Contractor's Soap Box - Jason Gonder, Sr. Vice President - Cornerstone Construction Services - Orlando, FL

An Interview with Jason Gonder, senior vice president of Cornerstone Construction Services located in Orlando, FL.

Jason leads construction projects through the pre-construction and construction phases. He has primary responsibility for the Master Budget, the Master Schedule, and the Quality Plan. He coordinates and manages all estimating, field staff, and office staff. He serves as point man for the general contractor, the owners, and design professionals. He has 17 years' experience in working with owners, general contractors, designers, and engineers from conceptual/bid stage through final turnover and acceptance.

JB: Please give us a little background on your concrete contracting company and what markets Cornerstone focuses on.

JG: Cornerstone is a 26 year-old concrete contracting business. We are primarily a cast-in-place contractor, but we do lots of other types of concrete work. We do local government work for the City of Orlando. We work on Orange county's projects. We primarily handle the Central Florida area. Cornerstone does theme park work as well.

JB: How has the industry changed over the years and how has Cornerstone adapted to those changes?

JG: We adapted to doing smaller jobs. The waste transfer station work has helped a lot. We like that work quite a bit. We educated ourselves. We got more involved in the industry. We got certified with ACI and ICRI. Additionally, we learned how to do things cheaper. It grounded our expectations for future work.

JB: What makes your contracting company different? What actions have you found that make you guys successful?

JG: We'll handle multiple scopes of work that are fairly odd. We can combine different scopes that another company wouldn't take. We can do pavers. We can do site furnishings. We'll do demolition. We'll build metal buildings. We try to stay very involved with the project and do what it takes to help out in documentation and change orders. And hanging in there when things don't go so good.

JB: What's your favorite part about the concrete business?

JG: The daily challenge. It's always something different. Different projects. Different circumstances. When problems come up, we take them on.

JB: What's your least favorite part about this business?

JG: Early morning pours. 2 AM pours. In Florida, that's the nature of the beast.

JB: Cornerstone does lots of high profile concrete work. What's been your experience working on these types of projects?

JG: They're challenging and rewarding. We've been working at the Amway Center's exterior work and foundations. We've also been at the new performing arts center downtown. Theme Parks—it doesn't get much higher profile than that. We have a good relationship with the generals. The City of Orlando has been a long time client as well.

JB: Does Cornerstone work on many LEED projects? If so, how do those differ from your perspective?

JG: The Amway Center is LEED. The downtown performing arts center is LEED. Since we're concrete guys, LEED is more paperwork. You're tracking down recycled content and post-consumer recycled content. There is a credit for regional materials within 500 miles. The rebar is recycled content.

I am LEED-certified, and we have two other people that are LEED certified as well.

JB: Cornerstone performs many EmeryTop 400 jobs in your region. Are these exclusively waste transfer station jobs or are there other applications? Also, how has Cornerstone nailed this niche?

JG: So far most have been waste transfer station jobs. About 12 years ago, we got our first transfer station rehab project. I had done that sort of work before, working with high strength, thin toppings. We kept going after it. The competition wasn't too fierce going after the waste transfer stations. [Laughs.] They're typically cycled at 5 to 8 years. Some municipalities have multiple transfer stations we'll work at that cycle. We'll also do steel repair work and drainage repair.

We handle recycling centers, too.

JB: What do you do when things go wrong and the owner or architect is unhappy? What's been your experience with fixing bad situations?

JG: We believe in open and honest communication. Try to figure out exactly what is wrong, and go fix it. You may need to demo-out something that you've done, or offer extended warranties. But you do what you can to make the client happy. We want to ensure they get what they paid for.

JB: Which professional organizations do you belong to? Do they help you win business?

JG: Yes. ACI. ICRI. ABC. LEED. Green Build. SWANA.

JB: Cornerstone is big on philanthropy. Talk a little bit about that and the firm's dedication to its community.

JG: We have a foundation we started called Cornerstone International Foundation. We support missionaries and groups that rescue children out of slave prostitution in the Far East. A little bit of money over there goes a long way. Locally, we're involved in all kinds of charities.


Jason Gonder
Senior Vice President
Cornerstone Construction Services, Inc.
4205 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804
P: 407.299.3299

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