, and budget with precision
  • Demonstrated a commitment to safety
  • Delivered an exceptional client experience


This year’s Jolley for Outstanding Project is awarded to the Ruby Falls expansion in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Members of the team include:

  • Tina Brogdon
  • Ryan Colbert
  • Taylor Copeland
  • Matt Elliott
  • Katie Haberberger
  • Lance Lindsey
  • John Rudez
  • Cissy Scott


Located over 1,120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls boasts the nation’s largest and deepest waterfall open to the public. The site has become one of the most popular attractions in the Southeast, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

The project took 14 months of meticulous planning and diligent work. With the expansion, visitors enjoy a new entrance lobby and pedestrian mall, as well as updated parking, ticketing, retail and restrooms. Other additions include renovated office space and enhanced observation of the city.

Due to its location and landscape, the project provided some unique challenges including hammering out rock and installing rock drapes to mitigate the risk of falling rocks. Click here to read more about the Ruby Falls expansion.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

  • Graysville Elementary, Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • CarMax, Norman, Oklahoma


Congratulations to all the nominees, winners, and employees dedicated to delivering unique, relevant client experiences, and operational excellence every day.

Farmer Brothers Project Wins Award

The Farmer Brothers office and manufacturing facility, built by EMJ Construction, won the PRO Food World Manufacturing Innovation Award.

Photo: RGA Architects


Farmer Brothers delivers exceptional coffee, tea, spice, culinary, and equipment solutions to local businesses, foodservice, national chains and everything in between. Recently, the Farmer Brothers office and manufacturing facility won the PRO Food World 2018 Manufacturing Innovation Award.

Spanning 28 acres, the coffee company headquarters includes a 258,338-square-foot distribution center, a 194,438-square-foot coffee production facility, and 84,823 square feet of office space for its nearly 400 corporate employees.

This lean, greenfield manufacturing facility features a customized, flexible manufacturing system that hopes to achieve 95 percent OEE and reduces the need for human intervention on the plant floor. The facility includes advanced roasters, an automated replenishment optimizer; and custom mixing, weighing and conveying equipment that allow Farmer Brothers to respond to rapidly changing market demands.

Watch Daniel Gerritsen, Director of Engineering & Strategy, Farmer Brothers accept the award and discuss the project.

Farmer Brothers desired an aggressive schedule, as four other facilities nationwide were consolidating into the new headquarters, and the new distribution center needed to begin operating while construction was still underway. EMJ coordinated the project team, ensured that the facility could function while construction was ongoing, and worked with consultants to highlight value-saving opportunities and ensure long-term efficiency for the facility.

“Farmer Brothers is a world class company,” said William Mosher, EVP, EMJ Construction, Dallas. “As national manufacturer, it serves over 60,000 food and beverage establishments across the U.S. We are honored to partner with them on this project and excited that it won this prestigious award.”

The Keys to Operational Excellence in Construction

There are three universal tenants to ensure operational excellence on construction projects that must be executed and measured on a consistent basis.

General George S. Patton once said that “By perseverance, and study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.” These principles of perseverance, study, and desire are cornerstones of any individual, group, or organization desiring to obtain and sustain success. While some may argue that General Patton lacked the ability to empathize with people, most can agree that the man knew how to move an army in order to achieve operational excellence.

In the construction industry, a need for this same operational excellence becomes evident when reflecting on the final decades of the twentieth century, a time where stagnancy pervaded the industry. Construction companies were under-performing, the expected turnover left much to be desired, and clients often felt the pains of mismanaged projects. These issues revealed a glaring need for a a new model of operational excellence.

Operational excellence encourages companies to enhance the client experience, minimize cost, and cut wasteful processes in terms of managing resources and materials, allowing value to be restored and delivered to clients. Coming out of the Great Recession of the early twenty-first century, adopting this new practice in our industry became necessary in order to meet the demands of the market. In a time where clients had tighter margins and technological advances were happening at an ever increasing rate, it was imperative that construction companies become experts on this new model, have a great desire to learn its principles, and persevere through the slow, arduous process of applying it within all disciplines throughout their organizations.

There are many facets where operational excellence should be applied, but just as General Patton believed in the three principles of perseverance, study, and eternal desire, there are three universal tenants to ensure operational excellence on construction projects that must be executed and measured on a consistent basis. These universal tenants of operational excellence are:

  • Collaboration. In order to achieve and maintain excellence within any successful organization, there must be collaboration. Clients must know of pending changes and issues. Designers have to seek input from contractors in order to provide an exceptional finished product. Contractors must look beyond what they are doing today so they can positively impact the schedule and efficiencies on a given project.
  • Standardization. Far too often leaders are reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to meeting the needs of those they serve. Processes and procedures found in countless operation manuals are typically the result of a problem that had to be solved, which is why it is critical for attention to be consistently given to improving quality through standardization. When processes/procedures and means/methods of operational excellence are all standard, the improved quality of construction is directly correlated. Standardized tasks become muscle-memory and are easily tracked/measured, saving time and reducing error.
  • Development. There is no doubt that real dollars are tied to the development of team members. However, the importance of investing in staff development cannot be overstated if our industry wants to achieve and maintain operational excellence. Our team members are our most critical resource – the one companies should be continually investing in to grow and retain. The quality of our team members are directly related to the predictable success of our projects. Therefore, providing training and committing to development opportunities quickly produces positive results across the construction spectrum.


More than ever, clients want things done right, and they deserve nothing less. Time has never been more expensive, and we can’t retrace steps. A steady focus on the importance of completing quality projects on time while creating strong, positive relationships with those in which we serve has never been more important.

Companies that are finding success today are the ones that made the decision to embrace their potential and move past the old status quo by collaborating, setting high standards, and developing their people. They embraced operational excellence, realizing how critical it was to their organization. They realized that it is the driving force that produces better results in terms of client experience, cost efficiency, productivity and innovation.

A desire for excellence is what separates the good from the great. My hope is that, just as General Patton did, our industry continues to pursue the principles of perseverance, study, and desire so that we can provide our clients the operational excellence and client experiences they deserve.


Jason Dunnam provides day-to-day leadership to the construction operations team in Dallas. He has nearly 20 years of experience, including as a senior superintendent. Jason lives in Dallas, but returns home to Seneca, Missouri, every chance he gets. He enjoys the outdoors, hunting, serving his church and community, and spending time with his three adult sons.


Lidl Opens Stores in Atlanta Area to Much Fanfare

Two of EMJ Construction’s Lidl projects recently opened in Snellville and Mableton, Georgia, two of the first three stores in the Atlanta area.

The Snellville, GA Lidl store. Photo: David Keith from the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Two of EMJ Construction’s Lidl projects recently opened in Snellville and Mableton, Georgia.

The first of the stores to open was Snellville, opened on Wednesday, January 30, to a packed house. The Gwinnett Daily Post, was on hand to capture the excitement:

The first customers braved temperatures in the mid-20s just so they could be the first people in the door. Store officials said the first customer to arrive was Snellville resident John Rudovich, who said he arrived shortly after 3 a.m. to get in line for the 8 a.m. opening.

The store employs about 60 people at the store, which has about 36,000 square feet of space — about 21,000 of which is the actual shopping area, according to Lidl spokeswoman Chandler Ebeier.

“We’re definitely very excited to be in Georgia (and) we will continue to expand here and along the east coast,” she said. “It’s definitely great to open the door and be in the Snellville community.”

Ebeier said she was impressed to see the line of customers who braved the cold temperatures to be at the grand opening.

“It was crazy and for 25-degree weather, that is very impressive and it definitely goes to show how people are excited about Lidl opening in the community,” she said. “Grans openings are one of my favorite things to attend. We just love to open in new communities and introduce our high quality and low prices to brand new customers in the area.”

A recent Lidl opening. Photo: The Patch.

The Mableton store opened on Wednesday, February 12. The Snellville and Mableton locations are two of the first three stores in the Atlanta area. To read the full story, visit: Gwinnettians pack German grocer Lidl’s Snellville store for grand opening.

“Lidl is a fantastic client,” said Chas Torrence, EVP of EMJ Construction. “They provide a premium product and excellent experience to their customers, which is why they have a loyal and dedicated following. We’re proud to partner with them as they expand their brand and reach.”

Lidl operates over 10,500 stores in 29 countries. They have a history of cultivating relationships with local suppliers in each region to offer customers high quality products at low prices. They have recently expanded to the United States and are striving to be a time-saving, life-enhancing grocery store where customers love to shop. Visit Lidl to learn more.

Signal Energy Leaders Discuss Exciting 2019 Projects

Greg Pawson and Julian Bell of Signal Energy sat down with Mike Pare of the Chattanooga Times Free Press to discuss the company’s exciting 2019 outlook.

Julian Bell, left, and Greg Pawson, of Signal Energy Constructors, talk about upcoming construction projects.
Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Recently Greg Pawson and Julian Bell of Signal Energy sat down with Mike Pare of the Chattanooga Times Free Press to discuss the company’s 2019 outlook. Here’s an excerpt of the story which ran on Sunday, February 3, 2019:

With tariffs on solar panels taking some sizzle out of that market in 2018, a Chattanooga company says business is heating back up with plans for its biggest-ever project and a push into Australia.

Signal Energy Constructors, which designs and builds utility-scale solar installations, is readying large projects in Texas, Georgia and Australia, said company President Greg Pawson.

The over 600 megawatt array in Texas is the largest the company has ever done and one of the nation’s biggest, he said.

“We’ll start design this year,” Pawson said about the company that’s owned by Chattanooga-based construction giant EMJ Corp.

Also, the business founded in 2005 last year opened an office in Australia, where it’s working on what will be the biggest solar array in that country, he said.

Signal Energy has been picked to build a 333 megawatt solar plant in New South Wales, Pawson said.

That installation will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 115,000 homes and displace more than 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, the company said.

To read the full story, visit: Chattanooga solar power array maker takes on its biggest-ever project.

Signal Energy is the renewable energy subsidiary of EMJ Corporation. Signal Energy, is a leading full service design/build contractor providing Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services for utility-scale renewable energy projects. Signal Energy Australia opened January 2018 and is headquartered in Sydney.

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.

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

Diverse career path leads Pfeiffer to EMJ

EMJ’s people are the building blocks of the company. Their personalities, skills and past experiences are large parts of what make the company great. We are proud of each member of the team and enjoy sharing their stories.

EMJ Construction Project Manager Anita Pfeiffer found success in many different arenas before finding a home at EMJ Corporation.

Born and raised in Allentown, Pa., Pfeiffer began exploring different career options while attending Cedar Crest College in her hometown.

She worked for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., a manufacturer of industrial gases, and then as a paralegal at a law firm in New York. After a couple of years in the legal field, Pfeiffer decided to pursue a new challenge and enter the retail industry.

Pfeiffer worked as a district manager for a number of years, then transitioned to the restaurant business, where she worked with a private owner to manage numerous locations.

She began noticing that her responsibilities in the retail and restaurant industries aligned closely with the responsibilities associated with a career in construction.

“In both industries, I worked closely with the general contractor to ensure stores would be ready for timely turnover,” Pfeiffer said. “The responsibilities were extremely similar, which made the transition to construction a smooth one.”

With the help of her brother, EMJ Lead Superintendent Greg Pfeuffer, she dove into a construction career. After gaining nine years of experience as a superintendent, she joined EMJ as a Project Manager in November 2014. She says EMJ presented a perfect opportunity to utilize her combined skills that she’d gained from years in other industries.

“I enjoy the empowerment and autonomy that I am granted in order to get my job done,” Anita says. “I love having numerous balls in the air and at the end of the day or week feel success through the dedication and collaboration of the team.”

From a young age, Pfeiffer was inspired by her mother, Alice Pfeiffer, who instilled in her the values she carries with her today.

“She was always concerned about others, and she led by example,” Pfeiffer said. “She taught me to be dedicated, determined, responsible, trustworthy, and courageous in her own way.”

Pfeiffer has followed in her mother’s footsteps, leading by example to her colleagues at EMJ. She was recently awarded a Jolley for Outstanding Performance, the corporation’s highest honor for an individual employee, at EMJ’s 50th anniversary meeting.

Pfeiffer sees many great opportunities in her role, but specifically appreciates the chance to craft and mentor the next generation.

“Nothing is more rewarding than helping those around you achieve success,” Pfeiffer said. “All my success has stemmed from the tremendous people around me, so it’s nice to return the favor to future generations.”


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Employees honored for Outstanding Performance