Features

Ryan Brooks – Construction Partners Inc.

Local touch essential for road builder growing through M&A

Passing through a road construction site can sometimes be painstaking, noisy and frustrating—and in the Southeast, where Construction Partners Inc. operates in five states, it can go on year-round.

Ryan Brooks knows CPI may not be the favorite company of anyone stuck in traffic—especially now that work is sure to increase with the recent passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill providing $110 billion for highway and bridge construction.

Ryan Brooks | Senior Vice President, Legal | Construction Partners Inc.

Ryan Brooks | Senior Vice President, Legal | Construction Partners Inc.

But it’s for the betterment of all he says, and in preparation for an uptick, CPI has acquired 15 companies since Brooks joined it in August 2018, and more than 30 since it was founded in 2001. As senior vice president for legal, Brooks has helped structure these deals. He’s also helped the acquired companies preserve their autonomy through a unique, complex corporate structure that requires reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“CPI is 20 years old, but with the opportunities available to our industry and company, the excitement among our team is like working for a startup or new company,” Brooks says. “I’m grateful the management team took a chance on me and trained me in construction so I can apply my skillset.”

Local control

Founded in Dothan, Alabama, Construction Partners Inc. specializes in construction and maintenance of local and state roadways, interstate highways, airport runways and bridges from North Carolina to Florida. CPI went public in 2018 and is the holding company for five subsidiaries—one in each state where it operates. In fact, CPI has only about 40 employees at the holding company while about 3,000 work for its subsidiaries.

As CPI’s first legal leader, Brooks brought experience in M&A and corporate governance he’d developed in private practice as counsel to companies in the financial services industry. But his lack of experience in road construction required some extensive initial training.

In the construction industry, a typical project requires contracts with the general contractor or owner as well as with lower-tier subcontractors. Construction also requires insurance and surety bonds and guarantees, and the industry has frequent litigation about contracts as well as worksite accidents.

Ryan Brooks | Senior Vice President, Legal | Construction Partners Inc.

Here the decentralized approach pays off, Brooks says, as CPI staffs some of its subsidiary companies with legal professionals who understand local conditions, including the labor market, and can prepare project bids. They can also handle some insurance claims. CPI also has an acquisitions team to support staff at the local companies who perform most of the due diligence, such as reviewing personnel information at a targeted company.

Brooks still writes every letter of intent to acquire a company and structures the subsequent acquisition. When it closes, he also works with HR and the operating companies to integrate the new companies and employees. This includes helping create employee development and training opportunities.

Building from within

Many of the business acquired by CPI are family run, and the acquisitions can give the acquired employees new opportunities. For instance, new CPI President and CEO Jule Smith was promoted to replace Charles Owens after years of leadership roles at Fred Smith Co., CPI’s North Carolina subsidiary.

Brooks is also taking the lead in an initiative showing how CPI operates sustainably because the company’s—and industry’s—reliance on recycled materials is not well understood.

Ryan Brooks | Senior Vice President, Legal | Construction Partners Inc.

With investors now more concerned about a company’s impact on the environment, Brooks is leading efforts to publicize the sustainable aspects of the asphalt industry, including the fact that a significant portion of the asphalt CPI makes at 56 plants is from recycled materials.

The asphalt formula is pretty simple—crushed rock is mixed with tar and heated. That allows the industry to reuse asphalt it removes during repaving and saves on the cost and emissions of hauling new material to plants. CPI’s plants also capture particle emissions before they escape to the atmosphere and return them to the manufacturing process, Brooks says.

Dothan is home

CPI builds roads throughout the Southeast but Brooks says the company has provided him the road back to his native Dothan, where he and his wife raise a family of three children.

“Dothan is both blue collar and agricultural,” he adds. “Life is simpler here—you don’t have to deal with traffic or interstates.”

Brooks attended Auburn University, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting summa cum laude in 2010. He was also a walk-on player for the basketball team.

“I love accounting as the language of business,” Brooks adds, and he knew it could also be a foundation for his legal career. After graduating from Auburn, he went to law school at Vanderbilt University, earning his J.D. in 2013.

Ryan Brooks | Senior Vice President, Legal | Construction Partners Inc.

Brooks says he didn’t want to apply his accounting skills only as a tax lawyer, though, and when he joined the Birmingham, Alabama, firm of Maynard Cooper & Gale P.C. (where he also was a summer associate while in law school), he specialized in regulatory compliance, securities law and M&A.

When the firm learned of CPI’s growth, Brooks met with former CEO Owens in hopes of providing outside counsel. Owens flipped the script, telling Brooks the company was looking to build a legal department.

“We’re building the backbone of America at CPI. It’s good honest work and tangible—you can drive by and see our crews on the roads,” Brooks says. “What some may view as inconvenience, we see as progress, and you take a certain amount of pride in that.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: December 15, 2021

regions:

categories: ,

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Summer I 2022

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.