A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

From laborer to VP, Turner Construction’s Spaulding directs high-profile projects, focuses on community

By Kevin Eigelbach
NKyTribune reporter

As vice president and general manager for New York City-based Turner Construction Company in Cincinnati, David Spaulding is helping to remake the face of Northern Kentucky and the Queen City.

Spaulding

The highest-profile example right now is the renovation of the former Bavarian Brewery Co. building, an enormous white structure just off the east side of Interstate 75 in Covington. The building formerly housed Jillian’s nightclub, but Turner is remodeling it into new offices for Kenton County government.

Spaulding, a lifelong Northern Kentuckian, speaks admiringly of the tunnels under the building, made from masonry as wide as his office but three times as long.

“It’s changing the front door to Northern Kentucky,” Spaulding said of the renovation. “It creates jobs and beautifies the region.”

His younger brother, Jason, serves as a supervisor on the project.

Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann said Spaulding has always been a consummate professional to work with.

“He’s extremely bright, but he does that without being arrogant,” Knochelmann said.

Turner also recently won the contract to build St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s comprehensive cancer care center in Edgewood.

That’s a project with special meaning for Spaulding, considering that four years ago, at 33, he found that he had a rare form of the disease. He had surgery to remove the cancer and has since been in remission.

“I feel like I’m kicking its ass,” he said.

His favorite Turner project is the Great American Tower, which he helped write the building contract for. He likes it because it jump-started a lot of redevelopment downtown, he said.

During construction, he climbed to the top of the tower crane above the building’s crown, a height of more than 44 stories. It was the tallest structure ever in Cincinnati, he said, and he could see for miles.

Spaulding with Turner employees involved in the company’s “Paint the town Blue” project. Each year since 2009, Turner has been painting the town blue by supporting local community groups during the holiday season. More than 100 Turner employees and their family members get together by spending a weekend volunteering for their favorite charitable organization (provided photo).

Started as a laborer with his twin

Spaulding, who lives in Villa Hills, began working for Turner in 1999, just after he graduated from Dixie Heights High School. He continued to work as a laborer in the summer and on breaks from college, including on a renovation of the former Shillito’s building downtown, a project he worked on with his identical twin brother, Steve.

After he graduated from Marshall University in 2003, he earned a law degree from Northern Kentucky University’s Chase Law School and started his own practice in 2006. He returned to Turner in 2008 as regional director of legal affairs.

In 2011, he became manager of business development and legal affairs. He found that his law degree served him well in making sales, he said, because “construction sales are so contractual.”

In September 2016, he started his present job, which has him overseeing all Turner’s operations in Southern Ohio, Kentucky and parts of West Virginia.

“His accomplishments are amazing,” Steve Spaulding said. “He does a lot to inspire the workers we have, and put a good name with Turner out in the community.”

Spaulding said he doesn’t feel he runs a construction company as much as a “people company that happens to provide construction services.”

In an effort to keep lines of communication open, every Monday morning, he brings Turner’s 75-80 local workers to the downtown Cincinnati office to talk about what’s happening that week.

A typical day might include walking Turner’s various local job sites, meeting with clients and reviewing bids for new projects.

He focuses on making Turner a safe company to work for, the No. 1 goal being that every worker goes home to his or her family at the end of the day. Part of that involves encouraging workers to speak up when they see someone doing something that’s not safe.

His greatest challenge has been to find young people willing to work as skilled laborers, something they don’t see as a glamorous profession. But jobs as pipefitters, plumbers or welders pay well and the demand is almost never-ending, he said.

Turner Construction is leading the renovation of the Bavarian Brewing Company site, which will become the new Kenton County Administration Building (provided).

Advising FC Cincinnati on stadium sites

Away from the office, Spaulding divides his time between community service and his family: his wife, the former Kelly Kennedy, and their three children, ages 6, 8 and 9. He and his wife both played soccer for Marshall, and they’ve passed that love of sports on to their children, who play soccer, baseball and flag football.

Spaulding coaches his children on some of those teams, and the family also goes to many FC Cincinnati soccer games. The team recently hired him, he said, as an advisor on budgets, schedules and community involvement in its quest to build a new stadium.

Each of the three sites the team’s considering has its pluses and minuses, he said. The Newport site would need lots of parking spaces, whereas the West End site wouldn’t, but would need lots of site preparation. The Oakley site has more potential for development, but it’s not as centrally located as the other two.

Spaulding has served as a commissioner for the Northern Kentucky Water District since 2011, and as vice chairman of REDI Cincinnati.

He has also donated time and money to the Children’s Law Center Inc. in Covington. In 2014, he competed in the organization’s biggest annual fund-raiser, a “Dancing with the Stars” dance competition before about 500 people.

Ballroom dancing wasn’t exactly in Spaulding’s wheelhouse, but he willingly spent hours in weekly practices to prepare, said his friend Jamie Ramsey, a Cincinnati attorney who’s on the board of directors.

“Dave’s one of the most generous people that I’ve known,” Ramsey said. “He’s very, very giving of his time and resources, and it’s genuine.”

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com.

 

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