ABC National Chairman Dan Brodbeck Zeroes in on Workforce Development, Politics and Community Involvement

Nearly 35 years ago, Dan Brodbeck graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in civil engineering and joined the construction workforce—where he found not just a job, but a lifelong passion for the industry. Today, his enthusiasm for the merit shop construction industry remains firmly intact as a small business owner and 2014 national
chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

Brodbeck determined early in his career that he preferred building, not designing projects. “In college, I took civil engineering because I loved math. The more I got into it, I decided to focus on the construction aspect of engineering because I didn’t want to sit in a room and design my whole life,” Brodbeck says. “I like being out in the field among the workers and always doing something different. Every job, owner and challenge is different.”
Dan Brodbeck
Moving around a lot was part of what kept work exciting during Brodbeck’s early years in the industry. He began his career working on two hospitals with Turner Construction in Birmingham, Ala. Shortly after, Brodbeck was transferred to Miami as the project engineer on the Harbor Beach Marriott, where ABC’s BizCon was held last year. In 1985, Brodbeck went to work for McDevitt Street Bovis as the project manager for an office building in Miami. He later moved to Orlando, Fla., where he worked on the Sun Bank Center, which remains the city’s tallest building.

In 1988, Brodbeck finally landed in a city where he’d spend the next 25 years: Nashville, Tenn. He earned a master’s degree in organizational management from Trevecca Nazarene University and still lives just outside the city in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife Mindy. 

In 1995, Brodbeck became vice president of Nashville-based American Constructors, which was founded by former ABC National Chairman Joe M. Rodgers, who coined the phrase “Get into Politics, or Get Out of Business” and in 2000 was named one of ABC’s Leaders of the Century. (ABC also created the Joe M. Rodgers Political Excellence Award in his honor, which recognizes chapters’ political involvement through ABC PAC and issue advocacy support to the Free Enterprise Alliance.)

Under the leadership of Brodbeck and Rodgers’ nephew Ed, who was president at the time, the firm grew from $15 million per year to $140 million per year. “It was a really strong time in the construction industry. We had a reputation for being really hands on and all upper management stayed involved,” Brodbeck says.

American Constructors worked on many notable projects in the Nashville area, including building the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which the company also repaired after the 2010 flood. In 2006, ABC’s Mid-Tennessee Chapter named American Constructors its Contractor of the Year.

It was also during this time that Brodbeck was encouraged to become more involved in ABC. “It was a way for me to give back to the industry while being supported by my employer. I love the industry and working with other contractors,” he says. “We compete against each other for work a lot of times, but they were never my enemy, they were always my friends. ABC helped me keep that attitude.”

Brodbeck began serving on the ABC Mid-Tennessee Chapter’s Board of Directors in 2002 and became the chapter’s chairman in 2007. During this time, he was a member of the chapter’s Legislative, Finance, Political Action and Membership committees. In 2010, Brodbeck became regional vice chairman of ABC’s Southeast Region (then called Region 4).

Brodbeck felt like he could make a bigger impact on a national level, so, with his wife’s support, he put plans in motion to become ABC’s 2014 national chairman. Brodbeck left American Constructors at the end of 2011 and began his own business, Compass Partners, which provides construction management services to owners, architects and contractors. Currently, it is active in renovations and additions to senior living facilities and churches.
Compass Partners is most active in additions and renovations to senior living facilities.
Being his own boss allows Brodbeck to control his schedule, but it also means taking on extra responsibilities.

“When you work as a sole proprietor, not only do you have to get the work, but you have to do the work, put all the proposals together, balance the checkbook and do all the filing,” he says. “Some of the mundane tasks take away from what I love to do, which is being out there and working with people.”

Brodbeck’s only staff members include his wife and a member of his church who does the bookkeeping. “I really like that one of my only employees is my wife, which can be a make-or-break situation. But it has worked out well for us. I really like working with her.”

Brodbeck has been able to earn the respect of—and business from—many clients because of his 30-year record on the contracting side of construction management.

“When I was trying to figure out what to do after American Constructors, I was very involved in the community and knew a lot of owners, architects, contractors and banks. My goal is to get them all on the same page and singing the same song, so to speak,” Brodbeck says. “I realized early on you have to get together to work through projects rather than fight each other. It makes the whole project run smoother and more profitable for everyone involved.”

The Year Ahead
Brodbeck plans to focus on workforce development during his year as ABC national chairman. “There’s a real concern about the worker shortage,” Brodbeck says. “I think everyone wants to change the image of the industry and communicate that to young people. We need to improve how we recruit young people, train them and then give them opportunities.”

He also plans to focus on political advocacy and strengthening the message of the merit shop philosophy.

“The biggest problem in this country is apathy, and I don’t know if contractors have ever been considered apathetic. We can change the whole attitude of this country,” Brodbeck says. He plans on meeting with ABC chapter boards and attending membership meetings to help encourage contractors to get more involved.

“ABC is a member-driven organization and the only way this will work is to get the message down to a member level. A lot of ABC members want to get involved and we just need to give them an avenue,” Brodbeck says. “I’ve always had a passion for politics, but I’m becoming more critical because this country is getting away from its values. Getting people involved who care is the only way to change it.”

Brodbeck believes a more stable political environment is necessary for the construction market to accelerate.  “People are picking up work but are hesitant to bring on new employees because it’s hard to tell whether there has been improvement in the economy or if we are just bouncing along the bottom.”

The subcontractor market is feeling that effect most strongly, according to Brodbeck. Because subcontractors are responsible for a large percentage of each construction project, the industry cannot bounce back entirely until those firms feel more confident and start hiring.

“Contractors need to believe the federal government supports small businesses, which is not happening right now with all the regulations and standards,” Brodbeck says. “Until they feel confident that the government will back them and wants them in the industry, contractors will continue to be afraid.

“The merit shop is the voice of capitalism, which is what made this country strong. We can turn the tide.”


Jessica Porter is assistant editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email porter@abc.org, visit www.constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
  • Serves on FiftyForward Martin Center’s Advisory Board
  • Serves on the Executive Advisory Council for Middle Tennessee State University’s Construction Management Program and Concrete Industry Management Program
  • Board Member of the Nashville Business Coalition
  • Serves on the Nashville Symphony Campaign Cabinet
  • Honorary Board Member of the American Cancer Society
  • Member of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce
  • Member of the Tennessee Department of Education
  • Architecture and Construction Advisory Committee
  • Serves on the Board of the Catholic Foundation of Tennessee
ABC INVOLVEMENT
  • 2002-2004: Member of the Mid-Tennessee
  • Chapter Board of Directors
  • 2005: Secretary/Treasurer of the Mid-Tennessee
  • Chapter Board of Directors
  • 2007-2008: Chairman of the Mid-Tennessee Chapter
  • 2010-2012: Southeast Region Vice Chairman
  • 2013: ABC National Chairman-Elect
  • 2014: ABC National Chairman