Hailing from Shelton, CT with over 33 years of construction experience, Jay Borkowski serves as Director of Field Operations for Live Oak Contracting’s Northeast Division. Learn more about Jay in our latest Inside Live Oak interview.
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in construction.
I’m from Shelton, Connecticut, a rural town, where I’ve lived most of my life. Growing up, my father and uncle were residential developers, so I learned a lot about construction at a young age. A typical weekend would consist of my mom going to work on Saturday, and my father taking me to the site where I would move lumber and sweep houses. It was a combination of babysitting and work, but I was thankful for it. In the early ’70s, a majority of my neighborhood would go to work in factories. From then on, I knew I wanted to work outside in the fresh air.
In high school, I framed my first house by myself at 16 and worked construction in between football and baseball seasons. I eventually got my General Contractors license and went to work for an uncle who was a commercial steel beam high rise builder. I was very fortunate to have that opportunity.
After high school, I went to Southern Connecticut University and after graduation, I accepted a position in construction. I’ve been in the industry ever since.
You have had quite a bit of experience with High-Rise and multifamily projects. Can you tell us about your experience in each and how they differ?
High rise and multifamily projects have very different applications and use different types of labor. The more complicated the building, the more technical the trade work is. When you are working with concrete and structural steel, reinforcing bars, and connecting columns at heights of several hundred feet, it requires a different skill set. There is less margin for error, and the codes are much stricter with high rise buildings. It can be very stressful, but once you become accustomed to it, it’s enjoyable.
What brought you into the multifamily space and what kept you here?
I was working for a company that asked me to build a subdivision for them. As the project was coming to an end, a company out of Merrillville, Indiana approached me to run one of their multifamily projects. I did that for a year, and I had a blast. That was my first experience with multifamily and it went really well.
With multifamily, you have the opportunity to outperform others’ expectations. That’s what I like about it. You can make it a game by challenging yourself to have the best quality of work while being the most effective and completing the project before its expected date.
Let’s talk about recent changes and evolution of the industry.
Construction has come such a long way, especially when it comes to technology. Now machinery is programmed with a receiver on it so your builds, cuts, depths, and pipe steps are 100% accurate. It has made the process quicker and more precise.
Construction is much safer now. There is a lot more attention to detail when it comes to safety, and everyone is a lot more thorough. It has slowed down the building process due to having more checks and balances in place, but they were much needed.
How would your co-workers describe you?
They call me a pusher. I’m unfiltered, but I’m not cruel or condescending. As Director of Field Operations, it is my responsibility to help with detailed scheduling, project planning, maintain client relations, monitor subcontractor performance, and assist with project field staffing so I have to be tough.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to become a superintendent?
You have to be able to listen to everyone to be successful, and if you’re good, you don’t have to tell people that you’re good; they’ll be telling you.
There are a lot of good times in this job. I love what I do, and I love the people I work with here at Live Oak Contracting, and I mean that very sincerely. Jim Cox and Paul Bertozzi are phenomenal. My staff in Connecticut, Maine, and New England are some of the best people I know.
What do you like to do in your downtime outside of work?
I love spending time with my family. Going to the beach, fishing with my son, watching my daughter play softball and going to my son’s football games are some of the best ways I spend my time. I am also a master carpenter so I do a lot of woodworking, restoring old furniture, and restoring old houses. I also love the beach, love to fish, and love to golf.