Jim Stalnaker has never been afraid to explore a new opportunity, and that’s apparent when you look at his career path. For example, his first encounter with Branch Builds happened at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. He was working on a restaurant addition when Branch’s Steve Aud and Dale Sherburne – who were eating there – jokingly asked him if he’d like a drink. That started a conversation and turned into Jim working for the company.
While Jim has always dabbled in construction, it hasn’t always been his full-time career. He graduated from high school and enrolled in a carpentry apprentice program in West Virginia in 1971. Four years later, Jim completed the program, got his general contractor’s license, and started working for himself doing residential and commercial work. Meanwhile, he also opened a bar called The End of the Line. It was about 400 yards from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and even though it’s closed, people still talk about it today.
He ended up selling the bar to his partner and went to Snowshoe to manage the resort’s bar operations in the winter and build in the summer. He met Steve and Dale in the early 80s, left Snowshoe, and worked for Branch for three years until a different opportunity came knocking.
“I had a friend who owned an Anheuser Busch distributorship, and he called me out of the blue because he needed a supervisor,” Jim said. “I’ve always worked in management of some kind, even when I was a kid, so I worked for them for eight years in sales and management. It was a lot of fun.”
Not one to stay away from construction for too long, Jim left Anheuser and started working for himself again. He stayed in touch with Steve over the years, and in 1994 he called Jim and told him he had a project available in Pocahontas County. Jim made his final career switch and returned to the Branch family as a project superintendent.
“I came to Roanoke, and we loaded up my Bronco because they didn’t have a vehicle for me at the time,” Jim explained. “I had a fax machine, a level, a copier, and other office equipment and headed back to West Virginia to build a hospital in the middle of now where.”
He had the opportunity to work at Snowshoe again in the late 90s. Branch built the majority of the buildings in the Village: Rimfire, Highland House, and Alleghany Springs, to name a few. The company also completed the upfit on the commercial space that is now home to The Junction. The train-themed restaurant featured inlaid railroad tracks on the floor, a water tower in the vaulted ceiling, portions of train cars mounted to the walls, and much more. Even though he’s worked on other large projects in the last 25 years, the Village is his most significant achievement.
“Snowshoe was an adventure. When we had the grand opening celebration for The Junction, everyone from the office came up, and it was fun,” Jim said. “I got a standing ovation for the project, which had never happened before.”
A sucker for the mountains of West Virginia, Jim spends his weekends in his home state and spends the workweek in Roanoke living out of an Airstream. He’s a Senior Project Superintendent now, and one thing that’s changed since he returned to the company is the implementation of Lean Construction. It’s designed to maximize value for the customer while minimizing waste.
“It’s a fantastic tool that gets people to look ahead and set goals, and it helps everyone across the trades work together. It’s straightforward. If the subcontractors give you dates, you put them on a calendar so everyone can see them, and you’re able to address any conflicts,” Jim said.
Lean also helps keep an open line of communication. When Jim was an apprentice, his superintendents weren’t fun to be around, couldn’t communicate without yelling, and were demanding. He’s nothing like that and prefers to keep everyone on the same page so they can get the job done. Jim also takes the time to mentor assistant superintendents because he believes it’s a super’s job to help them grow.
There are a lot of opportunities in the industry, and Jim encourages people to explore them. If you want to leave your mark, enjoy working with a diverse team, and like to be outside, it may be a perfect fit. Even though he’s been self-employed or a superintendent for most of his construction career, it’s possible to learn as you go.
“I think you have to have a general knowledge of the business, but there are guys who worked their way up from a laborer to super,” Jim said. “They were rewarded because of their diligence, hard work, and willingness to give it 150% every day.”
When he was younger, Jim knew he wanted to work outside and do something different every day. To him, building was like putting his pants on every morning; it just made sense. Everything he’s done has a story, and he’s enjoyed his path. He doesn’t have a date in mind, but Jim thinks retirement is what lies ahead for him.
Branch Builds is recognized as one of the largest and most respected construction management firms in Virginia and North Carolina. Our team of employee-owners delivers exceptional results on a diverse array of projects to a broad range of private and public sector clients. Driven by a commitment to foster mutually beneficial relationships with our clients and industry partners, Branch Builds operates on principles of shared respect and transparency. We pride ourselves on building high-performance teams that deliver value and are responsible for decades of steady growth.
Founded in 1963, Branch celebrated 55 years of service in 2018 and continues to make extensive investments in our team members and the communities we serve. In 2019, Branch & Associates became Branch Builds to better align with our company’s twenty-year goal of ambitious growth. Operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Branch Group, our firm serves clients in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. If you’d like to learn more about a career in construction with Branch Builds, please visit branchbuilds.com/careers.
For more information about The Branch Group, please visit branchgroup.com.