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When Lance Arvel decided to leave college because it didn’t seem like the right fit, he wasn’t quite sure what was next. 

His path led him to take a job as an electrical helper with ISC Constructors, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and so began his career in the construction industry. He moved up the ranks while working for other ABC member companies, and eventually he became a project manager.  

More than 18 years later, Arvel has used his passion and knowledge to propel himself into his current role as business development manager for Baton Rouge-based GROUP Industries. In March, Arvel was named Associated Builders and Contractors’ Young Professional of the Year, acknowledging his career achievements, leadership and vision for the future of the commercial and industrial construction industry.

“I’m still in shock; I still cannot believe it,” Arvel says. “Being ABC’s Young Professional of the Year means a tremendous amount because the process taught me so much about who I am. My story shaped the man that I am today. What a great honor to represent my company and the ABC Pelican Chapter.”

BUILDING A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CAREER

The Great Recession in 2008 hit Louisiana hard, and construction work was scarce. Arvel started traveling to find work, landing in the San Francisco Bay area with a job in quality control for Ardent, a Louisiana-based electrical and instrumentation services company. After about a year and a half, home was calling for the born and bred Louisianan. 

Arvel accepted a position with VEC Solutions, LLC (formerly known as Vector Electric & Controls) in Gonzales as an industrial account manager. He found he enjoyed the relationship-building aspect of his job, and after a few months he approached the owner and asked for a role in business development. He got it.

While at Vector, Arvel was heavily involved with the ABC Pelican Chapter and served on various committees, including the board of directors, where he met Donn Peterson, vice president of business development and marketing for GROUP Industries. The two formed a close bond, and Arvel remained involved with the chapter as he transitioned to his new employer, GIS Industrial.

Regrettably, during this time GIS initiated a downsizing process, and Arvel was one of the unlucky ones. He recalled Peterson having mentioned that he was looking for a candidate to train who would ultimately replace him when he retired. As Arvel was packing his things at GIS, he gave Peterson a call, and was onboarding at GROUP Industries shortly thereafter.

“Without ABC, I would never have gotten this opportunity,” Arvel says. “Every day when I go to work, I’m reminded why I chose this path. I am committed to this industry and love what I am building.”

A CHAMPION OF THE MERIT SHOP

A seasoned industry professional and longtime champion of ABC, Peterson strongly supported Arvel’s involvement in the ABC Pelican Chapter. In addition to his annual ABC PAC contribution, Arvel served on the program and events committee for a few years, chairing it in 2016; on the board of directors in 2016 and 2017; and on the young professionals committee, which he chaired in 2018. He credits these experiences with introducing him to a vast network of industry executives with whom he has formed invaluable relationships.

One such connection, Glen Redd, was a founding member of the ABC Pelican Chapter more than 30 years ago. As the vice president of Baton Rouge-based Triad Electric & Controls, Redd (who has more than 55 years of industry experience) served alongside Arvel on the chapter’s board of directors. The two connected and began working together politically, meeting with members of Congress on the annual Legislative Day in Baton Rouge to discuss craft training programs, fair and open competition, and the merit shop philosophy. Arvel is also actively engaged in local and state political fundraisers throughout the year.

“Lance is an outstanding young man with a lot of get up and go,” Redd says. 

Arvel channeled that energy into growing the chapter’s young professionals committee, which at the time had about 12 members. With help from Redd and Jeremiah Worthington, who is integration center operations manager for Triad and past chair of the young professionals committee, Arvel formed a strategic plan for the group and hit the ground running. The committee now has 73 members with no plans to stop growing. 

The committee centers its mission around personal and professional growth. 

“We educate people on ABC’s mission and encourage them to get involved politically to spread the merit shop philosophy to legislators,” Arvel says.

Peer-to-peer relationship building, leadership development and community outreach are also priorities for the group, which hosts quarterly educational and networking events and has a relationship with the American Cancer Society, among other charitable organizations. 

MENTORSHIP AS A MEANS TO SUCCESS 

Each year, a team from Louisiana State University competes in ABC National’s Construction Management Competition, a hallmark event that promotes careers in construction management by providing opposing teams with an opportunity to experience bidding an actual project that exhibits unique characteristics and issues. When Arvel and the young professionals committee learned that the ABC student chapter at LSU wasn’t getting the support it needed to succeed, they formed a plan to improve the program and jumped right in. 

Arvel headed up the business development portion of the project, where he met LSU construction management student Brandon Brignac. 

Throughout the several weeks leading up to the competition, “Lance was there every step of the way,” Brignac says, taking time out of his work day to meet with the team to go over their presentation and refine their public speaking skills. “He even stayed up with us until 2 a.m. giving us tips, keeping us motivated and giving pep talks.” 

The hard work paid off, and the LSU team (who had placed 25th in years prior) came in third place two years in a row. After both of those presentations, the judges said LSU was the best spoken and best prepared team in the competition.

“Lance has said time and time again how this is the future of the industry and he loves having a hand in the competition,” Brignac says. “Thanks to his involvement, the program has become so popular that we’ve had to hold interviews for people to be part of it.”

Adds Arvel: “To see them grow from not being able to even give a presentation in front of five people, much less 75 other students and professionals, to then being told they were the most well-spoken team in the competition—that’s amazing to me.” 

Brignac interned with GROUP Industries, and was eventually hired for his current project engineer role with the company. 

“During that time, I had multiple job offers and was really having difficulty deciding which company to go with,” Brignac says. “Lance could tell I was struggling with the decision, and he said, ‘Look five years into your future and know that the decisions you make today are going to impact you five years from now.’ He understood that this was the biggest decision I had ever made in my life, and he never pressured me. He helped me to realize that my choices are my choices and no one else’s.” 

The two now have offices right next to one another, and Brignac frequently comes to Arvel with questions. “It’s very exciting to me; I look at him like a little brother. He comes to me for advice, which is just very humbling,” Arvel says.

COMMITTED TO HELPING OTHERS SUCCEED

Arvel believes that anyone who allows themselves to see a possible future in construction can achieve anything they want. 

“One of things I respect most about ABC is its message that you don’t have to have to go to college to live the American dream,” he says. “It’s rewarding to be given opportunities where I am trusted with operational and business developments to ensure successful growth for the company, all without having a college degree. Anyone can have the American dream if they are willing to apply themselves.”  

William Clouatre, a family friend and the president of a previous employer, says Arvel has most definitely walked that talk. 

“Everything he does, he’s engaged in and gives it 100%,” Clouatre says. “I could go on and on. I’m not sure of anything he’s gotten into that he hasn’t taken full ownership of and given it 100%.”  

When asked about his own personal achievements, Arvel says it’s sometimes difficult to take stock because he tends to pursue opportunities to help his industry peers before himself. 

“I do believe that I really have achieved a great amount in the construction industry through the years, especially with my involvement and development within ABC. But if you ask me what my personal achievement that I am most proud of is, it would be my son, Maverick. It’s hard for me to put into words, but becoming a father really does change it all,” he says. 

“When I look at Maverick today at 10 years old, I can’t tell you how it feels to see what a caring, intelligent, kind and motivated human he is. I wake up every day doing what I do in this industry to ensure that he is part of a future where he is given the opportunity to succeed as a leader and pursue any industry in which he feels he will find true value.” 

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