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Las Vegas stadium, other project subcontractors seek veterans

Updated November 10, 2018 - 5:27 pm

Dozens of construction workers clad in fluorescent vests working on the Las Vegas stadium project once wore military uniforms.

There’s no requirement for companies to hire veterans who have re-entered the workforce upon leaving the military, but companies working on some of the biggest projects in Southern Nevada are seeking out military veterans because of their leadership skills and investment in teamwork.

LIVECAM: Monitor the progress of Las Vegas Stadium in this view looking south toward the construction site.

Mortenson Construction Co. — the contractor building the $1.8 billion stadium at Interstate 15 and Russell Road — said about 3 percent of the hours worked by subcontractor employees were put in by veterans as of the end of September.

“Obviously, in terms of chain of command and working as part of a team, I think folks sometimes don’t really realize that you don’t work in isolation on the project site,” said Lynn Littlejohn, director of community affairs for Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction.

“You’re really part of a team and that whole teamwork is what it takes to get the job done. Obviously, veterans are very well versed in that.”

One of the contracting companies that have worked on the stadium site is Las Vegas-based A-1 Concrete Cutting & Demolition, whose owner, Joe Monteiro, believes military structure helps drive veterans to success in civilian life.

A-1’s cutting and drilling operation has been used on public and private construction projects across the valley for 31 years. Today, nearly 30 percent of Monteiro’s team has military experience, and it’s one of the things he looks for when hiring contract workers.

“It starts at basic training. They take control of the man’s life. They say, ‘Listen, you may have been a punk on the street, but you’re not going to be a punk here,’ and they toughen them up.”

Monteiro said the military teaches respect, teamwork and the chain of command.

“In construction work, you need team players,” he said. “You don’t need a guy that thinks he knows it all and can do it all, because you can’t. If you don’t have your co-workers working alongside of you, they’ll bury you, and how they bury you is by not performing or making you look bad.”

Monteiro said one of the most successful sales representatives at the company is Corey Anderson, who joined the company from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

Anderson started with the company as a runner, driving equipment and supplies to job sites. He asked Monteiro for a new challenge in sales, even though it paid less — but he could earn a commission if successful.

Monteiro was confident in Anderson after seeing his drive, a passion he believes was fostered by his military training.

“Now, he’s my top salesman,” Monteiro said. “Corey’s goal now is to have a better year this year than last year.”

Another construction company, PENTA Building Group, is a general contractor on the $375 million Caesars Forum convention center.

More than 15 percent of the Las Vegas-based company’s employees are veterans, and the company is hiring more.

“We understand there’s great talent in the military,” said PENTA marketing manager Tim Putnam. It’s great “being able to say we’ll help them transition to civilian life, and hopefully we gain a great employee in the process.”

Two of PENTA’s veteran employees were hired through the local chapter of the national veteran employment program Hiring Our Heroes, including Jose Mendez. After working as an intern for the company for 11 weeks, Mendez was set to begin work as a project engineer Tuesday.

Mendez, 39, has been in the Air Force for 20 years. He joined immediately after high school and will officially retire Dec. 1. To help him prepare for civilian life, Hiring Our Heroes offered Mendez a 12-week fellowship program and connected him with PENTA. Hiring Our Heroes has helped about 50 veterans find work in Las Vegas since it came to the valley a little over a year ago.

“When (life in the military) becomes all you’ve known from the time you were 18 or just graduating high school, it’s definitely daunting to go into these new environments and try to adapt,” said Sierra Schafer, program manager for the Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellowship program in the Las Vegas area. “It’s all they’ve known.”

Mendez said he enjoys the people and the culture at the company.

“Everybody does their share and works hard to achieve their common goal,” Mendez said. “I wasn’t sure I’d find that in the civilian sector.”

Putnam said this is the company’s first year working with Hiring Our Heroes, and the staff has been impressed with results.

“(Mendez) proved himself out there,” Putnam said. “He has a great work ethic. … He’s polite and diligent. He’s a great find for us.”

Mendez said his role as an HVAC technician in the Air Force helped prepare him for his new role, but he has faced a learning curve.

“A lot of the words (used on the job), we have different terms for it (in the Air Force),” he said. “I had some background knowledge, but I had to ask a lot of questions.”

Mendez said his new job will make all the difference for him and his family, which includes his wife, two dogs and four kids.

“I’ll be able to take care of my family,” he said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported PENTA Building Group’s role in the Caesars Forum project. PENTA is a general contractor.

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