Civiltech’s Amanda Kleinwachter, P.E., recently graduated from the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA) 2023 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). In August, Amanda was selected to participate in the annual program that runs from October to May and offers emerging leaders the opportunity to learn more about the Transportation Industry from networking events and sessions led by industry experts. In a recent conversation with Amanda, she recapped the program and shared highlights.

Recap of the Fall Sessions

In October, the program focused on how the industry works, both on the local and national levels. Topics discussed included risk management; construction claims; contractor accounting; and banking, bonds, and surety. November’s session included the opportunity for Amanda and her fellow ELP classmates to give presentations introducing themselves to the group. Individual sessions included topics on Phase III challenges and working with contractors, program management and control services, management of estimating and projects, labor impacts on the industry, and utility coordination.

The ELP class wrapped up the first half of the year in December. They participated in a group volunteer activity, packing meals at Feed My Starving Children, and enjoyed a networking lunch sponsored by Chicago Testing Laboratory.

Learning New and Relevant Industry Practices

Amanda stated that she found the January session –especially interesting, despite it being an exceptionally snowy day, as it provided an opportunity to explore an area of the industry that she is not directly involved with in her day to day role. The session focused on materials, and the class trudged through the blustery weather on a tour of an asphalt plant which included a presentation on the plant’s process and information on the QC/QA required to meet the various asphalt designs for Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) standards. The class’s enthusiasm wasn’t buried beneath the snow, and the session continued with a lunch and presentations from different industry professionals involved in materials, asphalt, concrete, aggregates, disposal of materials, and Clean Construction/Demolition Debris (CCDD).

The February session focused on working with local agencies, and Amanda found this to be her favorite topic due to its relevance to her work with IDOT and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). Representatives from Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning (CMAP), IDOT, and CDOT, gave presentations on the workings of their respective organization, how projects are determined, where funding comes from, and more. County DOT representatives including from Lake, McHenry, Cook, and DuPage also presented.

Lobbying for the Industry

In March, the class had a session on legislative prep. This session included presentations from planning agencies on economic outlooks and their impacts on the industry as well as information about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into project funding. The class also heard from an IRTBA lobbyist who shared how they conduct their lobbying efforts in Springfield. They also reviewed the bills the lobbyists were following, learning proper etiquette to successfully discuss the bills with legislators.

The class’s Springfield Drive-Down occurred in mid-April bringing the opportunity to put their lobbying lessons into practice. The group enjoyed a briefing with industry leaders including Omer Osman, the Deputy Secretary of IDOT; Cassaundra Rouse, Executive Director of Illinois Tollway; and additional congressmen. The day ended with a reception and networking with IRTBA representatives and members of the Illinois Congress.

Facing a long bus ride home from Springfield to the Chicago area after a busy day in the capitol could be dispiriting. But Amanda took advantage the opportunity (and displayed her leadership skills!) to continue the fun and camaraderie by initiating a boisterous game of Heads Up!

Washington D.C. Fly-In and Graduation

The year-long program culminated with the two-day Washing D.C. Fly-In and the ELP class of 2023 Graduation. The event opened with a briefing by American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and included presentations on economic outlooks, litigation and regulatory updates, project funding processes, and information on bills related to construction site safety. The class was also given a legislative update on specific bills being monitored. The first day ended with dinner and graduation ceremonies.

On the second day, the group enjoyed a little sightseeing then headed to The Hill where they attended meetings with state representatives. Amanda had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Darin LaHood, from Illinois’s 16 district, and Congresswoman Robin Kelly, from Illinois’s 2nd district and discuss Illinois transportation industry issues.

A Rewarding Experience

Amanda shared her personal highlights from her year in the Emerging Leaders Program. She stated that first and foremost, she enjoyed the challenge of being outside of her comfort zone and normal role within the industry. The program gave her the opportunity to learn about parts of the industry that she would not normally experience in her career, such as looking at the industry and projects from the contractor’s lens. Also, Amanda felt the program was a meaningful learning experience as the vast majority of topics presented or discussed were new to her.

Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the program was the camaraderie with the other emerging leaders in the class. Sharing the year-long program resulted in building new relationships, forging friendships, and gaining ongoing industry resources and friends.

Civiltech congratulates Amanda on completing the 2023 Emerging Leaders Program and is proud of her accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the industry.