Greg Heaton, PE, CM, AICP, MBA, serves as Vice President and Aviation Group Manager at CMT. Based in our Jacksonville, FL, office, Greg is a seasoned aviation and infrastructure project manager with a strong track record in planning, design, and program management. He specializes in airport facilities of all sizes and has led hundreds of planning studies and assignments. Greg previously served as president of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Ohio and president of the Ohio Aviation Association (OAA).
What kind of work do you find most fulfilling?
The days I go home with the greatest sense of job satisfaction are the days when I know I’ve helped the client get to where they want to go long-term. This is fulfilling for me because the work our clients are doing today will change their communities for decades, if not beyond. This is often a central part of our conversations; over the years, I’ve consistently heard clients express that they want to make sure their communities are vibrant for not only their children but also for their grandchildren. It’s fulfilling to me to collaborate with visionaries and look beyond immediate needs to enhance overall quality of life for generations to come.
What is your approach to building relationships with clients?
My approach to building relationships with clients is quite simple: I care about them and take a genuine interest in assisting them in the achievement of their goals. For me, investment, care, and sincerity are vital components of lasting professional relationships.
Above all, this care and interest centers around listening and asking questions. In my experience, clients don’t tend to share everything right away; it takes time to get to know them. As part of this process, I enjoy hearing clients share their own stories – for instance, how they got started in the industry. Investing time in building that relationship can help more meaningful, open, and honest conversations follow, and it becomes easier for me to gauge their needs, interests, and preferences.
It’s also important for me to let my client know what I’m thinking and what questions I have. I value transparency, take care to inform them about next steps, and seek feedback. For instance, I ask each of my clients how often and in what ways they would prefer to communicate. If someone prefers getting an email update once a week, that’s what I’ll do, and if someone wants a quick phone call every day, I’m all for it – whatever works best for them. Sustaining a continuous exchange of communication is also key.
What role does collaboration play in the context of airport infrastructure projects?
Collaboration plays a huge part in what we do in airport infrastructure projects.
On most of our projects, airport directors are a driving force, as are the teams supporting them. For example, many of our clients are General Aviation (GA) airports. Each of them has a board composed of business leaders in the community who approach matters from various angles. GA airports may also have shareholders or stakeholders outside of that immediate circle. There are a lot of moving parts, but working collaboratively is crucial. Without engaging the relevant stakeholders and bringing in their unique perspectives, big challenges can arise, potentially setting the project up to fail.
Critical, as well, is the makeup of the project team. As with clients, we work hard to build lasting, long-term relationships with teaming partners. Furthermore, at CMT, everyone contributes to our collective efforts. None of us at the firm work alone, and success is a cross-functional, multi-disciplinary team effort.
Ultimately, to get everyone on the same page and move collaborative work forward, you must be a good listener. Encouraging open dialogue is important, as every opinion matters. I speak with experienced thought partners across the project, and just as critically, with rising project team members. What they think is important, and working through challenges together is a learning opportunity for them, too. All of this helps build agreement because when people are heard and feel heard, they’re more likely to support an idea. So, while it can be challenging, working together as a team and having a common mindset are key to a successful project outcome.
How would you describe the benefits of the wraparound services CMT provides to airport clients?
CMT’s comprehensive aviation services emerged as the modern world became more complicated than decades past. Airports are like mini-cities and packed with complexity. There are airfield pavements, sure, but also landside and roadway pavements, each of which behave differently. Airports also need their own waste systems and sometimes even additional water supply, as well as dedicated infrastructure that may include hangars, taxiway bridges, maintenance facilities, and fire and rescue facilities. Environmental and regulatory are other key factors. Not to mention the diverse users and stakeholders: airlines, the public, tenants, and scads of other business owners.
When the firm was established in 1946, CMT was tackling airport pavement design in a simpler time. Now, the economic model that makes up an airport is much more intricate. While top-tier engineering for pavements remains crucial, it’s also critical to acknowledge that resources are not unlimited. So, we need to know who will use the pavements, how often, and what aircraft types.
The emergence of quality data has also changed the game, allowing us to track much more effectively. What we found is, to really help bring the best solutions, we must be involved in complex conversations, and that’s where wraparound services come in. They allow us to give custom-fitted solutions to clients. This approach also helps us be strategic. Airports are increasingly competing for the attention of airlines, and they might want to customize their construction or utilization methods to make their offers more attractive. We want to strategically guide our clients in their spending decisions, while offering them well-informed, custom-tailored planning and engineering solutions.
How would you describe CMT’s long-standing culture of quality, and how have you seen this commitment to quality make a positive impact, both internally and in our relationships with clients?
It’s clear that the three founders of CMT – Len Crawford, Pat Murphy, and Ray Tilly – were outstanding individuals who were committed to doing right by their clients, projects, and team. Since the establishment of the firm to today, the culture of quality they championed is evident in our firm-wide dedication to exemplary client service, which is supported by CMT’s care for employees.
Since I first interviewed with CMT back in 1985, I’ve never had to wonder if I would be cared for. Having experienced CMT’s culture for decades now, I am motivated daily to make the founders, my mentors, my clients, and my colleagues proud and to live up to CMT’s standard of quality.
My experience isn’t unique; across the firm, we are all committed to delivering for the clients we serve. The fact that we have clients that have been with us since our founding in 1946, along with the many others who have partnered with us for decades, lives as a testimony to our commitment to quality.