The ABCs of Big Dollar Construction
Thomas Campbell - Moderator
CEO, Thorobird Companies
Thomas Campbell is a founder and principal of Thorobird Companies LLC, leading development, acquisitions and operational strategy. Thomas also serves on the Albany Budget and the New York City Budget Committees of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. Prior to founding Thorobird, Thomas worked in Finance for Merrill Lynch managing a $300,000,000 portfolio of investments and later for Morgan Stanley as an institutional advisor to corporations.
Elizabeth Velez spearheads strategic growth and project diversification for the over 50 year old Velez Organization as President and principal, ensuring that the second-generation construction services firm is one of the longest established and successful in the region. To her credit are hundreds of projects which have come to fruition under her direction, including over 600 units of housing made affordable by State and Federal grants in the Bronx and Harlem, and over thirty billion dollars of significant educational, healthcare and large-scale projects throughout New York. Today, Ms. Velez is leading the Velez Organization to increasing prominence as the choice builder, construction manager, diversity, equity and inclusion and mentoring partner in New York and beyond. She is a sought after advocate by numerous public and private institutions on economic development, legislative issues and the building industry. Ms. Velez was appointed in 2022 by Governor Kathy Hochul to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – the largest public transportation network in North America. She is a member of the six-person Traffic Mobility Review Board. She served until 2021 as Commissioner of the NYC Property Tax Reform Commission, which produced public inclusive recommendations to create transparency and equity in the NYC tax system. She was appointed in 2022 to the NYC Economic Development Corporation. From 2020 to 2021, she served for both NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo on the COVID pandemic advisory and recovery boards, and for the latter, the NYS Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery & Rebuilding Committee, the NY Memorial Commission for Hurricane Maria. In her advocacy role for the design and building industry of New York, Ms. Velez was Chair of the New York Building Congress, the preeminent A/E/C industry group – the first person of color and only the second woman to serve in that role in the NYBC’s 100 year history. During her 2020 – 2021 tenure, she provided leadership and direction to the industry during the COVID pandemic, spearheaded the Equity and Inclusion Task Force and Council, and celebrated the Centennial of the organization, including a book, a documentary, several industry symposiums, and the most successful gala in the NYBC history. She continues on in a leadership role with the NYBC as the newly created Chair of the NYBC Council of Presidents. Ms. Velez is a proud cheerleader and supporter for New York, as demonstrated by her many philanthropic, professional, and civic affiliations. She serves as Trustee for the New York City Police Foundation, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and Boricua College – one of the few Latino schools of higher education in the area. She is on the Board of Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW), supporting workforce development and employment for women in the construction trades. With a focus on youth development, she serves on the Board(s) of Youthbridge, and ACE Mentor-NY. She serves on the Board of Advisors for her Alma Mater – the Hofstra University School of Business. She is a regular contributor to media outlets such as MSNBC, Morning Joe, and Matter of Fact TV with Soledad O’Brien, Commercial Observer, Fox News Latino, The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, El Diario La Prensa, Hispanic Business, ENR, City & State, DowntownNY and Crain’s New York Business. She is an outspoken advocate and sought after speaker for diversity, leadership and the building industry. In addition to numerous awards and recognition, Ms. Velez was recognized by City & State as one of the “Manhattan Power 50” for 2022 -2019, “Construction Industry Power 50”, “Responsible 100”, “Diversity Advocacy 100”. Crains NY Business honored her as 2021 “Diversity Advocate of the Year. She was recently honored with the 2022 New York Building Congress Industry Achievement Award, 2022 Hofstra University Alumni Achievement Award, the 2022 Professional Women in Construction Women of Achievement, and the 2022 Puerto Rican Heritage Award from Comite Noviembre recognizing her work in Puerto Rico. Thus far in 2023, Ms. Velez is being recognized by City & State with their “Above & Beyond Award”, the New York Build 2023 Construction Idol recognition, and an honoree at the upcoming Salvadori Center Gala. Ms. Velez is a graduate of Hofstra University, achieving both her Bachelors and Masters of Business Administration.
With over 20 years in the construction industry, Andrew Simmons is the co-founder of Lashay’s Construction & Development. Founded in 1996, the firm specializes in commercial and residential projects, school and college construction and the development of transportation and infrastructure projects. Simmons has managed numerous development projects as a prime contractor totaling more than $10 million, including the Port Jervis Train Station, Queens Midtown Tunnel, Avenue N and Avenue X train stations, East Side Access and Whitestone Bridge. Also, as a subcontractor Lashay’s Construction has successfully and safely completed over 100 projects for prime contractors on time and on budget. In 2014, Simmons launched A&S Rebar, the first African American-owned, full-service rebar manufacturing company that estimates, purchases, details, fabricates and distributes reinforced steel and welded wire fabric. A&S Rebar was awarded its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and is uniquely positioned as a supplier and manufacturer in New York State with the capacity to furnish, fabricate and sell steel for major construction projects. Simmons has received several awards and proclamations, including the Developers in the Community Award from the Housing Council and a Certificate of Recognition from the Honorable Senator Ada L. Smith for his work and commitment in the community. Recently, Simmons received the Housing & Economic Development Award from the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. Simmons received a diploma from the School of Paralegal Studies and a degree in Building Construction Management from New York University. Andrew Simmons is also the co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Rehabilitation and Empowerment (C.U.R.E.), a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing in Westchester County and its surrounding communities. Founded in 1999, C.U.R.E is certified as a 501(3)(c) and Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO). Working through C.U.R.E., Simmons partnered with the City of Yonkers to assist with the development of affordable homes in distressed areas. In 2005, Simmons led the company in a $1 million development of two-family homes overlooking the Hudson River. In 2010, the company completed a $3.5 million development of a 12-unit condominium, called Lillie Pearl on the Hudson, named after his late mother, Lillie Pearl. As an advocate for local economic and community empowerment, Simmons also created My Brother’s Keeper, a program that trains and employs young adults in the community. Through this program, participants receive employment on C.U.R.E. construction projects and an opportunity to earn their GED at Westchester Community College. Andrew still hires young adults through his Brother’s Keeper Program and hire people to work with Lashay’s Construction for infrastructure projects and currently working in A&S Rebar fabrication shop.
Executive Vice President
Albert Odjidja is Executive Vice President of Construction and Construction Management Services at McKissack. He has 30 years of experience in the design and construction industry and his experience is comprised of a variety of complex project types for healthcare, higher education and institutional clients. Albert is well versed in interfacing with owners and prime contractors and directing the project team managing the total budget, schedule, and construction process from the conceptual stage to owner occupancy. Since joining McKissack in 2006, Albert has led more than $1 billion in construction, including healthcare, education and institutional projects. Albert began his career at McKissack serving as Senior Project Manager for the new $185 million, 194,000 SF School of Science, Health and Technology Building at Medgar Evers College for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, which won the 2012 Brooklyn Building Award by Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Senior Project Manager for NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)/NYC Health+Hospitals Corporation (HHC) Henry J. Carter Specialty Skilled Nursing Facility, a new six-story building which was part of the overall $285 million project. Currently, Albert serves as Project Executive for several McKissack projects, including the $150 million NYCEDC CM Retainer contract and the $800 million NYCEDC/HHC Coney Island Hospital Campus Renovation project.
Reuben R. McDaniel III
Reuben R. McDaniel, III is the President and Chief Executive Officer of DASNY. He joined DASNY in 2019 as an accomplished investment banker with more than 30 years of experience in financial services, including public finance, corporate finance and private equity. During his tenure at DASNY, he has overseen the completion of more than 200 construction projects valued at more than $1 billion, the issuance of more than $20 billion of bonds to support capital construction for New York State and a wide range of healthcare and educational institutions, and more than $200 million of spending with firms headed by minorities, women and service-disabled veterans. In 2021, Mr. McDaniel was appointed to serve as a board member of the New York State Cannabis Control Board, which is responsible for developing and approving the comprehensive regulatory framework for New York's newly developing cannabis industry. Mr. McDaniel also was elected to be Chair of the Atlanta Board of Education for Public Schools, where he served a voice for the community of parents and students. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Texas at Austin.
Founder & CEO
David Cayemitte is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of a revolutionary suite of three companies that all work to support diverse businesses in growth and development. In 2005, David has founded The Cayemitte Group, a full-service commercial insurance and surety bond brokerage that provides bonding and management consulting. Following, in 2010, in the face of evident shortage of project-ready minority, women, and veteran-owned contractors, David has formed Minority Business Development Institute (MBDI), a non-for-profit 501c3. By way of education, MBDI increases the capacity of CEOs and their businesses, and eventually bonds them in-house. David’s most recent initiative, Embrace Partners Inc, formed in 2021, provides capital access and back-office support to diverse businesses, while also being a Managing General Underwriter and a Wholesale Insurance Broker. Embrace creates project – ready diverse contractors and assists public and large corporations in meeting their diversity goals on construction by going through Embrace.