Infrastructure is in Pete Kelley’s blood. “My father built roads and bridges throughout his entire career so I had a good exposure to it while growing up,” he explains. Kelley continued that tradition, with an education in civil engineering and a long career in highway construction.
Kelley has been a part of the Superior Construction family since 1993. Today, he serves as President of Superior Construction Southeast, and along with fourth-generation principal Nick Largura is currently overseeing the company’s growth strategy within the Southeast U.S. region and developing its reputation as a leading design-build contractor.
As a full service contractor specializing in heavy industrial construction, Superior Construction provides its clients with a range of construction services including earthwork, drainage, pile driving, bridge construction, and concrete paving, even working alongside clients on project development to provide budgetary cost estimates and constructability reviews. Through these services, the company plays a vital role in making bridges and roadways safer and more efficient for Florida’s commuter and business communities.
Improving Florida infrastructure
For decades, Superior Construction has been doing its part to expand Florida’s transportation infrastructure through high profile projects like the completion of SR 9B, a project Kelley calls “the Holy Grail of transportation” for the rapidly growing Northwest St. Johns County, and the long awaited $68 million 23rd St. Interchange project.
“This is a signature infrastructure project for the 3rd District of the Florida Department of Transportation. Due to funding challenges and ROW negotiations, this project was delayed from construction for over a decade, and is now a critical transportation component for the US 98 corridor in the Florida panhandle,” explains Kelley. While the logistical and financial challenges of this multi-phase project once presented setbacks, the development underway today reflects Panama City’s strong economic growth by creating a more streamlined transportation system through the vital port city.
The project will replace a current at-grade railroad / US 98 crossing with an elevated roadway and ramp system to create free flow conditions for both east and west bound traffic, plus a dedicated spur to provide uninterrupted rail service for the Port of Panama City. These upgrades stand to benefit many within the area.
“Commuters will see a substantial reduction or the entire elimination of delays triggered by railroad switchyard operations,” Kelley says. “Local businesses will benefit from frontage road access, modernized signals and ITS infrastructure, increased pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and improved internal access corridors.”
Moving into new markets
Another critical project that Superior Construction is currently overseeing is the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s $46.6 million SR429/Wekiva Parkway Phase 1B project, encompassing eight bridges and 2.2 million cubic yards of embankment. In addition to decreasing congestion and giving commuters a direct connection between I-4 and Florida’s Turnpike, the project also expands Superior Construction’s geographical reach.
“This is the first major project we have worked on in the Central Florida market,” says Kelley. “Because of this, the structure of our organization in that market has been built from scratch and began months prior to the project actually bidding with the hire of a new area manager, Erik Johnson. Erik’s knowledge of the Central Florida market was instrumental in our successful pursuit of this project. We then assembled a management team of experienced professionals that had worked together in the past. This familiarity among key team members has allowed the project to get off to a very good start.”
Focusing on safety
Safety is an important focus for any construction project, and Superior Construction remains committed to going above and beyond in order to create the best possible conditions for its employees and contractors.
“The safety and health of our employees, plus all other individuals on or near our projects, has always been a main focus for Superior,” says Kelley. “This focused commitment is present in everything we do, and is stated simply in the long time company slogan: ‘Superior in Safety, Quality, and Service since 1938.’”
Superior Construction maintains a comprehensive safety program to help employees navigate common workplace hazards, with focused training in such subjects as:
- OSHA 10 Hour conducted annually.
- Annual Spanish training course for Hispanic employees, including OSHA 10 Hour in Spanish.
- ATSSA Florida Advanced Work Zone Traffic Control Supervisors
- CSX Roadway Worker Protection Training
- Certification Courses for Aerial Lift, Telehandler, and Crane Operators
Key to the success of this program is strong commitment and backing from management, from monthly and quarterly supervisor meetings to routine inspections by field managers that identify areas of improvement. The safety focus also extends beyond employees to everyone involved in the building process.
“Subcontractors are introduced to the safety program via a thorough on-boarding process,” Kelley notes. “Prior to arriving on site, we invite our subcontractors in for a review of our safety program. Our project team discusses their scope of work, their schedule and all associated risks. This communication provides the groundwork for a collaborative team effort with a focus on safety.”
The people that make the Superior difference
“It can be a worn out cliché, but this industry is truly all about the people,” says Kelley. Superior Construction understands that good knowledgeable people can make the difference in a project’s success, and works hard to ensure that its employees are recognized and valued. This philosophy is has always been embraced by company ownership in every generation.
“Superior has always looked out for its employees, in good times and bad,” Kelley explains. “When the global economic recession hit and our backlog began to dwindle, we made a very critical decision to continue employing numerous key individuals that had been instrumental in the growth of the firm over the years. While not the most fiscally sound decision, this did allow us to rebound quickly when the market started to come back around.”
This care and concern also extends to the company’s subcontractors and suppliers. “We see these firms as key business partners and extensions of our own work force,” says Kelley. “They need to be successful in order for us to be successful.”