Pepper Construction Wins General Contractor of the Year at Annual ISA Networking Event
The Construction Networking Event of the Year: Pepper Construction and Grand Contracting are Big Winners at ISA General Contractor of the Year Awards
When the Indiana Subcontractors Association (ISA) created a trade show event 14 years ago, the goal was to bring together all the main players in the construction industry in one place. What began as an opportunity for local subcontractors to promote their businesses has now grown to become a top annual construction networking event. This year’s trade show at the JW Marriott hosted over 1,000 industry workers, with 103 booths and several hundred more companies in attendance that were not represented with a booth.
David Peterson, the President of ISA and Senior Vice President at ERMCO, said the event’s purpose is to give industry workers the chance to gain some one-on-one time with each other and build relationships with different companies.
“This is a great opportunity to see all of our clients – from construction managers and owners, to design professionals and service providers – all in one place, in one day,” sais Peterson. “If you want the opportunity to see the right people and talk to the right people, this is the place to be.”
When ISA first thought of hosting a trade show, they had a singular goal in mind: To give their members the chance to make contacts with businesses across the state.
“Let’s focus on doing one thing right,” said Mark Riffey, one of the original founders of the event and current Executive Vice President at Ryan Fire Protection.
This singular focus, according to Riffey, was networking. If they could concentrate all their efforts into creating a suitable setting for their members to meet new people in the industry, Riffey said, then they would have a successful trade show. Their first version of the show aimed to achieve this goal by setting up booths to resemble a speed dating exercise.
“When we first started, we had these tables that lit up green, and you’d run to a table and it would turn red, then 5 minutes later it would start turning green again to make you move to the next one,” Riffey said. “The goal then was to hand out your business cards.”
Now, with over 1,000 people roaming the halls of the JW Marriot Grand Ballroom, people wander freely from booth to booth, taking in as much information as possible and meeting as many new people as they desire. The trade show may look considerably different than it did 14 years ago, but its purpose has remained steady as its benefits continue to increase, in part thanks to its leadership.
“Mark Riffey has been a huge advocate for the United States Construction Networking Event of the Year since its inception,” Peterson said.
While networking is an important aspect of this ISA event, recognizing great companies and the work they do is equally important for this association. This year, ISA presented six awards to five different companies during the luncheon portion of the event. These award winners are:
• Pepper Construction – General Contractor of the Year of Over $100 Million in Revenue
• Grand Contracting – General Contractor of the Year of Under $100 Million in Revenue
• The Hagerman Group – Best Project Over $10 million
• F.A. Wilhelm Construction – Best Project Under 10 Million
• Pepper Construction – Subcontractor’s Choice Award
• Force Construction – Excellence in Ethics
Many of the award winners expressed gratitude for receiving recognition. Stephen Eppink, President of Grand Contracting, said their award is a big deal for his company.
“The trophy is not going to control who we are,” Eppink said. “But the trophy helps us get people to look our way and learn about us. Once they know it’s me and my staff, they will say ‘Oh yeah, we know you guys.’”
As someone who has attended ISA’s trade show since it featured speed dating style booths, Eppink knows the value in speaking face-to-face with his industry peers.
“Everybody here is willing to tell you everything they’re up to and what they’re doing and there’s no secrets or agendas,” Eppink said. “It’s just real people doing real communication.”
Pepper Construction also used their award as an opportunity to raise awareness for their organization and discover new developments in the industry. Anthony White, a Project Engineer at Pepper, said he appreciates the trade show’s capacity to showcase impressive projects and bring people together, even if those people work for competing businesses. He said he enjoys picking the brain of his peers in the industry and initiating upcoming projects.
“I think there’s a new perspective to business nowadays. They want to know the personality of the person who’s running your project instead of just saying, ‘Hey can you put some numbers together,’” White said. “You never know, you may end up discussing a new project.”
After winning their award for best project that cost over $10 million, a representative from The Hagerman Group said, “As a GC and project manager, our success is vested in the work and performance of our subcontractors and we value those relationships and strive to continue to improve those relationships.”
A Singular Focus
Each person has a unique reason for attending an event like this, but most agreed that this trade show is unlike any other they have seen. Joshua Campbell is the President of Renascent, which was a platinum sponsor of the event. Campbell said that although his job brings him to various trade shows across the country, ISA’s version stands out as the best he’s seen.
“There’s nothing that compares to this,” Campbell said. “We work across multiple states and there’s nothing like this that exists in other states.”
He attributes this unique character of the event to its leadership. ISA, he said, operates with a rare level of organization at their event that he has yet to observe anywhere else. At other organizations’ trade shows, he said there are often multiple competing agendas that end up affecting the final product. ISA, however, functions with the sole purpose of bringing industry workers together to get to know one another.
“It is truly the networking event of the year,” Peterson said. “That’s why it’s called that. Because we have the opportunity to talk and build relationships with everybody you do business with in one day, in one place, at one time.”