Like many college baseball players, Dave Campbell had big league dreams. But destiny, steered by a defiant knee that found itself on the wrong end of a surgeon’s scalpel, threw an unexpected curveball. As the University of North Florida (UNF) student considered a future outside the diamond, it didn’t take long for him to discover the similarities between sports and construction, where work ethic correlates directly with success and the final scoreboard reflects the sum of the team’s efforts.
Balfour Beatty Construction’s ops scouts recognized the “it factor” in the young building rookie even as the ink dried on his diploma. Unsurprisingly, Dave didn’t log any bench time his first year with the company, moving three times to build criminal justice projects across Florida and in Georgia. Soon, Dave found his niche working at Jacksonville International Airport (JIA), where he spent the next 12 years delivering project after project, including a $100 million concourse replacement. The principles that guided Dave to countless victories underpinned his project management philosophies at JIA. “On a project that long, it’s really easy to get complacent,” admits Dave. “You can’t rely on your past performance. It was really important to our team to show the owner that each new phase was as important as the one that preceded it.”
Aviation work could be likened to matching up against the Yankees in the late 90s – an uphill battle in which each inning seems more impossible than the last. But for Dave, the intense, hour-by-hour management required to deliver a major, capital program in an active airport operating 24/7 has never seemed the least bit intimidating. In fact, he found the work so inspiring that somewhere along the way he earned the nickname, “Airport Dave,” and it stuck like “The Boss” to George Steinbrenner.
The reputation Dave has cultivated as a trusted transportation builder can be traced to his days playing third base.
Dave isn’t just synonymous with airport construction in Florida, however. In 2011, the nickname followed Dave to North Carolina, where he played a major role in helping Balfour Beatty win and deliver high-profile projects at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Onslow County Airport. The opportunity required Dave and his family to relocate hundreds of miles away from home for four years, but his wife understood the reason for the sacrifice. After all, she’s married to “Airport Dave.”
In many ways, the reputation Dave has cultivated as a trusted transportation builder over his 18-year career—the entirety of which has been spent with Balfour Beatty—can be traced to his days playing third base. “The teams that win championships don’t always have the most talent, but they always have the most passion,” attests Dave, who’s long since traded in his well-oiled mitt for a set of irons. “When I assemble a project team, I don’t need the guys with all-star resumes. I need guys who will jell together.”
Today, Dave serves Balfour Beatty’s Florida Division in a multifaceted role, assisting both business development and operations with his characteristic team-based approach and competitive edge. In July, Dave’s alma mater affirmed his status as one of our industry’s finest by appointing him to their Construction Management Advisory Board. In this role, Dave will help facilitate UNF students’ connections to the local market through jobsite visits and expert lectures.
“We are delighted to have Dave back in Florida supporting our business on multiple fronts,” praises John Harris, senior vice president. “He has a strategic mind and strong operational background that has enabled him to bring unique win strategies to several recent pursuits.”
Player-turned-coach, “Airport Dave” has certainly earned his wings.