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Supervisor gives insights into concrete work on The Rune project in Alexandria

Jenna Phillips, who lives in Shakopee with her three dogs, is the layout engineer and project supervisor for Classic Company, a concrete business working on The Rune project in Alexandria.

Jenna Phillips at The Rune construction site
Jenna Phillips is a layout engineer and project supervisor for Classic Company, which has been doing concrete work at The Rune construction site in Alexandria.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — After graduating from high school, Jenna Phillips went to college to become a nurse. She quickly realized, however, that nursing was not the right path for her.

Now in her 30s, Phillips, who lives in Shakopee with her three dogs, is the layout engineer and project supervisor for Classic Company , a concrete business working on The Rune project in Alexandria.

When she was in her teens, she worked in the family concrete business, but said she took a few detours and has now been in this line of work for a total of about 15 years.

Lynn Timm, the building official for the City of Alexandria, said she was impressed by Phillips, who is the foreman for the concrete crew working on The Rune.

“It is rare to have a woman, yet alone a young woman, in this kind of position,” said Timm. “She is doing an excellent job.”

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Phillips said she is the fourth generation in her family to work in the concrete business, so it seemed to just come naturally for her.

“I’ve spent my whole life going to different projects with my dad,” said Phillips, who noted that her dad, Dave Phillips, is one of her bosses and the general manager. She said one of her earliest memories of working with him was sitting in his office coloring/color coding all the different floor finishes on a blueprint.

Construction crew at The Rune
Supervisor Jenna Phillips, center, poses for a photograph with the concrete construction crew at The Rune on Dec. 7, 2022.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

“When I was in high school, I did work release and went to work for his concrete company at that time scanning old documents into the computers and other general office work,” she said.

Her work with The Rune

Phillips primary task with The Rune project in Alexandria is building layout. She explained that she uses a robotic total station to tie into the survey pins and layout of the foundation of the building for extremely precise measurements.

“The Rune has been particularly tricky due to being downtown and there is a lot of Bluetooth interference,” she said. “But at the same time, it has been one of the smoothest projects I have worked on. CI Construction has been a great team to work with and have really gone above and beyond to make our work easier.”

Phillips said she supervises the project with her coworker, Miguel Alvarez. Typically, before a project starts, Phillips said she and Alvarez will go over the building plans to discuss schedule and manpower, how long a specific project will take to complete and how many people it will require to meet that goal.

Concrete construction at The Rune
Concrete supervisor Jenna Phillips, right, watches as CI Construction superintendent Sean Skinner checks the temperature during a concrete pour on Dec. 7, 2022.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

For The Rune, she said it was projected to last about seven months just for the foundations and that they are still on track to meet that goal.

On a day-to-day basis for The Rune project, she schedules concrete pours, ready mix, special testers (they test the concrete for strength and proper concrete mix, building inspections (this is how she met Timm) and concrete pumps. She also communicates with the job superintendents, orders materials and of course, does building layout.

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“I do this for all the projects on the foundation crew so sometimes I am managing several projects at once,” said Phillips.

Challenging, yet rewarding

One of the most challenging parts of her job is weather. In the summer, rain can shut them down. In the winter, like it is currently, a bad snow storm and temperatures below 10 degrees will cause problems with pumps and ready mix, she said.

“It’s always a much slower process when the ground is snowy or icy,” she said.

Other times, she said the hardest part of her job is coordinating all the projects and making sure she is communicating with her managers and supervisors and having everything line up perfectly with a concrete pour and making sure the crews stay on schedule.

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C.I Construction, LLC uploaded its latest drone footage of the Broadway-Third Ave Rune on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

“Sometimes, it feels like a miracle when it actually comes together for a smooth pour day,” she said.

When it comes to working in a male dominated field, Phillips said she has always been aware that being a female in the construction industry is rare, but she hasn’t had many issues.

“My bosses, Eric Nelson (owner), Bud Thomsen (estimator/project manager) and my dad (general manager) have always been very supportive of my role and have really believed in me,” said Phillips. “I think most of the time someone’s attitude dictates how they are treated. The vast majority of people are very respectful and the handful that have not been are just unhappy people, which has nothing to do with my gender. I try not to engage with negativity, but in a rare instance, I just explain the situation to one of my bosses and they handle it in a way they see fit.”

Phillips said that the only thing holding a woman back from a job in the trades is their choice to do it or not. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is imperative, she said.

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Jenna Phillips checking concrete anchors
Jenna Phillips checks the position of anchor bolts during a concrete pour at The Rune on Dec. 7, 2022.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

“Sometimes I take on a task, like loading full sheets of plywood into my truck on a windy day, that I know will not be easy,” she said. “I always get it done. Maybe just a bit slower than my figurative male counterpart. I know physically it is not impossible, so the only option I have is to get it done. If I need help, I ask and our crew is always happy to lend a hand.”

Loves the industry and the job

She loves working in the construction industry and said she gets to meet a lot of different people and learn from them, which is a very rewarding part of the job. She said Greg Kraning is the superintendent on The Rune project and he has a lot of knowledge and experience that both she and Alvarez have benefited from and learned from in their short time of working with him on the project.

She also said The Rune has been an “absolute treat” for all of those who have been working on it.

“We have been traveling pretty consistently for the last year and have had fun exploring this cute town of Alexandria,” said Phillips. “Everyone has been so welcoming – from our hotel hosts, our Airbnb hosts, our favorite gas station cashiers and the food employees. They have really gone above and beyond to create relationships and be a friendly face each week.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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