Justin Grinder knew at an early age that he wanted to be involved in the construction industry.
As a child, his father and grandfather would drive him around Memphis on what were essentially family field trips touring their construction sites. And during family gatherings the conversation would inevitably steer toward construction.
“I grew up in the construction business,” said Grinder, vice president of Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. “Most of the Grinder family, in some form or another, is in the construction business as a general contractor or subcontractor. Ever since I was in elementary school I wanted to go into this business.”
Grinder’s introduction to the industry at an early age sparked a curiosity that has not dimmed over time.
“I like the problem solving,” said Grinder. “There’s always something new in the construction business, something new to solve.”
Grinder began working for the company during the summer in high school as a laborer and carpenter’s helper and in college as an estimator and project manager.
After graduating from Georgia Tech with a degree in civil engineering, Grinder worked for Winter Construction Co. in Atlanta as an office engineer and estimator from 2001 to 2002.
When Grinder returned to the family business in 2002 he was given the chance of a lifetime: managing the $30 million Paul Barret, Jr. Library project at Rhodes College.
“I was a little surprised I was given that much responsibility but I worked about 80 hours a week so I didn’t make mistakes and I was really trained for it since I was a kid,” Grinder said. “This project is one of my proudest accomplishments and is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.”
Rhodes was obviously pleased with the work; Grinder, Taber & Grinder handles all of the college’s major building projects.
Grinder, 35, is now using his experience and passion for the industry as chairman of the West Tennessee chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.
Grinder said his tenure comes as younger industry professionals have begun to participate in the organization, a trend he would like to continue.
“We’re seeing the resurgence of younger members,” he said. “It’s bringing new perspectives and energy into the ABC, which is great.”
Grinder said one of his goals is to better communicate to construction industry employees the benefits that come with membership to the ABC, including discounts for certain services, educational opportunities and political representation.
“Our generation wants to know what we’re getting for our dues,” Grinder said. “Before, you paid your dues because that’s just what you did but budgets are tight and people want to understand what they’re paying for.”
Grinder said the local construction industry has begun to emerge from the depths of the recession.
“I think the confidence is coming back across all industries,” he said. “It’s still competitive, it’s still tough, but I do have more confidence the economy is getting better. We’ve got a lot of work in the pipeline.”
One of those projects is the $180 million redevelopment of the Sears Crosstown building. Grinder, Taber & Grinder is serving as the general contractor on the project, which seeks to redevelop the 1.5-million-square-foot Sears building through arts, education and health care.
It’s one of the many projects Grinder will be able to show to his son, Cray, and daughter, Vivian.
“One day I’ll be able to drive my kids around the city of Memphis and say I’ve been able to have an impact on the city and its buildings,” he said.