Jerry Shaw has been named the 2014 Most Valuable Professional (MVP) by award sponsors Underground Construction Technology Association (UCTA) and Underground Construction magazine.
The MVP Award is bestowed annually to an individual for outstanding contributions to the underground infrastructure industry.
A special luncheon was held to honor Shaw’s achievements in the industry on Jan. 28 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX, held in conjunction with the annual UCT conference.
Noted for being a pioneer in the underground construction industry, Shaw continues to play a leading role more than 35 years later as president of SAK Construction, where he leads day-to-day operations. Shaw’s long-term success in the industry is rooted in his dedication to building a team of talented professionals committed to solving any underground construction challenge.
He’s also a humble and unassuming leader who would much rather discuss the successes and accomplishments of others than bring attention to himself as was evidenced in his acceptance speech. Once Shaw got over his surprise at receiving the Most Valuable Professional award, he was quick to point out that the honor would not be possible without the people he’s worked with throughout his career, both past and present.
“Bob Affholder, my mentor in the tunneling business, received the MVP award in 1999 and it was hard for me to believe that I was even considered for the same honor as someone whom I think is a legend in the industry,” Shaw said. “This award is really a compliment to my partners, Tom Kaishman and Bob, and to all the hard working employees of SAK. An award such as this is not an individual achievement but a reflection of the achievements of a great group of motivated individuals.
“Looking out over this crowd of people, many of whom I’ve had the great pleasure to work with for almost 35 years, is like a scrapbook of my life,” Shaw added. “I have great memories of the people I’ve met and of the places the jobs have taken me.”
The early years
It is often suggested in business that it’s the people you know who help you get ahead. This sentiment would prove true for Shaw when he answered a job listing for tunneling and boring company Affholder Inc. in 1979 that would evolve into a long and fruitful career in the trenchless industry.
“Within a few days [after being hired] I knew this was the industry for me,” Shaw explained. “I love the constant challenge of taking on new jobs where we’d often figure out a unique solution to a customer’s needs. I was also lucky enough to start my career working for Bob, who as a boss and mentor, continually motivated and empowered me to get the job done right.”
At Affholder, Shaw quickly worked his way up to senior management. The company, in addition to focusing on tunneling, became the first mid-American licensee to install cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) using the Insituform process. In 1987, the company went public as Insituform Mid-America, acquiring additional territories to become the largest Insituform licensee in the United States. From 1983 to 1987, Shaw served as a tunneling project manager for the company’s tunneling division. From 1987 to 2005, he led day-to-day tunneling operations for Affholder, taking the company from $25 million to $120 million in revenue. Eventually, IMA merged with Insituform North America and the other licensees to form Insituform Technologies (now Aegion).
From those early days working at Affholder, it was evident to Shaw that Bob’s business approach was different from most in the industry.
“With Bob you did not start off small,” Shaw said. “Our first CIPP inversion project was for a 3.5 feet by 2.5 feet egg shaped sewer. Most people would have been concerned about installing an odd shaped liner of that size on their first try, but not Bob. His philosophy was ‘plan it well and then just do it.’ Unfortunately, the company that wet the liner out for us made a mistake and the liner hardened overnight in the reefer truck. It was a tough start for what eventually turned out to be an extremely successful undertaking.”
It was also during his years at Affholder that Shaw would make another lasting friendship and eventual business partner in Tom Kalishman, who helped IMA grow its regional markets before serving on the Insituform Technologies Inc. board of directors until his departure in 2005.
After leaving Insituform Technologies and going their separate ways, Shaw and Kalishman met to discuss where their futures were headed. Using what they knew about CIPP and the tunneling market, it wasn’t long before these like-minded individuals decided to strike out on their own in 2006 to form St. Louis-based SAK Construction. Affholder would follow in 2007.
“Tunneling jobs were flooding the market, and after the [Insituform] patents expired, the CIPP industry was continuing to grow,” said Shaw. “However, we only wanted to return to the industry if we could create a company based on the principles we learned from Bob where the focus was on the team, the customer and quality. From that initial conversation, the beginnings of SAK were born.
Today, Shaw is a co-founder of SAK Construction, where he continues to focus on solving customer’s pipeline rehabilitation needs using tunneling and trenchless solutions. In only a few short years, Shaw’s leadership has helped propel SAK to one of the fastest growing pipeline rehabilitation contractors in the country.
“In 2007, Tom and I were reunited with Bob when he joined SAK Construction. We each have experience running a trenchless business, but we respect the strengths of the other and have complementary skills,” he added. “In my role as president, I primarily focus on SAK’s day-to-day operations. Bob is vice-chairman and focuses on our customers and corporate culture. Tom is chairman and chief executive officer, and he focuses on finance and strategy. Together, we bring years of real-world trenchless experience to the table, and we really enjoy working together.
“From the start, our strategy at SAK differed from most companies in that we hired key management personnel before we acquired the jobs, which allowed for us to be prepared to build new work and to rapidly grow our business. Soon we had a team with experience that exceeded anything we had seen in the industry. Several of us have worked together for almost 35 years now. Everyone who joined us knew exactly what the company wanted to achieve – a return to the original roots of Bob’s success – hire the best talent, create an environment where people are valued, deliver world-class services and put customers first.”
SAK Construction LLC, a national pipeline rehabilitation and tunneling industries contractor headquartered in the St. Louis area. SAK serves a variety of city, county and state agencies; industrial sectors; municipalities; and water and sewer cooperatives coast-to-coast.
Founded in 2006, SAK Construction is led by industry veterans Jerry Shaw, president; Tom Kalishman, chairman; and Robert Affholder, vice chairman. The three SAK leaders are well known for their expertise in trenchless underground technology, including CIPP rehabilitation. Trenchless technology is particularly important today to rehabilitate the nation’s aging water and sewer infrastructure—including 52,000 water systems comprising nearly a million miles of underground pipe carrying America’s drinking water.
Notable SAK Construction projects include a 34,000-linear-foot CIPP sewer rehabilitation project for the City of St. Paul, Minn.; a 34,000-linear-foot CIPP sewer rehabilitation project for the City of Jefferson, Mo.; a 30,000-linear-foot CIPP sewer and manhole rehabilitation project in the Nameoki-area for Granite City, Ill.; and the 2,300-linear-foot, 96-inch diameter Coldwater Relief Tunnel in unincorporated St. Louis County for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD).
Based in O’Fallon, Mo. and with regional offices in Sacramento, Calif., Tampa, Fla. and Baltimore, Md., the firm has active projects in 21 states.
SAK solves the challenge of maintaining and restoring aging water, sanitary, and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure for the municipal, energy and industrial markets. With industry leading experience and a commitment to service excellence, SAK is a trusted partner helping customers worldwide renew, protect and expand their pipeline infrastructure.