Home > Benchmarks   +   Industry News

Recapping the 2023 ElevateAEC Conference and Awards Gala

<strong>Recapping the 2023 ElevateAEC Conference and Awards Gala</strong>

The 2023 ElevateAEC Conference and Awards Gala was a resounding success. Together, the participants and speakers created an energetic synergy that led to valuable learning lessons and networking opportunities with the best in the industry. There was red carpet swagger,  crowd cheering, and celebratory stage dancing scattered throughout the educational and fun-filled three-day event. 

The conference was held at the Omni PGA Resort in Frisco, TX from Sept 13-15. It kicked off with a well-attended welcome reception followed by an evening golf event at The Swing, where people could practice after dark on a lighted, 10-hole, par-3 course. 

More than 300 guests attended the gala and 266 guests attended the conference; 96 attended the M&A Next Symposium, an interactive event that provided M&A education and practical application through interactive roundtable discussions, expert panelists, and focused networking. People who attended this symposium left feeling well informed about opportunities for M&A as a growth strategy. 

There were two keynote speakers to inspire the crowd: Harry Clark, a highly-awarded entrepreneur, business advisor, board member, and entrepreneurial speaker; and Bolanle Williams-Olley, the CFO and co-owner of Mancini Duffy and the author of the bestselling “Build Boldly: Chart your unique career path and lead with courage.” Both provided thought-provoking moments and clear paths to success on various fronts.  

Hot topics: AI, recruiting, and retention

As a whole, the topics on most AEC leader minds had to do with AI, recruiting, and retention. The two most attended breakout sessions during the conference were:

“AI and the Implications on the AEC Industry,” presented by Kristin Kautz; and “Beyond Culture: Compensation Strategies to Drive Recruiting and Retention Performance,” presented by Jeremy Clarke. Kautz has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and business development communications (both strategic and tactical) for B2B and B2C organizations. Clarke was a decorated Air Force combat veteran and seasoned recruiting professional with extensive experience inside corporate, agency, and consultant-based recruiting environments, in both domestic and international markets. 

Kautz’s presentation explored AI 101. It defined exactly what AI is and what people should know about it. It touched on inherent problems and emerging opportunities. Attendees learned about the most significant ways that AI will affect their business–top to bottom–in every corner of the organizational chart, through design, leadership, management, HR, accounting, legal, and marketing. Audience Q&A was robust.

Clarke’s session explored the latest employee data from Best Firms To Work For and compensation assessments and reviewed how successful firms navigate the increasingly competitive recruiting and retention challenges. Attendees were privy to valuable industry insights from inside a successful AEC recruiting agency and roundtable discussions were lively. 

Panel discussion and roundtable leaders came from a host of backgrounds ranging from executive leaders and HR consultants to IT and communication professionals and strategic and entrepreneurial advisors. Topics were as varied as the speakers themselves and touched on everything from navigating hybrid work models and creating a successful internal leadership succession plan to diversity, equity and inclusion to how to use fractional C-suite executives. 

Award Highlights 

The Gala was the perfect platform for recognizing industry leaders. There were a large number of awards distributed to many worthy firms and people, but one that was particularly noteworthy was the Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award. Why? Because this award recognizes outstanding accomplishments through leadership in the AEC industry. This year’s recipient was Brian Bowers of Bowers + Kubota Consulting. 

Based in Hawaii, Bowers + Kubota Consulting is a 100 percent employee-owned firm that specializes in construction management, architectural, and engineering design. Bowers has led the firm for 26 years and has been an industry leader for more than three decades. He’s grown the firm from 12 employees in 1997 to more than 270 in 2023, making it the largest architectural and engineering firm in Hawaii.

One of the shining moments in his career was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While many firms struggled, he ensured Bowers + Kubota thrived, with a 16 percent increase in ESOP stock value and 30 percent higher profitability in 2019-2020. The firm prioritized employee safety, embracing remote work and providing support during quarantine. Additionally, the firm was also able to make a difference in the community by sponsoring and donating man-hours and money to organizations such as Aloha United Way, Institute for Human Services, and Hawaii Foodbank.

Many other noteworthy awards were presented during the conference gala in the following categories: 

  • Excellence in Client Experience Award
  • Top New Venture Award
  • Trifecta Award
  • Best Firms to Work For Award
  • Hot Firm Award
  • Marketing Excellence Award

To see a complete list of all the winners from the various categories: https://zweiggroup.com/pages/2023-award-winners

For more information about the specific award categories: https://zweiggroup.com/pages/award-faq

A big sponsor shoutout

And last, but certainly not least, were the incredible sponsors who made the event possible. They included Unanet, OpenAsset, SES ESOP Strategies, CTA, Ames & Gough, epsa USA, Insperity, Vertex, Wipfli, miyamato, civil + structural Engineer Media, Client Savvy, emissary, the Zweig Letter podcast, and Eight

Thanks to all who joined us. We’re already planning for and looking forward to next year.