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Ironworker Plays a Key Role in South Florida’s Construction Business

Ironworker Plays a Key Role in  South Florida’s Construction Business

Jeff Justice recounts the projects, rewards, and challenges  of a 43-year career

As an experienced union ironworker and general superintendent at Hodges Erectors Inc., Miami, Fla., Jeff Justice wears many hard hats. He’s a driver while on the road, a problem solver when visiting job sites, a customer service rep while fielding and forwarding calls, and a fulfillment specialist when responding to emails. Jumping from one job site to another is all in a typical day’s work and after 43 years in the industry, “That’s Jeff with Hodges” is a line he hears quite often when he shows up to a site. 

Justice is responsible for the erection of all projects at Hodges Erectors. He’s also in charge of the safety and supervision of the foremen and ironworkers. He said he could have never envisioned where his career would take him when he set out in the industry four decades ago.  

From Midwest Roots to South Florida

Hailing from southern Ohio, Justice’s father encouraged him to make something of himself. After high school, he settled in South Florida and, based on a recommendation from an uncle, became a union ironworker in 1980. “I’m going to make something with this trade,” Justice remembered saying to himself. He started earning apprenticeship wages working as a rod buster on rebar, along with welding, followed by hands-on duties at the Pan Am Terminal at Miami International Airport. 

When a strike occurred, he left the job and began working at Hodges Erectors, where he’s been a loyal team member since 1993. Over the years, his positions evolved to greater heights. His first job site was a building near downtown Miami, his second was at the James L. Knight Center, a contemporary entertainment and convention complex located in downtown Miami, and since then he’s estimated being involved in more than 300 project locations. “Luck has been on my side in life,” said Justice. “I love being an ironworker, and I have done truly wonderful things.” 

Building is Booming 

From residential to commercial buildings, casinos to neighborhood parks, Justice has had a hand in building all of it and more in one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan and fastest growing areas — South Florida.

“Luck has been on my side in life,” said Justice. “I love being an ironworker, and  I have done truly wonderful things.”

With projects constantly underway in South Florida, locals and tourists alike have likely seen Hodges Erectors installations or know about developments they’ve had a hand in, including The Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood, Fla.; the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, Miami, Fla.; the pegasus statue at Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, Fla.; the large steel canopy structure at the front entry plaza of Zoo Miami, Miami, Fla.; and the scoreboards at the Kaseya Center, Miami, Fla., where the Miami Heat play. 

More recent projects include 830 Brickell (office spaces near downtown Miami); assembling and installing the 135-ft-long pedestrian bridge at the Brightline Aventura Station (this highspeed train services five destinations in South Florida); and one of the tallest towers on the Atlantic coastline, Turnberry Ocean Club Residences, Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. To stay on top of the business in an ever-growing and booming building industry, Justice said it is important to understand the underlying factors that equal success. 

Getting projects done on time and relying on foremen matter. Taking notes and ensuring tasks get handled on schedule is a standard practice. According to Justice, examples like these are part of why his company has been able to build top-quality structures for more than 25 years. 

Always Something New

 For Justice, moving from job site to job site every day guarantees that no two days are ever the same or typically go the way he plans. Everything from the weather to traffic, to an unexpected issue on a site can throw off the day. However, his decades of on-the-job experience have been a terrific teacher. While this work can be challenging, he believes pushing through, finding solutions, and accepting changes shows what you’re made of. “There’s a lot of moving parts,” Justice emphasized. 

Not Stopping Anytime Soon

 Just like the construction projects around South Florida don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, Justice doesn’t plan on slowing down either. While he values what he does on his time off — spending time with his three daughters, cutting and maintaining his home’s front yard, and bass fishing on Lake Okeechobee, Fla. — his career is still something he enjoys and looks forward to daily. “I love what I do and that keeps me going,” Justice explained. As he looks to the future of the industry, he does have advice for those looking to pursue a career as a union ironworker. “If you’re going to do this trade, you’ve got to be all in, take the good and bad, give 100%, and when you do something do your best,” he said. He hopes future generations will also be surprised wonderfully by securing their hard hats and seeing what they accomplish. 

Original article From https://www.aws.org/