Top

Our People

A Company That Feels Like Family

Explaining corporate culture can become an ambiguous endeavor, full of pomp and fluff. However, introducing employee retention rates quickly allows the culture to speak for itself.

Choate Construction is proud that 60% of the staff has been with the company five years or more, 35% have ten years under their Choate tool belt, and a very impressive 19% have celebrated over 15 years with Choate.

People are taken seriously at Choate and longevity of tenure is valued as greatly as a successful building completion. Personal and professional growth is highly encouraged and an unwavering work is regarded just as important, if not more, than a high IQ.

The leaders of Choate continue to shape a staff that feels more like a family — a feeling that transcends all five of Choate’s offices.

Choate Quotes

Leadership

Millard Choate, Chairman & CEO

William Millard Choate is the Chairman & CEO of Choate Construction Company, one of the largest commercial building contractors in the Southeastern United States. With over three decades of contracting experience, Millard is responsible for the direction of all operations of the firm including marketing, preconstruction, and construction operations. Millard also takes an active role in negotiating and issuing contracts, financial management, and development of construction procedures and policies.

Millard founded Choate Construction in 1989 after first serving as a project manager with a Kentucky contractor and then moving forward to serve for 12 years as the officer of an Atlanta general contractor. A native of Nashville, TN, he is a graduate of Father Ryan High School and Vanderbilt University, where he received a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Business.

Active in several organizations, Millard serves as a Director on the Board of Fidelity Bank, is an active member of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS), serves on various Chambers of Commerce, and is a member of the Atlanta Rotary. He has been chosen as an Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Ernst & Young, Inc. Magazine, and Merrill Lynch and the Volunteer of the Year by Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

1. What was your first construction project, and what did you enjoy the most about it?
My first construction project was the addition of a room to our house when I was six years old. I especially enjoyed climbing on the seat of the old cable-type Caterpillar loader. I will never forget the wonderful smell of diesel fuel and fresh SYP framing lumber.

2. Do you remember your first day at Choate?
Absolutely! I remember going down the steps of my home to a room in my basement, making the first phone calls on the old desktop phone, picking up 500 business cards from Office Depot, and hauling home a reconditioned copy machine.

3. Who inspires you?
Anyone who gives it their all, who uses all of their energy and talents, and works hard consistently and steadily until the goal is accomplished, the task finished. I have been inspired by hardworking people ranging from construction laborers to down-to-earth CEOs of large companies. For example, Mr. Goz Segars, one of our long-term clients, is both an industrial developer and operates a 27,000-acre farming operation. He selflessly serves on the boards of many community, university, and church organizations. Humble as he is, Goz was notably inducted into the Clemson University Distinguished Service Awards Society.

Dave Priester, President & COO
Dave earned his Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering from Arizona State University. During his professional career, he has been an estimator, project manager, director of operations and vice president for general contractors in both Phoenix, AZ and North Carolina.

Dave met Millard Choate in 1992 and they shared an immediate respect for a straight-forward approach to the construction industry. Dave was hired as the Carolinas Managing Principal and given the opportunity to expand Choate into the Carolinas. He started the Charlotte office more than 20 years ago, and the Raleigh and Charleston offices soon followed.

Dave has been a part of the Charlotte community for 27 years. He is an Executive Board Member & Secretary for the Harris YMCA and past Executive Board Member & Treasurer for the Fletcher School. He aspires to be in the forefront of the construction industry and maintains involvement within the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Urban Land Institute, Association of General Contractors and the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas, among others.

1. Why did you choose to enter the Construction Industry?
I am a third generation construction guy. My grandfather started a construction company back in 1919. I chose the industry mainly due to the people I met working as a laborer/carpenter on-site as a kid. We had second and third generations of different families working for the company. They were great people; smart, loyal, trusting, and challenging. This coupled with meeting subcontractors, architects and owners with the same core values convinced me that this is something I could do for the rest of my life.

Many people think the cool part of our industry is actually building, but it is really the challenge of putting the men and materials in beautiful orchestration to get to a great result.

2. When is the last time you laughed out loud in the office?
In our staff meeting this morning. It is a great open forum, and the laugh came from learning of some internal office trickery from one employee to another. Our folks are very close and they really try to have fun among all the hard work that is going on here.

3. What is your favorite part of a construction project?
I enjoy sitting down at the onset of a project and really challenging the schedule and methodology of putting the project together. It brings together all the folks involved and gets everyone thinking out of the box. BUT, my absolute favorite part of a project is when the crews are lifting the first tilt-wall panel from the slab; standing next to it, you get a cool blast of moist air, smelling of fresh concrete right smack in your face!

Dave Knudson, Division Manager – Raleigh
Dave Knudson is Vice President and Division Manager of Choate’s Raleigh, North Carolina location. Dave directs, coordinates, and oversees the activities of the company operations in the Triangle including marketing, sales, and preconstruction and construction operations. Dave’s industry experience includes many varied types of construction projects such as corporate facilities, office, higher education, healthcare, laboratory/life sciences, high tech research/development & data center, multi-family, assisted living, parking decks, and commercial/retail.

Dave began his career in the construction business in the 1980’s where he worked summers in the equipment yard, jobsites, and in the office as an intern for a large general contractor in the Chicago area. Dave earned his Bachelors of Building Construction from the University of Florida and has worked for large contractors in Charlotte, North Carolina and Chicago, Illinois. Dave and his family moved to Raleigh in 1994, where he has enjoyed an active role in the Triangle region’s construction industry ever since.

Within the industry, Dave is an active member of the Associated General Contractors and a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Triangle Council. In the greater Triangle business community, he is a Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors member and a Cary Chamber of Commerce member. Along with the fantastic help of the Choate Raleigh Team, he has provided support to Habitat for Humanity, the Susan G. Komen’s NC Triangle affiliate, and the Fight for 1 in 9 Foundation.

1. Where did you attend college, and what was the most important class/lesson that you received from your time there?
University of Florida. I remember the first day of class within the School of Building Construction my junior year. The Dean at the time came in, congratulated us for being accepted into the program and then went on to say, “Take a good look at the folks around you. By the time this semester is over, five of you will be on to another major.” It held true, several were gone and that was an excellent lesson on the competitive nature of the construction business.

2. Why did you choose to enter the Construction Industry?
I have been around the construction business my entire life. I remember going with my father, putting on a hard hat, and going to construction sites. Important influences in my life are my grandfather and father who both worked as contractors for large companies and my uncle who owned a steel fabricating business. It was easy to see, then later develop, a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from seeing the result of your hard work in the form of a building – particularly those which are used for the advancement of some human purpose.

3. Do you remember your first day at Choate?
My first day at Choate was an April 14th and I recall being extremely excited to join this company. I was anxious to meet everyone, and I’ll never forget all the “new boss” looks as I walked through the office the first time. It was great to meet the new people, and I am very thankful for those who rolled up their sleeves and jumped right in to help.

Matt Brewer – Division Manager, Charleston
As Vice President and Division Manager for Choate Construction Company’s Charleston division, Matt is responsible for establishing and overseeing the execution of the division’s short term and long term business strategies. Matt has been with Choate for over 12 years and brings over 18 years of experience in construction and land development. Before joining Choate, Matt held an executive position with a development company that successfully established over a dozen residential communities across South Carolina. Most recently, Matt was the Managing Partner of a 140-acre development located in Berkeley County, SC.

Brewer received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the College of Charleston, and has completed MBA coursework at the Citadel Graduate College and the University of South Carolina.

Matt is an active member of the Charleston community, where he serves in the following organizations:

 

 

  • Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce – Board of Directors
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (SC Chapter) – Board of Directors
  • US Green Building Council (USGBC) – Member
  • South Carolina Economic Developers Association (SCEDA) – Member
  • Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) – Past President of the SC Chapter

 

 

Matt attends Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC, along with his wife, Fernanda, and their two children, Lauren and Logan.

1. Do you remember your first day at Choate?
I remember it well. I recall, most vividly, the energy and relationships of the folks that worked here. The chemistry was magnetic, and it truly felt like a family to me. Although that was many years ago, I am happy that the feeling and culture have remained the same. I love that about our company and our people.

2. Who inspires you?
I find inspiration in many things, foremost from the big man upstairs (and I don’t mean Millard). Beyond that, our military veterans certainly come to mind. Many of these men and women have sacrificed so much for our great nation, and I am forever grateful. Semper Fi!

3. What is your favorite part of a construction project?
I love my job, partly because most projects yield at least several exciting milestones. Consistently speaking, if I had to pick, I would say that my favorite part is when we turn the completed facility over to our client. From our initial project meeting with a new or existing client, our goal is to exceed their expectations in every way. Sometimes even the best planned projects will encounter challenges along the way; it is truly rewarding to successfully guide a client through these challenges, turn over a high quality facility on time and within budget, and have them hand you an unsolicited positive reference letter… What a great feeling. Reputation is everything!

Mike Hampton – Chief Operations Officer, Atlanta
Mike began his career as a co-op student from The University of Cincinnati with Turner Construction in Mike’s hometown of Cincinnati. Years of quick advancement and impressive skills both in the field and office earned him positions at prestigious construction firms as well as accolades such as the Turner Territory Employee of the Year and Project Manager of the Year by the American Subcontractors Association.

Leadership roles include leading both individual offices and regional branches for other prominent contractors, until Mike began his role as Division Manager of the Choate Construction Company Charleston office. After three years in Charleston Mike returned to Atlanta as the Chief Operating Officer to lead the Georgia operations. With the conversion of Choate to an ESOP in late 2016, Mike has assumed the role of Chief Administrative Officer with an eye to the future in terms of organizational development and the development of the talent that resides within Choate.

Mike is active with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors, The Rotary Club of Roswell, Roswell Inc.’s Economic Development Council, Life University’s Board of Visitors, and is a board member of North Fulton Community Charities and the Roswell Convention and Visitors Board.

1. Where did you attend college, and what was the most important class/lesson that you received from your time there?
I attended my hometown school at The University of Cincinnati. UC offers the oldest co-operative education program in the US and my seven co-op sessions were easily the most important part of the education curriculum. Having the opportunity to work in the industry while you are learning about it not only makes the course work more understandable, it also makes it come to life. I continue to see value in co-ops and interns by offering them a glimpse at the industry as well as gaining knowledge about potential new employees!

2. What was your first construction project, and what did you enjoy the most about it?
My first project was the Ethel Pew Dormitory at Grove City College in Grove City, PA where I was able to wear many hats. I helped with all field engineering and layout, acted as assistant to the Superintendent and the Project Engineer, all while stationed on site for the entire duration of the project. It was a great first experience and affirmed my passion for building. The diversity of roles and responsibility given to me made this first assignment a great building block for my career.

3. Would you recommend this line of work to your children?
I would recommend this line of work to anyone who has the desire and passion for the business. It is not a career for the faint of heart as it is very demanding on both the employee and their family. The hours can be long, the travel can be a strain, and there are unknowns and things outside your control (like the weather!). Yet all those obstacles mean nothing to the person who yearns to build. You start by learning to build buildings and then graduate to the people side of the business.

What motivates me are people. The sense of accomplishment you get when you are on a team of people, driven to win, is second to none. Building relationships and watching people grow and meet incredible challenges successfully is what makes me want to come to work and greet the next challenge. Making our customers successful in their business leads to lasting friendships that make the journey all that more worthwhile. At the end of the day it’s not the structures we leave behind that are most important, but rather the legacy of relationships we forged along the way.

David Page, CFO

After graduating Pensacola Christian College and working for Macon Steel as Controller, David joined Choate Construction in 1991 in the same position. At that time David represented the entire accounting department. As Controller, he worked with Millard Choate and established Choate’s first Profit Sharing Plan. In 1992, David was promoted to V.P. of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. In 1993, David oversaw and developed accounting and management procedures for Choate’s first remote office in Charlotte, NC.

These same procedures were continued and expanded as Choate opened additional offices in Charleston, Raleigh, and Savannah. In 1999 and 2000 David spearheaded the search, selection, and implementation of Choate’s first ERP system allowing all Choate employees to log in to the network system and enter and retrieve data. This completely integrated construction operations and management with accounting procedures. In the following years, David has led the accounting department’s growth from a one-man operation to a department that entails an accounting staff of eight, in addition to the other departments he is responsible for.

Outside of work David enjoys time with his three sons and wife, Teresa. His hobbies include motorcycles, antique cars, and guns. He is active in fundraising on the behalf of Choate with Cystic Fibrosis which includes Great Strides, Cars and ‘Q for the Cause, and other charitable events.

1. Where did you attend college, and what was the most important class/lesson that you received from your time there?
I graduated from Pensacola Christian College and by far my best class was Business Law; I enjoyed it but more importantly I find that it has helped in many aspects of my professional and personal life.

2. What was your first construction project, and what did you enjoy the most about it?
I had a bookkeeping class in 10th grade and from then on I knew I wanted to be an accountant. I always assumed I would work for a CPA, but when I graduated from college and moved to Macon the economy was very poor and none of the CPA firms in Macon were hiring. When a man from my church offered me a controller position at his general contracting company I took it, have been in love with construction ever since, and have never wanted to do anything else.

3. Do you remember your first day at Choate?
After graduating from college, I moved from a very small town to Macon; that was a big city to me, and the size scared me. Four years later a friend told me about an open position at Choate and I declined because I had absolutely no interest in moving to a city the size of Atlanta. Eventually my friend convinced me to at least interview, and when I did I was so impressed with the company that I accepted the position. On my first day I am driving around 285 to get to Choate’s office and I passed a white pickup with Choate Construction Company signs on the tailgate and sides. I just about had a panic attack thinking, “How big is this company that I am seeing their trucks in all of the thousands of vehicles on 285!”