Building Tomorrow: A Day to Remember

By on October 16, 2015

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

This past Wednesday (Oct. 14) was officially Ron Unterreiner Day in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County. But Unterreiner, founder of the PEOPLE Diversity/Inclusion effort generously shared “his” day with four other recipients of Construction Forum STL “Building Tomorrow” awards.

Tom Finan, executive director;  Ron Unterreiner; and Joe Blanner, president.

Also enjoying the celebration of the contributions of individuals who have made a difference in line with the Forum’s Mission Statement  of “Making St. Louis a Better Place to Live, Work, and Build” were an  audience of 200 people, representing a cross-section of the construction, development, and political spectrum. The awards luncheon, held at the Four Seasons hotel, recognized efforts in advancing diversity, working relationships, regional unity and workforce development.

Honorees were:

  • Ron Unterreiner, vice president, Rhodey Construction, for creatively orchestrating connections for minority contracting firms to major players in the construction industry;
  •  Abe Adewale, president, ABNA, for developing a firm with a reputation of being a  “United Nations” of the engineering world.  The firm’s staff is representative of nearly every continent, encompassing nearly 20 languages, and representing at least four major faith traditions;
  • Bruce Holland, CEO, Holland Construction Services, a pioneer and regional leader in building labor/builder owner relations for more than 40 years;
  • Chris Reichert, CEO, Stifel Bank and Trust, for successfully leading the effort to create and launch the new contractor’s loan fund for minority contractors in the St. Louis marketplace; and
  • Jay Boleach, career & technology education instructor for the Ferguson/Florissant School District, for promoting workforce development and the trades at the high school level.


Award recipients, left to right, Abe Adewale (left) with Steve Bannes; Bruce Holland (right) with Steve Faust;
Chris Reichert (right) with Mark Carlie; and Jay Boleach (right) with John Gaal.

The event also raised funds for the organization’s Construction Forum Education Foundation.  The foundation is dedicated to action-directed construction research to test ideas for positive change and supporting primary through college construction-oriented STEM education.  For more information on the foundation, visit

To view and download photos of the Building Tomorrow Awards event, click here.

Lead event sponsors were Seiler Design Solutions and Negwer Materials. Other sponsors were Arteaga Photos, Bistate Fabricators, Drilling Service, Engraphix, and Masonry Institute of St. Louis.

Joe Blanner told the audience members, many of whom had never attended a Forum event, that Construction Forum STL seeks to be forum— along the lines of those in ancient Greece and Rome— rather than replicating or replacing the work of other industry organizations.

 That engagement is expanded with a weekly e-newsletter that reaches 12,000 people, events which draw an average attendance more than 400 people (more than 3000 since the Forum’s founding in late 2014), its web site (with 200,000 page views this year), and a robust community on LinkedIn. For more information, visit

In addition to Unterreiner’s award from the Forum, he was also recognized with proclamations from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, proclaiming the day “Ron Unterreiner Day”

Unterreiner began his acceptance by remembering a video on diversity in St. Louis construction, Building a Better St. Louis, which was produced by KAI’s President Michael Kennedy three years ago. Unterreiner called the video, “the beginning of a beautiful poem.” He said that video helped to start the conversation and movement that is going on now.

Unterreiner AcceptanceHe concluded his acceptance remarks by saying, “And so, this beautiful poem started by Michael continues to take form. The ending verse needs to be just as powerful as that first verse laid on the table three years ago. That ending verse can best be written by the minority contracting community — by their total engagement in our industry; by their job site actions and performance; by their growth and their success.

“My non-organization called PEOPLE and the Contractor’s Loan Fund and MOKAN and RUCC and the many other advocates of diversity can assist and guide and help resolve some of the financial and personal challenges of minority owned firms. But the key to complete success is performance…performance on a quality and consistent and professional level.

“The ending verse to this poem will then bring an end to numbers and percentages and an acceptance within our industry to simply doing what is right and good.”

About Tom Finan