IRTBA Welcomes Mike Paine as the New Board Chair

It’s rare to find someone who loves their job as much as Mike Paine does. “I’ve liked construction since I was a kid, so it was an easy choice when I went to college. I enrolled in Construction Management at Purdue University and it was really intriguing. After that, I was fortunate enough to land at a great and growing company and I’ve enjoyed my job since day one,” said Mike, who is Vice President of Dunnet Bay Construction Company and, as of January, serves as Chairman of the Board with the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association.

“I love this industry. What I like best is the challenges and that every project is unique. Very few projects that we do are similar to what we’ve done before. You have to be creative, use your mind, and be forward thinking. Also, quite honestly, I really like seeing the large heavy equipment and cranes, it's a fun business. And you get a great sense of accomplishment when a project is complete. You look at where the project started, whether you're replacing a bridge or highway, and then when the project's done, and you can look back and say all that hard work really paid off. And that's a sense of accomplishment.”

Mike’s career in road construction began in 1996. He started with Dunnet Bay Construction Company as a field engineer, then moved on to roles as superintendent and project manager, at which point Dunnet Bay enrolled Mike in IRTBA’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) and Tod Faerber,  then chairman of IRTBA, saw a spark in Mike and made a point of encouraging him to get more involved in the organization. Mike started attending IRTBA’s presentations and quarterly meetings, as well as the events, as well as working with his ELP class. “That was 2009. From there, I got involved in different committees, starting with the Cook County CoOp. So, in the past 14 years, I’ve gotten a broad experience working with agencies and I really enjoy doing that. I think it benefits our industry to have as much participation from contractors and engineers as possible; that’s how this industry succeeds and how the organization succeeds. I’ve had the great fortune of meeting a lot of amazing people in our industry on both the engineering and the contracting sides through business and social gatherings, like the golf outing, quarterly meetings, and more And that’s how I got to where I am now.”

“Being involved in IRTBA had a big impact on me. Once you get involved with CoOps or different groups within organizations, you're going to quickly realize that, being a small industry, you're going to get to know other contractors, engineers, suppliers, and have an opportunity to talk with agencies that we all do business with. You’ll get to voice your opinions and be part of working to. improve all processes within construction industry. Of course, you have the political side of things where you have the opportunity to make sure legislation being passed is favorable to our industry The possibilities are unlimited, as long as people get involved. Putting your time into IRTBA is key to move the industry forward.”

“IRTBA serves its members in many ways. Road building design and construction is somewhat of a small community, so we're always looking to strengthen it. And that's where the relationships within our association and with other trade associations, unions, and government agencies comes in. We want to be at the forefront, for example, EV. We recently visited Sweden to see the self-charging electric roadway and electric construction equipment they have and we're bringing that knowledge back to the Midwest, hoping to be a leader the evolving technology. So, we're always trying to increase opportunities for local engineers, contractors, and their employees.  which is a priority for our organization.”

Mike clearly makes a habit of looking to the future, and using the past as a guide to plan that future, and he applied that tendency to his new role as Chair of the Board for Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association. In January of 2024, Mike will accept the gavel from Julie Wrightsman, who has served as IRTBA’s chair for the past two years.

“Julie did a fantastic job as board chair. She came in at an interesting time when funding levels were increasing and she continuously pushed to get work out on the streets for both the engineering and construction communities. She has been a great champion and representative of IRTBA. I respect her opinions and her leadership. I know I'll be talking to her frequently in the future as my new role evolves.”

Mike’s road to the seat of chair was a two-year process. Then-IRTBA chair John Kapovich and chair-elect Julie Wrightsman reached out to Mike to gauge his interest in the role. “I thought about it long and hard and decided it would be a great time to jump in. I had great support from them, as well as from other industry friends.”

Looking forward, Mike wants to, “continue to work with agencies to put work out in the streets. We're fortunate to be in a great time where our motor fuel taxes are starting to kick in. There's additional funding from the federal government flowing in, so there's a lot of opportunity for

the state and local agencies to put a lot of work out on the streets and continue to expand infrastructure locally.”
Mike shared that IRTBA’s Board of Directors meets to discuss the latest information regarding major agencies, the political spectrum, legislation, and any other things that may impact the industry as a whole. The board then uses that information to determine the direction that benefits everybody within the role of association.

“There's a lot of great opportunity coming in the near future. We're looking forward to the next Illinois Tollway reconstruction program; as we're coming to the end of the current program and are hearing good things about what's to come, so we're really looking forward to that, as well as all the work with IDOT and the City of Chicago. The recent budget shows promise for a large volume of work, which is exciting for the future of our industry.”

Mike understands the challenges facing the field. “We want to make sure we have enough tradespeople, as well as construction managers and civil engineers. Good people are hard to come by.  This industry can provide an opportunity to earn a great living and career. We need to support getting young people involved, starting with high schools, colleges, and trades groups, making sure the unions are working to demonstrate to younger generation that Getting good people is a major concern as the industry grows.”

Mike shares that, as our industry grows and evolves, IRTBA membership can be integral to a company’s success. “We recently had a contractor that was not a member, and we got them involved with the specific issue with an agency. And as soon as they realized that, as part of IRTBA, they had an opportunity to voice their opinion and resolve the concerns that they had, they signed up. There are direct examples of the benefits of membership that we can list and demonstrate to all the new members or prospective members. There is networking amongst your peers and improving your understanding of the industry. You get to see it from all sides: the owners, the engineers, the contractors, and the suppliers. Once you have a better understanding of how that works, as well as how the political process works, and its impact on our industry, you can use that information to facilitate your own work in your own company. Understanding what the agencies face, whether you're trying to get funding from the federal government or the state procurement rules, restrictions -- there's a lot that goes into making this industry work. Having that understanding of that makes you more efficient at what you do.”