By Marie Roberts / Guest writer
The Meridian Star
Overseeing a large scope of work for the Kemper County IGCC plant, Fayette, Ala., native and Meridian resident Jessica Richards wears many hats. The assistant project manager for Brasfield and Gorrie provides management direction for the construction process, including all concrete foundation work and mechanical and electrical underground utilities.
“I give direction with issues in the field, communicate with the owner, and monitor construction and ensure we are meeting our projected schedule. I also oversee two of our subcontractors, schedule their work, and foresee and fix any challenges they may face,” Richards said.
For Richards, her progression within the company began during her undergraduate career as a student of civil engineering at Mississippi State University.
“I worked for Brasfield and Gorrie as a co-op for four semesters while at MSU, and started working full-time in June 2009, following my graduation," Richards said. "I worked as an estimator with our healthcare, commercial, federal, and infrastructure divisions for two years. In June 2011, I moved to Meridian and began working as an assistant project manager at the Kemper County IGCC Plant.”
Brasfield and Gorrie is one the nation’s largest privately held construction companies, and has more than 2,900 employees. Engineering News-Record ranked Brasfield and Gorrie 31st among the nation's "Top 400 Contractors" for 2013. Brasfield and Gorrie’s mission statement is “to build with integrity while exceeding the expectations of our clients, business partners, employees, and communities.”
The Delta Gamma alumnus is not your typical construction manager. A fan of high-end fashion, Richards can commonly be found shopping in local boutiques and specialty stores. While the handbags and heels are not in her workday attire, Richards does bring some femininity to the construction scene:
“Being one of the only women on the site can be challenging from time to time," Richards said. "It isn’t always easy, but it’s what I signed up for, and I love a good challenge.”
For Richards, this mission aligns closely with her personal ideology.
“The people and work environment are what distinguishes Brasfield and Gorrie from other companies, and is what made the biggest difference for me," Richards said. "The company is family-oriented, and they truly care about the interests and well-being of its employees and go out of their way to express their appreciation. This shows in their reputation throughout the construction industry as one of the best general contractors.” .
The assistant project manager has worked in Kemper for more than two years, and has watched the development of the project from its inception to current progress.
“Two years ago, we were one of the only contractors on site, putting in underground pipe that was over 20 feet deep in some places. Now, you cannot tell where the pipe runs unless you have knowledge of the systems or have access to the 3D model of the plant.
“The biggest structure on the site used to be the concrete steam turbine deck, which is now hidden by the combined cycle and the gasifier structures. It is amazing how far along the plant has progressed. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product and the benefits it will bring to residents of Kemper County and beyond. The new technology Southern Company has implemented here is very dynamic, and will be a great contribution to the world of power,” Richards said.
In her spare time, Richards volunteers for Hope Village, teaches a weekly Zumba class, has participated in recent productions at the Meridian Little Theatre, and is currently planning a wedding with fiancé Trent Gressett, a native of Collinsville.
With ten minutes to spare, Richards would “have the music turned up and be singing at the top of my lungs.”
As for her journey to the Meridian area, Richards acknowledges the area's charm.
“Meridian is not somewhere I ever dreamed I would be, but the two years I’ve spent here have been the best of my life as it relates to my work and personal life. I would not trade anything for the valuable experiences and lessons I have learned while working at the Kemper County IGCC plant.”