In late October, Tom DiPonio, of MITA member Jay Dee Contractors, was one of three Distinguished Constructors inducted into the Michigan Construction Hall of Fame, housed in the Granger Center for Construction and HVACR on the Ferris State University campus in Big Rapids, Mich.
Joining Tom as 2022 inductees into the Hall of Fame were Frank Jonna, of Detroit; and L.R. Swadley, of Marquette.
Thomas (Tom) DiPonio was born in Detroit and raised in Redford Township, Mich. In 1965, his father formed his own company, Jay Dee Contractors, Inc., focused on open cut and tunnel construction.
Tom attended the University of Detroit in the Civil Engineering program and co-op’d in the family business. Upon graduation, he went to work at Jay Dee Contractors, Inc., in the field for four years as an operations manager before becoming vice president of the company. Five years later (1988), he was named its president.
Jay Dee Contractors, Inc., focuses on heavy underground construction and tunneling and is known as a pioneer of the jacked pipe tunneling method. They are one of the premier pressurized face tunnel contractors in North America.
In 2015, Tom was inducted as a member of the Moles, a national heavy civil construction association based in New York. He is also a member of the Beavers, a West Coast heavy civil construction association, and the Groundhogs, an underground construction association based in Chicago. He has served his industry through multiple industry associations and worked with the legislature to ensure lawmakers appreciate the funding mechanisms for the industry.
To read Tom’s extended bio from the induction ceremony program see below.
To view the video about Tom played at the induction ceremony click here.
The Distinguished Constructor Award was established to formally recognize the significant achievements made by individuals to the Michigan construction industry. A Distinguished Constructor is someone who has left a significant mark on the industry and community because of consistent service and achievement.
MITA serves on the Hall of Fame selection panel along with representatives from Michigan Associations of Home Builders, the Construction Association of Michigan, the AGC of Michigan, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, and Ferris State University.
To learn more about the Distinguished Constructor, Michigan Construction Hall of Fame click here.
Tom DiPonio’s Extended Bio
Thomas (Tom) DiPonio was born in Detroit and raised in Redford Township, Mich. He is one of nine children, two of whom joined him in their family’s construction industry business. Tom’s father, John DiPonio, was involved in construction his entire life, starting with Greenfield Construction Company, which was owned by his older brother, Angelo. He began with excavating basements and open cut sewer/watermains, then later expanded into tunneling. In 1965, John DiPonio left to form his own company, Jay Dee Contractors, Inc., and continued to focus on open cut and tunnel construction.
Tom believes it was preordained that he would go into construction, having always worked for the family business in construction. One of his earliest memories, back in the early ‘60s, is a Saturday morning outing to see a tunnel that was being constructed in Livonia at Middle Belt and Plymouth Road. Tom, his brother, John, and his father spent the day at the site and the boys were allowed to go down the shaft and ride the locomotive into the tunnel heading to observe the workers.
Like his father before him, Tom attended the University of Detroit in the Civil Engineering program, which required co-op assignments as part of the degree requirements. He was able to satisfy his co-op requirement by working in the family business as a project engineer. He was in charge of the surveying line and grade for the projects while learning the more technical aspects of the industry. Unfortunately, Tom’s Dad passed away unexpectedly in a construction accident in 1975, prior to Tom’s graduation. That led the company to lose their banking credit privileges and their bonding company.
However, at the time the company had a good profit-sharing program and a solid core group of managers. They pulled together, stepped into positions of greater responsibility, and formed a new company – Jay Dee of Illinois, which would joint venture with Jay Dee Contractors, Inc. These men – Joe Lynch, Glen Rorison, and Cornell Timney – became Tom DiPonio’s strongest mentors.
Tom worked in the field for four years as an operations manager before moving into the office as a vice president of the company. Five years later (1988), he was named its president, working closely with his two brothers, John and Mike, who were his partners in the firm.
During these years Jay Dee worked on tunneling projects, not just in Michigan, but throughout North America, including Philadelphia, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, and Toronto. Several of these projects earned Jay Dee national and international recognition. A Jay Dee-led team was honored as “Tunneling Contractor of the Year” at the International Tunneling Awards 2011 for its work on the Brightwater Tunnel, Section 4 in Seattle, Wash. More recently, a Jay Dee-led team was recognized with the “Tunnel Achievement Award” for its work on the Northgate Link Extension N125, a $440 million contract for 3.5 miles of a 19-foot diameter twin-tube subway tunnel, also in the Seattle area.
While the company has pursued project diversification, heavy underground construction and tunneling remains its primary focus. Jay Dee is known as a pioneer of the jacked pipe tunneling method and is considered one of the premier pressurized face tunnel contractors in North America.
In 2015, Tom was inducted as a member of the Moles, a national heavy civil construction association based in New York. He is also a member of the Beavers, a West Coast heavy civil construction association, and the Groundhogs, an underground construction association based in Chicago. Tom has served his industry as an Executive Board Member of the Associated Underground Contractors (AUC) and the Executive Board of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA). He served as president of both associations. His involvement in these organizations exemplifies his philosophy that “organizations serve a purpose for our industry. They promote the industry and spend a lot of time with the legislature to make sure that the lawmakers appreciate the funding mechanisms for the industry.”
Tom and his wife, Renee, have four children. Their son John, also a civil engineer, has been involved in the family business for several years and is heading a group of next generation leaders who will influence the company’s future success. Although his daughters, Angela, Laura, and Jackie, are not involved directly in the construction business, they did gain professional knowledge working at the company during the summers while growing up.