For over 65 years, Davis & Floyd has engineered critical civil infrastructure to enable, sustain, and empower communities and commercial services. From new public structures to road and bridge infrastructure to modernization projects and more, Davis & Floyd creates innovative solutions which improve function, enhance lives, and promote long-term value in South Carolina.
Vice President and Environmental Manager Tommy Jordan has been with the firm more than 35 years and has multidisciplinary engineering experience in all market sectors. As a NEPA practitioner, Jordan prepares Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Categorical Exclusions (CEs) for numerous highway projects. These comprehensive documents study the applicable requirements for federally funded projects.
Jordan also oversees solid waste design permitting and compliance as well as industrial design permitting and compliance. Further, he obtains and manages 404/401 wetland and stream mitigation permits and writes hazardous waste technical reports and provides guidance for handling contaminated sites and disposal of contaminated soils. Additionally, Jordan conducts and writes asbestos and lead paint surveys and provides guidance and project designs for building demolition and material disposal.
GroundBreak recently chatted with Jordan to get some insight into the business as well as his background.
You’ve been with Davis & Floyd for over 35 years, and you’ve been involved with each of the company’s market sectors. How did you end up as a VP over the environmental division?
Actually 36.5 years. I started out in the civil site/survey group and after four years was going to move over to the water/wastewater group. They loaned me to the environmental group during the asbestos survey days of the late 1980s and early 90s for what was to be a couple of months and I never left.
2020 has been a challenging year. How do you stay motivated when obstacles, setbacks, or viruses get in the way?
2020 has been a crazy year, but my team and I have had to be flexible and stay focused on providing service to our clients. We have had a lot of tailgate meetings with clients, received bids in parking lots instead of conference rooms, and we have learned to text, call, Zoom, FaceTime much more than previously in person. But you would be surprised how many industries, landfills, creeks, new project sites, schools, and public buildings we have been in during this time.
You graduated from The Citadel with a Civil Engineering degree. How did this military school prepare you for the business world?
The Citadel is focused on leadership for the citizen/soldier. For me, it prepared me to navigate through difficult times and taught me the value of teamwork. The Citadel has a way of polishing the traits that you already have like character, confidence, integrity, and faith. All three of my sons attended The Citadel. One of the attributes I am told about each of them that impacted their careers is that they are fearless.
Davis & Floyd President and CEO Stephen Davis is also a graduate of The Citadel. Did you know each other in school?
No, Stephen’s older brother Mett and I are classmates and I am about six years older. I have known Stephen since he was 12 and I have enjoyed watching him grow up, go off to school, get married, raise a family and take on his leadership role at D|F.
You are a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in South Carolina. Tell us how getting your own “stamp” impacted your career.
Obtaining an engineering degree and becoming registered was my goal as a teen. After passing the exam and when my stamp came in the mail, the first thing I did was to write my father a letter thanking him for all of his love and support over the years. I placed my first stamp on that letter. Becoming a PE has put me at the table for a lot of professional opportunities and it has also put me in numerous roles of responsibility.
You’ve been involved with numerous hazardous waste sites. What is the nastiest stuff you’ve ever been involved with?
I would say the nastiest site was a rayon plant in East Tennessee. The clay below the tank farm was bleached white. We have helped clean up a number of sites but most of those were not what I would call nasty. Our primary role has been to help industry store, dispose, and manage hazardous waste safely and in compliance with federal regulations.
You’re involved with wetland and stream mitigation projects. Are you an outdoorsman, like several other employees at Davis & Floyd? If so, what type of outdoor activities do you enjoy?
It has been said that you men like either fur, feathers, or fins. I do a little bit of bird hunting, but I mostly prefer and plan to do a lot more fishing.
What was the first job that you ever had? Please elaborate.
My first job after graduation was with Lockwood Greene, then based out of Spartanburg, S.C. They assigned me to the role of Cognizant Engineer at Cross Generating Station on the canal between the Santee Cooper lakes near Cross, S.C. That job was a tremendous growth opportunity. I was responsible for installing drilled caissons for the cooling tower yard, construction of the water intake structure, the coal car dumper and stacker, the bentonite lined coal ash pond, as well as the survey layout verification of all of the project structures. The vast experience associated with earthwork, concrete (we would pour more than 2,000 cubic yards a day), foundations, cofferdams, surveying, and construction means and methods, greatly prepared me for managing and estimating future projects.
Which segments of the environmental division do you expect to see the most growth in 2021 and beyond?
We are continuing to add clients who outsource their environmental compliance. We continue to see growth in supporting industry with permitting and compliance, solid waste management, and providing site certification services for the development of industrial parks and sites.
How has the coronavirus affected your projects?
We have seen very few projects that have been put on hold due to the virus. Our clients have been very happy with the handful of projects that we have bid during this time. Each of those bids have been well under budget.
What is the biggest difference in engineering today compared to when you started with the company?
Constant CHANGE! My first design room at D|F was supplied with things that are probably somewhere in a museum today. Five of the six of us sat on our stools at drafting tables and we all shared a rotary phone, a pair of scissors, a stapler, an adding-machine-looking calculator (that was sophisticated at the time) which helped with survey projects, a box full of railroad curves, and a work ethic that stayed as long as it took until it was done. The designers that worked on that team are like unicorns today. There were 3 or 4 draftsmen or designer for every engineer. Today’s computers, printers, plotters, cell phones, and methods of communication are changing almost daily. It is all good until we lose power, or someone cuts a fiber line somewhere.
What are the biggest challenges that you face on a daily basis?
Balance. As a seller/doer I am constantly trying to balance finding enough work from multiple types of clients and market sectors to keep my team busy as well as delivering the projects I have taken on.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Most people may not know that I have been teaching adult Sunday school for the past 32 years.
Who is someone that you considered a role model early in life? How did this person impact your career?
There are several. My father Major, who taught me work ethic as well as the need to be flexible. Mr. Emmett Davis, Jr. who was the model of a true southern gentleman and leadership, and Mr. Dixon Teal who modeled integrity and faith both inside and outside of the workplace.
What is the most significant lesson that you have learned in your career?
What temperature does our client wants his porridge? The toughest thing about being a consultant is learning and understanding how much time, effort, energy, and cost is just right for each of a variety of different clients. The goal is to provide porridge (aka service) that is not too hot or not too cold, but just the right temperature every day.
What is one of your future goals?
My goal is to leave D|F better than I found it. The best way I can do that is to equip my team members with as many relevant tools and as much project experience as possible so they can remain successful in the future.
When a new employee joins Davis & Floyd, how do you help them to understand the culture that you and the other executives have developed over time?
I welcome them to the family. Because they are going to be spending much of their waking moments with us at D|F, we are going to do life together.
What three adjectives best describe you… according to people who know you (what would they say)?
Passionate, caring coach, storyteller.
If you could immediately “fix” something in your business, what would it be?
Continue to streamline the permitting process. We are not aging wine or turning coal into diamonds.
What is the most influential book you’ve read, or what are you reading now?
The Man God Uses by Henry Blackaby.