Construction Management alumnus finds concrete path

Story by Kelsey Burket

Mike Eads with two crew members
Mike Eads, left, and the GH Phipps field crew installing embeds, metal hardware in the concrete.

After graduating as the salutatorian for the Elbert School’s class of 2000, Mike Eads, was college-bound. Eads was presented with two great options – Colorado School of Mines or Colorado State University. Ultimately, Eads decided that CSU and the Fort Collins community would be the best fit for him. Upon arriving on campus, Eads received the Flack Family Scholarship, which is awarded specifically to talented students from Elbert County, Colorado.

Finding construction management

Having grown up in the rural farming community of Elbert, Eads had countless hands-on experiences building barns and fixing up cars alongside his father, who is an emissions expert and construction manager by trade. When Eads arrived on campus, he initially resisted his builder roots to explore a degree in computer science.  However, he quickly realized his true passion was construction management, so he made the switch.

While in the construction management program, Eads thrived. He served as the ABC Student Chapter president and competed as a team member for the 2005 Associated Builders and Contractors National Competition. These hands-on experiences served Eads well. In 2005, he graduated with a B.S. in construction management, along with a minor in Spanish, and was hired right away.

Concrete plans

Outdoor photo of Mike and Emily Eads
Mike Eads with his wife, Emily.

Within months of graduating, Eads got his first exposure to concrete with Aggregate Industries, a ready-mix concrete producer. Eads’ time at Aggregate paved the way for his impressive career in concrete. Since graduating 13 years ago, Eads has worked for Aggregate Industries, Saunders Construction, Rocky Mountain Prestress, and now GH Phipps.

In 2007, Saunders Construction reached out to Eads and asked if he would be interested in helping them start up their new concrete division. Eads accepted the challenge and for seven years, he worked as a concrete project engineer as well as a project manager. While at Saunders, Eads gained experience working as a general contractor and a subcontractor and completed over $80 million in concrete projects, including the DaVita building in downtown Denver.

“When I was a CM student, the tone was focused on becoming a general contractor, but I want to urge current students to not overlook the subcontracting world,” said Eads.  “With subcontracting, you can be a master of a trade. If you’re passionate about a specific area of construction, like soil, steel or concrete, I encourage you to really explore subcontracting. Go talk to experts in those fields and see what is possible. You will be amazed.”

Project manager

Construction crew group photo
Mike Eads, front and fourth from left, and the GH Phipps crew touring the Lenar Luxury Apartment Project.

In June of 2015, Eads began working for his current employer, GH Phipps, as a concrete project manager. In this role, he manages Cast-In-Place concrete projects, oversees project scopes and budgets, executes contracts for subcontractors, and coordinates logistics and operations. Over the last three years with Phipps, Eads has already managed $40 million in concrete projects, including the Metro State University – Aerospace Engineering Building, the Tutt Library, and two downtown Denver high-rise apartments: Alexan Arapahoe and 2100 Welton St.

Eads also serves on the Board of Directors for the American Concrete Institute (ACI) – Rocky Mountain Chapter, which is a nonprofit technical society focused on providing technical and educational resources for all-things concrete, including industry certifications.

‘Get your hands dirty’

Large construction site
The Lenar Project building foundation.

Eads has some advice for current CM students: “As a student, you’re very green. Listen to the people who have 25-30 years of industry experience,” he said. “They are your best mentors and allies. Also, do yourself a favor and go out in the field, use your hands and get them dirty. Field experience can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, as being in the office. Field experience will give you the ability to see things from multiple angles and that will make you a better manager in the long run.”

Colorado State is home to one of the oldest and most successful construction management programs in the country. A degree in construction management provides a strong foundation for professional careers in the construction industry. Graduates of the program consistently move on to exciting careers managing a vast array of construction projects.

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