Then & Now: CDI executive mentoring next generation of contractors

by Robin Mero (rmero@nwabj.com) 211 views 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in the July 23 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s  Forty Under 40 class.

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In 2004, Matt Bodishbaugh was secure and happy in his position as executive vice president at Nabholz Corp. in Rogers when principals of Little Rock’s CDI Contractors began to court him.

CDI was launching a division in Northwest Arkansas, and Bob Laman and Bill Clark wanted Bodishbaugh on their team.

“Multiple times I told them, ‘No, thank you. I’m flattered.’ Finally, Bob said to me, in his direct way, ‘You are a stupid blankety-blank if you don’t at least meet with us and hear what we have to say,’” Bodishbaugh remembered.

In Little Rock, CDI had built many of the state’s best-known buildings, but it came later to the NWA scene. “It was a huge risk for me,” Bodishbaugh said.

Fourteen years since and without regrets, Bodishbaugh, now 52, is vice president and director of NWA operations. Signature CDI projects in the region include the expansion and renovation of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, construction of the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, the new terminal at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill and the north end zone renovation of the University of Arkansas’ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

A member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s class of Forty Under 40 in 1999, Bodishbaugh has since been inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Civil Engineering. Increasingly, he finds himself mentoring and preparing the next generation of contractors, just as people took an interest in him and shared opportunities and advice.

“I have been fortunate,” he said. “I’ve always been surrounded by quality people. I’m an expert in nothing, but I’m a people person, and it’s unbelievable how many different people are required for this work. To me, that’s what makes our business fun.”

Bodishbaugh went K-12 through Fayetteville schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the UA. One professor was a former Civil Engineer Corps officer and encouraged him to consider service in that division of the U.S. Navy.

“It was great management training experience,” Bodishbaugh said of his five years engaged in environmental remediation and construction of U.S. Department of Defense facilities. Then he had to decide whether to pursue design engineering or building/contracting. His first job was with May Construction Co. in Little Rock; next was Nabholz, and then CDI came calling.

“I didn’t grow up playing with Tinkertoys,” Bodishbaugh said. “What I enjoy is the process of assembling people with diverse skills, forming them into a team to achieve goals and accomplish more together. It takes a huge team — clients, architects, engineers, finance and real estate experts, skilled craftsmen.”

But don’t expect Bodishbaugh to discuss his favorite projects.

“I almost hate to say [which are my favorites], because I haven’t chased projects,” he said. “I’ve pursued relationships. I’ve never measured satisfaction by the size of a project, and I can think of very few client relationships I didn’t cherish. But yes, it is fun driving around and saying, ‘I spent two years of my life working on that project.’”

At his side throughout has been his wife Margo, also a lifelong Fayetteville student and UA grad.

“We’re a corny story,” he said. “My wife and I are high school sweethearts and are having our 30th anniversary soon.”

All three of their daughters also attended Fayetteville schools. Two graduated from the UA, and the youngest is enrolled to be a freshman there this fall. Bodishbaugh won’t be surprised if his daughters leave NWA for a spell.

“It’s natural to have a burning desire to get out of your hometown,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get out of the area. We say this is a small town now, but back then we knew everybody. What I came to learn is that what had seemed boring and comfortable was really quality of life. Something changed inside of me. And now this area has a lot more to offer with amenities and diversity.”

Bodishbaugh previously served on the Sigma Nu Fraternity Alumni Advisory Board. He said most of his discretionary time is now devoted to Fellowship Bible Church Fayetteville, where his wife is on staff.

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