Reflections on a Legacy

Leon Blondin, CEO, US Buildings

Memorial Day has always held a special place in my heart, and I believe the privilege of living and working in the nation’s capital has a lot to do with that. When I think of the Lincoln Memorial that enshrines the memory of a president and the union he helped preserve, I can’t help but pause to give thanks for this country. I am humbled when I envision Arlington National Cemetery’s endless rows of white tombstones, many bearing inscriptions of all-too-recent years, and recall the faint sounds of Taps drumming in the background. When I remember the Washington Monument, towering steadfastly over the city that bears his name, I have hope for my children and my children’s children.
It is with tremendous pride that Balfour Beatty has built monuments, memorials and government buildings that are often mentioned in the same breath as those historic landmarks. From projects like the National Museum of the Marine Corps to the Air Force Memorial and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, our team has helped pay homage to generations of “greatest Americans.” One of the most challenging and rewarding missions we executed was the Pentagon Memorial, which honors victims of 9/11. Of this project, my friend and colleague Mark Konchar said it best: “It has touched me personally and professionally. It shaped my views of our business and what is possible in our industry.”
As a Division, we maintain a healthy balance of both private and public projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Federal work, however, has a way of connecting project teams in a way that I’ve rarely seen replicated on an office tower or multifamily high-rise, for example. It’s brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion to converse with an active duty service member, knowing that even in the very moment we are discussing subcontractors or square feet, he stands ready to answer his nation’s call. When your client is the individuals who bravely and selflessly secure our freedom–especially those who have been wounded in the process–you can’t help but feel inspired and to grasp, perhaps on a subconscious level, that everything you stand for as an American is somehow connected to the job at hand.
As I reflect on our multi-decade legacy in the federal marketplace, I also have enormous respect for the stringent safety standards the government mandated long before the construction industry instituted similar objectives. When it comes to innovation, federal projects have often served as a testing ground for technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) long before they made waves in the private arena.
Perhaps there has been no greater testing ground for Balfour Beatty's Mid-Atlantic Division than the $1.4 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Campus East Headquarters joint-venture project. From pursuit to final close-out, our team rose to the magnitude of the challenge before them, delivering this integrated design-bid-build project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers six months ahead of schedule and on budget. At the end of my career, I will look back on this project as not only a pinnacle of design and construction but also as representative of the very heart and soul of Balfour Beatty.
Recently, my 20-year-old daughter, Katie, told me a story that made me comprehend–with fresh eyes–the impact Balfour Beatty has had on the metro-D.C. area. As parents are known to do, she’d been asked what her father does for a living. When my daughter responded that I work for Balfour Beatty, her friend’s dad, immediately making the connection, responded that he’d just had the opportunity to tour the Marine Corps Museum, where we are currently building a large expansion onto the original building we completed in 2006. My daughter shared how proud she was, but make no mistake, I was the one beaming. It is both an awesome and awe-inspiring responsibility to have been entrusted with projects that memorialize history even as they become part of it. Projects that are as life-changing for the builder as they are for client and visitor alike.