READY TO BRING THE INDUSTRY FORWARD
BY A.D. THOMPSON
Dan Fordice was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but — he points out on the heels of his first-ever adult trip to Disney World — he’s not entirely sure he’s officially “grown up.”
PHOTO CREDIT: GROWTH SMART CONSULTING
Maintaining that humor and whimsy is quite wondrous, given the leadership and management experience amid which Fordice, a third-generation construction professional and AGC member, essentially came of age.
“Every family vacation began as an AGC convention,” he recalls. “If we were in Washington, D.C., my mother would take us up the Washington Monument and to all the museums. In Alaska, we flew on a float plane and went fishing.”
But it wasn’t all recreation. At 13, young Fordice began cleaning up on jobsites and worked for minimum wage all summer, every summer through college at Mississippi State University, where he earned a degree in Construction Engineering Technology.
“And had a lot of fun,” he laughs. “So much, that early on, I realized I really needed an A.”
Pondering the decision between what he says was basket weaving or the ROTC program, both of which guaranteed him that grade, he went with the latter.
“It sounded more interesting to me, and the more time I spent in the program, the more interesting it became — so I signed up for six years of my life,” he says. “Plus, I wanted to jump out of an airplane and my mother told me I couldn’t do it unless I was in the Army!”
For all his light-heartedness, Fordice’s colleagues — many veterans themselves — note that the incoming president’s military experience is a deeply ingrained part of who he is.
“In every sense of the word, Dan Fordice is a patriot,” says outgoing AGC President Bob Lanham. “I admire him greatly and can say without any reservation that he loves God, country, this industry and his people…. And I think a lot of us who served as military officers can understand the cauldron in which he was formed. Not too many people walk that path, but what it does for you is an invaluable experience.”
One that garnered Fordice the chance to “fly around in helicopters and blow things up all around Europe” as a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“This probably contributed a great deal to my never growing up,” he jokes of his first assignment in Kitzingen, Germany, “but there is no way in the world to get the kind of management and leadership experience early in your career that you get in the military.”
It has served him well on his journey through the association and toward the chair in which his father once sat.
Kirk Fordice not only served as AGC president from 1990-91, but also as the governor of Mississippi for two terms following. And after pondering his presidential theme for some time, Dan Fordice found the words, just as he’d imagined, in his late father’s first inauguration: Together Forward.
“We’d been dancing around these words in discussing it,” Fordice explains, “and never so much as now have we a need to come together, to shape the narrative as we make our way through the issues thrown before us.”
An imposing workforce shortage. Vaccine mandates in an industry in which many workers aren’t and have no plans to do so. Regulations. The Green New Deal. Material shortages and pricing. Just a few he tosses out for consideration.
“I was proud to use something he’d used, sure. It was a big moment when I looked at it, and it clicked: this is it. But it’s entirely relevant. Because more than ever before we’ve got to be united as an industry and supportive of what the AGC is going to get through it all.”
AGC President Dan Fordice consults with team members. PHOTO COURTESY OF GROWTH SMART CONSULTING
Near the top of his agenda, a viewpoint he says is unique for someone sitting in the big chair, one that culminates in a desire for equity and unity.
“I come from a very small chapter of 89, among the five smallest,” he explains, “and probably one of the smallest companies to ever have an AGC president.”
With that, he says, comes different perspective.
“I see things a little closer to where the real-world struggles are going on. And I see so much that AGC can do and produce for its smaller chapters … and in getting them involved. One thing I often point out is that we have 26,000 firms in AGC, and we’ve got 900 individuals that give to the PAC. That’s a huge disconnect.”
Another example he cites: the 15+ new executive directors in the association.
“When that happened, people were worried about the turnover, but it’s been a wonderful thing — they’ve all been embracing the AGC. We often say there are 65 people on the AGC staff — that’s in Washington, D.C., but there are 700 across the country working to improve our industry every day, mostly on local issues. I want to use that number.”
Bringing these new executive directors into the fold, says Fordice, has helped mend that disconnect some.
“I’d like to do it even more, bring us closer together as an organization, because that is where we have our strength.”
Fordice, says Lanham, is a sympathetic leader.
“He is very thoughtful and reflective,” Lanham says. “He’s the kind of person who’d say, ‘What do you need from me to help you do your job?’”
Fordice’s presence is commanding, as well.
“He’s got an incredible voice. He has gravitas. He can grab the attention of any room as a leader. It projects confidence…. And he has no fear of speaking up, of questioning the status quo, though he does it in a very diplomatic way. People will stop and listen to him. And I greatly appreciate that.”
AGC’s 2022 President Dan Fordice follows in his father’s footsteps. Kirk Fordice, shown in the above photo, served as AGC president 1990-91.
THE CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION
It’s a new look, a new logo, a new mantra for the association, one that with the addition of his son, Nathan, and niece, Emily, to the business brings the Fordice family to its fourth generation of membership.
“I use it a lot in my talks — THE construction association,” he notes. “Because we are. We’re the only construction association that represents the entire industry. The rest rep niches. And when Congress or the president wants to know about infrastructure, they call AGC — yet we only have the seventh largest PAC. Another big disconnect.”
Here’s where Fordice laughs.
“I am known throughout the organization to be a big supporter of the PAC and the advocacy fund,” he admits. “Everyone’s probably like, ‘here he comes again, looking for money…’ but I genuinely believe we need to support all the causes and the industry.”
And folks may want to pay attention, as Fordice has solid success raising funds. He’s created two nonprofits that serve the veteran community, in which he’s very active outside of construction.
An accomplished pilot who’s been flying WWII planes for decades, his passion for those who served actively has culminated in the Southern Heritage Air Foundation, a museum borne of his interviews with World War II aviators.
Fordice and his brother, Hunter, who share the responsibility of running the family business, also share a history in the Army.
“We love soldiers,” he says plainly, “and the mental and physical stresses from combat are pretty incredible.” It prompted them to open up some hunting land near home — and a house in Colorado — to serve as a place where veterans could get some recreation, some downtime.
He chuckles. “But it got completely out of control.”
As such, the gesture has evolved into the Warrior Bonfire Program, which provides opportunities that improve the lives of enemy combat-wounded veterans — Purple Heart recipients — with activity-based, small-group retreats.
“Generally, I’m into smaller government, the person who says, ‘Why do we need larger organizations? Another vet nonprofit?’ But all the guys tell me it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. And it has to continue.”
The Warrior Bonfire Program has 24 events on the books for 2022. Fordice will be pretty busy leading the AGC, but he’s grateful for the chance to direct energy outward into the community and inward toward the industry.
Despite all the looming challenges, he feels good about its overall outlook.
“Because we can’t do without construction. It can and should evolve, but overall, we can’t build on Zoom. We can’t stay home. We have to go and do it there, and that will never end.”
He cites the nation’s infrastructure needs — road, rail, water. “People make it political, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what needs to be done in and by the industry. And that will never stop.”
Dan Fordice reviews a project’s plans with his son. PHOTO CREDIT: GROWTH SMART CONSULTING
At 23, Fordice was charged with the lives of 30 soldiers. It was the Cold War. Regular drills saw them roused from sleep to prep as though they were off to battle.
“We never knew if it was real or not,” he explains. “I’m signed for $8 million in equipment, and my job is to train these guys to survive and kill the enemy. There’s not a company on the planet who’d be dumb enough to sign you up on that level on Day One, but the military has found a way to make it work. It’s a ridiculous amount of responsibility. I went through some really hard training. And you learn an awful lot about yourself doing it.”
He wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.
“Because I learned I can do way more than I think I can do.”
Bob Lanham knows it, too.
“Dan Fordice is multi-talented,” he says of his friend and fellow board member. “He is an example of service — to the country, to the industry, to the veterans — and he does it so quietly and without fanfare because it’s the right thing to do.”
He quotes a line from The Matrix: There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
“It’s a powerful line for life, in general. And Dan’s done it. He doesn’t talk it, he walks it. And so, to know I’m leaving this organization to someone who knows what needs to be done and has the confidence to do it? It means the world.”