CREW-St. Louis Awards
CREW-St. Louis Celebrates Its Mission

March 9, 2017
Written by: CREW-St. Louis

CREW-St. Louis Celebrates Its Mission

Several members were honored at the 12th Annual CREW-St. Louis Networking Awards, along with an outstanding Woman of Influence. Held on March 9 at The St. Louis Woman's Club, nearly 125 members, industry colleagues and guests celebrated the organization's mission in action. The recipients certainly also lived up to this year's theme - Making An Impact.

The evening's event started off in fine fashion with a Networking/Cocktail reception. Special thanks to Bond Architects for sponsoring the lively reception. Following a great dinner, Angie Earlywine introduced the program, including a review of CREW's mission and the value of the network. Debbie Monterrey made an encore appearance as MC, turning in another masterful performance. Amy Gill, last year's inaugural Woman of Influence recipient, made a special appearance to introduce the newest honoree of this prestigious award.

Kudos to our Co-Chairs, Stacey Kamps and Nancy Petersen, along with their committee members - Dawn HumphreysEllen MannionNanci Napoli and Tim Sitek - for making this event as special as the awards presented.

With a record number of nominations this year, it was a challenging yet inspiring task in selecting honorees across the award categories. All of those honored lived up to the challenge by making an impact in our chapter and our region.  Congratulations to this year's honorees!


Woman of Influence: Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Director of Airports, St. Louis Lambert International Airport

Started in 2016, the award recognizes a female leader who has made a significant impact on the commercial real estate industry through her leadership, accomplishments and service to our region.

When Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge graduated from college, she was destined to work with the CIA. But this secret agent took a temporary job in 1984 with Ozark Airlines as a customer service agent. By the time the CIA called her to move forward, she was hooked on the airline business.

She spent the next 25-plus years rising up the ladder in airline aviation management, eventually became the managing director of St. Louis operations for American Airlines in 2002. She built the airline's stature in our region but it all changed when American decided to reduce St. Louis from hub to a focus city.

But civic leaders called on Rhonda to consider her next challenge - guide the region's airport. On Jan. 3, 2010, less than a week after leaving American, she accepted the challenge and began to transform the airport by focusing on the future rather than the past. In doing so, the airport has come along way from the dark days of American's pull back. Such accomplishments earned her recognition from Airport Revenue News as the 2015 Airport Director of the Year for medium hubs.

The spirit of St. Louis has soared under her leadership. Airline passenger volume now stands at nearly 14 million, almost equaling its record set back in 2008. Last year alone, the airport grew passenger volume by 10%, placing St. Louis in the top 10 U.S. airports for passenger growth. Flights have been added, with 12 new nonstop markets in the past 18 months and 2 more on the way this June.

When the Good Friday Tornado struck in 2011, she successfully reopened the airport for operations in 36 hours. She guided the one-year renovation to reopen "C" concourse, which was completed a few weeks early. Other improvements include the $70 million dollar renovation of the historic T1 terminal, which had started before the tornado.

And she recently drove the effort to rename the airport to emphasize the city first over its benefactor.  St. Louis Lambert International Airport flies high under her leadership.

Rhonda has looked beyond passenger growth and the customer experience, too. As part of its five-year strategic plan, she knows there's room to grow its revenue base and utilize some 2,500 acres of land.

Debt has been substantially reduced, resulting in almost $60 million in savings over the past four years. Non-aeronautical revenues have increased by attracting new businesses, including operations by Jet Linx, a private management aviation firm, the expansion of MHS in a hangar facility, the addition of a compressed natural gas station and the Missouri Army Guard's lease of a vacant building.

Efforts also include a cargo development agreement with a company to develop 60 acres of airport property known as the Northern Tract. And St. Louis is in the final stage of approval to become a USDA port of embarkation to allow live animal charters to depart from St. Louis.

Rhonda still finds time to support the aviation industry and our community by serving on a number of committees and boards.


New Member of the Year: Erin Valentine, McCarthy Building Companies Inc.

 Presented to a new member who joined the chapter in 2015 or 2016 and demonstrated commitment and support to the chapter.

This was indeed a crowded field of candidates, with a record 60 newcomers just last year! Many stood out so it was a tough decision.

Several members applauded Erin for her willingness to volunteer her time and expertise. She played a big role in last year's annual Golf Outing. This year, she became co-chair of the Communications Committee, which touches so many areas of our mission and activities. And she rarely misses a program or CREW-St. Louis event.

Her imprint in the commercial real estate industry and our region has been recognized as well. She was recently included in the St. Louis Business Journal's class of 40 Under 40. And she was honored as a 2017 Young Top Professional by Engineering News-Record.

Those honors stem from her contributions to McCarthy Building Companies. Since joining one of the nation's top construction companies in 2001, she has contributed to expanding the company's specialized expertise and helped drive the firm's overall success both in our region and across America.

She is passionate about mentoring others. Last year, she spearheaded the development of a McCarthy Women's Resource Group in St. Louis. This group provides an opportunity to further personal and professional development,foster a diverse, inclusive workplace and strengthen networking.


Impact Award: Karen Karwoski, Simmons Bank

Recognizes an outstanding member who embraces the goals and mission of CREW.

Since joining CREW-St. Louis 13 years ago, Karen has immersed herself in meeting the goals and mission of the organization. She has done so by chairing or serving on numerous committees - Awards, CREW Careers, Membership and Finance. She currently works on the Programs and Membership Services committees.

Her commitment includes her involvement as a member of the executive board. She then led the chapter for 18 months as president from July 2014 to the end of 2015.

Colleagues applaud her impact. She oversaw the launch of the chapter's first Signature Event in 2015.  She paved the way for the chapter's revamped Awards program. She has played a significant role in the chapter's ongoing strategic planning efforts. She is a consummate mentor to many fellow members. And she always stands ready to help others network with her contacts.  

Her commitment extends to extolling the value of CREW Network globally, and CREW Network Foundation which dedicates its resources solely toward advancing women in the commercial real estate industry.

Her impact can be felt throughout the region and nationally as a leading expert in the financial needs of commercial real estate companies. In banking for more than 20 years, she has spent the past 15-plus years in treasury management. In this role, developers, owners, property managers,title companies and real estate firms have relied on her strategic advice.


Economic Impact: Sue Pruchnicki, Bond Architects Inc.; Rebekah Bahn Kingston, Gwen Knight, Wendy Timm and Pam Boelhauf, Colliers St. Louis; Melissa Vighi, Lashly & Baer, P.C.; and Julie Drummond, Color-Art Integrated Interiors

Honors a CREW or CREW members who played a pivotal role in a real estate project that has a lasting, positive impact on the community. Project must have been completed or achieved a significant milestone in the last year.

This project shows the complexity of commercial real estate. As those in the industry know, it takes a team to turn a vision into reality. The vision occurred when St. Louis County voters approved a multiyear capital improvement campaign called Your Library Renewed. The tax increase provided the necessary funds for new facilities and upgrades to existing structures, as well as enhanced library programs and services.

Many St. Louis firms and commercial real estate professionals have been engaged in the capital improvement project. This includes several CREW-St. Louis members that have worked together to enable the library to turn vision into reality.

Bond Architects was selected to provide architectural and interior design services for 13 branch renovations and is supporting Mackey Mitchell on two new branches.  This work will take place over two phases. Overall, this encompasses more than 300,000 square feet of space.

Additionally, Colliers St. Louis was selected to provide real estate services. This assignment includes assisting the library in site acquisitions, site dispositions and leasing of facilities. This has included acquiring the site for the new Grant's View Library on Gravois Road at Musick Avenue, across from Grant's Farm. The Colliers team also found a buyer for the library's Tesson Ferry branch.

Lashly and Baer has provided legal services to the St. Louis County Library District since the project's inception. The firm continues to participate in all legal aspects of project implementation, including real estate acquisition, sale and leasing, financing, and new construction, renovation and replacement.

And Color Art collaborated on the project, which included providing shelving installation.

While each company plays a varying role in the ongoing project, the sum of all of these efforts is a successful project for the library. Expected to be fully completed in 2021, to date, the project continues to fulfill the promise of modern, functional facilities. The project's impact will be felt for years to come as the public uses the facilities for the birthplace of ideas and as a place for history to come to life.


Career Advancement for Women: Angie Earlywine, Forum Studio

 Lauds a member who consistently exemplifies CREW's commitment to elevating the status of women in commercial real estate. The member works tirelessly to support women in advancing their careers.

Networking. Mentoring. Counseling. Listening. Guiding. The list is long in describing Angie's ability and commitment to selflessly helping so many others advance their careers. She is the consummate advisor to many of her colleagues within CREW-St. Louis and her company.

As one colleague notes, "I commend her for her selfless actions to give of her time and talents to others." In fact, Angie serves on that colleague's Career Board of professionals.

Another says, "She is a wonderful mentor to other women within CREW-St. Louis, always taking time to give career advice, review a resume, prep for an interview or salary negotiations, and more."

A member since 2004, she has held numerous assignments, serving on the board for many years and as a Chapter Delegate to CREW Network. She even joined the Chicago chapter when she left St. Louis for a new opportunity. After returning to St. Louis in 2015, she immediately renewed her work for the chapter and currently leads CREW-St. Louis as its 2017 President.

She works as one of the nation's foremost authorities on Workplace Strategy and Interior Design. As a principal and director with Forum, she brings 18 years of leadership and expertise in the areas of workplace strategy and design innovation to the built environment.

Her expertise has been shared with national audiences as a speaker at IFMA World Workplace Conferences, NeoCon, CREW and ULI. As a noted authority, she has published numerous articles and White Papers on the best practices in workplace design. 

Annual Awards March 2017