CM alumnus finds path to success through international construction career

CM alum Jordan Tranel ('12)Jordan Tranel (’12) was born and raised in southern Colorado. He grew up with a father who worked for Colorado State University’s Extension Program, exposing Tranel to CSU at an early age. He always figured he would attend as a student and he graduated from CSU in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in construction management, and a minor in business administration.

An agriculture economist, Tranel’s father was raised on a ranch in Wyoming; his mother, an accountant, grew up on a farm in North Dakota. Both parents instilled in Tranel the values of industriousness, a strong work-ethic, honesty, and financial management from an early age.

Tranel grew up building things around the house, on his family’s farm, or even through other activities, such as building skateboarding ramps and rails for friends. His passion for building things with his hands was a desire he’d had since a young age.

Choosing CSU and construction management

Tranel came to CSU because, “I knew it was the right school for me.” He knew he wanted to construct things but wasn’t sure if that should be through electrical engineering or construction management. He started out in the electrical engineering program but after speaking with numerous alumni, Tranel realized that sitting behind a desk all day was not what he wanted. He then transitioned to the construction management program; “I felt right at home,” he said.

By his own admission, Tranel’s construction experience has been a little unorthodox. After graduation he worked for a large general contractor, McCarthy, in Los Angeles County. He worked on a couple of school projects as a general contractor and as a construction manager. He found the construction manager role intriguing; he viewed it as a form of project management that functioned much like an owner’s representative.

After a few years at McCarthy, Tranel started a couple of small e-commerce businesses with his brother, eventually selling one of the companies. Since both brothers were looking for a change of scenery, they moved to Medellin, Colombia, for six months, to live and work.

Upon his return to the U.S., Tranel received an email from a friend in California with whom he had worked. The friend was managing a construction project in the Cayman Islands and needed help finishing it. Tranel moved there three weeks later, working for a developer to build and remodel luxury hotels and condos.

Establishing a company

Jordan Tranel on jobsite with female coworkerHe knew he wanted to run his own company again; so, Tranel found a private investor who would fund two high-end specs. He then started his general contracting company in Cayman: Tranel Group. His wife, whom he met in the Cayman Islands, is an interior architect and designed both spec homes under her own design firm.

Together, they had the opportunity to design and build something that Cayman had yet to experience – a high-quality modern design with true attention to detail. From there Tranel expanded his business to working as a construction manager/project manager for a few commercial projects. Additionally, he established a real estate sales and property management branch within Tranel Group, to provide full-service real estate development to high-net worth individuals.

Navigating construction during a pandemic

Asked to elaborate, specifically, on a unique project or opportunity on which he has recently worked, complete with challenges and rewards, Tranel spoke of a “laundry list of tribulations” relative to a current spec home he built that included delays due to the pandemic, local resource depletion, lack of local material, and international logistical problems.

Jordan Tranel in hard hat on jobsiteTranel explained these unique challenges relative to living and working in an island community,
“Covid: The project was intended for construction to start May of 2020. In the Cayman Islands we were locked down in our homes from March to May of that year. The local government handled the pandemic very cautiously. This pushed our start date out further as the roll-out of construction after the lockdown was rocky. This was the first delay of many on this project.

Resources: During the lockdown, thousands of work permit holders left Cayman Islands, which only has 70,000 full-time residences, and of those, approximately 25,000 are work permit holders. This drastically reduced resources for construction. At the time there were an astounding amount of construction projects active. We found a few smaller contractors that were looking at expanding and kept their workers on the island even during lockdown. This helped us keep things moving.

Lack of local material: With material shortages around the world our little islands received the brunt of the shortages. From September 2020 to February 2021 Cayman ran out of cement every month. Now keep in mind the house I am building is an all-concrete structure. Of course, every time we were ready to pour concrete there was no cement on island, so we would patiently wait for its arrival. We became creative with prefabricating the custom formwork to reduce time of installation.

International Logistics: In a post-Covid era, this created a very difficult problem for a project that was sourcing material from five different continents and a variety of U.S. states, including Colorado. The container shortages, trucking strikes, and manufacturer delays due to sick employees, were big factors in this. We had to order material, look for alternatives, and modify design, as needed, to accomplish the overall design intent within a reasonable time.

Overall, the project has been an amazing experience and we have sold the house to a very happy client.”

Prepared by CSU’s CM Program

Tranel was enthusiastic about how he felt prepared for his career by the CM Program at CSU. “It provided me with a very strong base of knowledge in the construction industry that I have used to this day,” he said. “The most influential part of my education was the construction competition program. This helped me set a path to be a solid construction manager and a business owner. Building a team, strategizing the project, delegating roles, and managing time efficiently under pressure were traits I could not have learned elsewhere besides in the real world. It was a valuable experience that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to be the best construction manager.”

Tranel Company new build jobsite on Grand CaymanTranel’s focus now is to build out his construction team. They currently have two residential and three commercial projects under contract that are all high-end specs. Tranel wants to build a team of construction managers who truly care about quality projects and providing clients with a beautiful, functional space.

His advice to current students? “For anyone who wants to make the most out of their education in construction management,” he says, “make sure to do the extracurricular programs such as the CM competition teams, CM Cares, or other CM student clubs and organizations. These programs are gateways to connect you with the best companies and people in construction. These programs provide you with more real-world experience than any single course can teach.”

The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.