When AECOM (known for projects like the World Trade Center, Hong Kong International Airport, and Chicago’s Millennium Park) acquired Hunt Construction Group (builders of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Terminal 4, and the San Francisco Federal Building) in 2014, it became one of the largest and most capable professional services firms in the world.
Since then, AECOM Hunt has built some of the most iconic venues, transportation hubs, healthcare facilities, and academic campuses of all time.
Today, the behemoth company has 51,000 employees and $13 billion in annual revenue. It’s active in dozens of countries, where its teams are leading design and construction of the NBA’s Intuit Dome, upgrading London’s infrastructure, building what is set to become the first dedicated offshore wind port in the US, engineering light rail transit projects in Canada, and creating the world’s largest indoor theme park (the size of 21 football fields) in Abu Dhabi.
While these complex projects may intimidate even the most talented industry professionals, Executive Vice President and South Region Manager Monte Thurmond remains unfazed. There’s not much he hasn’t seen in his 43 years with AECOM Hunt.
Although Thurmond officially started with Hunt after finishing college 1984, he joined the organization’s field engineering teams as a “grunt and gopher” in the fall of 1979 when he was still in high school. He got his laborers’ card, volunteered for leadership roles, and was the second shift supervisor at a manufacturing facility before graduating from Purdue University.
Thurmond says it was watching projects come out of the ground that first got him hooked. “There’s something rewarding about working in construction and being able to see the tangible results of all your hard work,” he says.
Over his decades in the business, Thurmond has also grown to appreciate the intangible results he can see as his company’s projects help stimulate local economies, introduce jobs to depressed markets, and bring joy to users’ lives.
After 40 years spent building the places where people gather, Thurmond is at his busiest. Part of that may be due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “People have a new appreciation for being together and there is a heightened awareness of how special performance and sports venues are,” says the EVP, adding that AECOM Hunt is currently active in several university, entertainment, and transportation projects.
Danny Espino, owner and president of Critical Electric Systems Group, is proud to collaborate with Thurmond on a college campus expansion and renovation in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Monte is a natural leader with many years of field and hands-on experience, which supports his thorough review of all pertinent details and risk scenarios on every one of his projects,” says Espino, adding, “We are confident our current AECOM Hunt project for the Tarrant County College District will be successful because of him and his team.”
By now, Thurmond is used to the grind. AECOM Hunt had five major, world-class sports arenas—SoFi Stadium, Coachella Arena, Intuit Dome, UBS Arena, and Moody Center—all underway at one time in 2021.
Moody Center, home to University of Texas Longhorns basketball and other events, opened its doors on April 20, 2022. It was Thurmond’s 29th sports project: he did a stadium expansion in the second year of his career and followed that up with a large arena before acting as project manager for a 20,000-seat venue.
In the early 1990s, Thurmond moved to Dallas and built facilities for the Mavericks, Stars, and Spurs on his way to completing 15 regional stadiums in the early 2000s.
Thurmond’s history in team sports informed his work and helped him appreciate the level of coordination and collaboration necessary to pursue common goals in construction. Each person on a building project has a unique task, but all those individual members must work together with one clear vision.
As he saw the importance in strong teams and lasting relationships, Thurmond developed a credo that’s remained intact throughout his long career. “All of us working together are smarter than any one of us working alone,” he says.
AECOM Hunt’s VP, Clint Binkley, praises Thurmond’s demonstration of these values. “Monte is tremendously involved behind the scenes: teaching, guiding, and providing constructive direction to the entire team with every project, from inception through closeout,” he says.
Now, Thurmond leads AECOM Hunt’s operations in the southern part of the United States. As he finishes existing high-profile projects and starts new ones, he’s thinking about how he can continue to leverage the relationships he’s built since the start of his career.
“We’re not just looking to make buildings; the buildings we make anchor communities, and we’re looking to build relationships that help enhance the lives of others,” he says, pointing to the subcontractors, tradespeople, vendors, and partners that work so hard on every AECOM Hunt job. Thurmond says he likes not only to hold each one accountable but also challenge them and recognize them for the great work that they do.
Thurmond and AECOM Hunt are passionate about getting more people from local communities involved in each project. They’ve developed building trades programs that expose participants to specialty trades, and various employees often speak and present at local high schools and community colleges.
The company is also advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion by building diverse talent, increasing supplier diversity, promoting employee resource groups, and partnering with minority and women-owned business enterprises.
The EVP is excited about his remarkable upcoming projects. He flies around the region, country, and world quite often. As his plane prepares to land, if he looks out the window—no matter where he is—Thurmond can almost always see at least one arena, hospital, convention center, terminal, campus, factory, or high rise that he’s played a part in building.