The belief that “Life is a Circle” has been spoken, written or sung about through the ages by everyone from Sioux Indians, to Buddha to Harry Chapin.
Symbolically, the same can be said for the Halley family.
2006-07 FTBA Chairman Ignacio Halley spoke passionately about how his father, Carlos Halley, came to the United States in 1961 with four children in tow looking for a better life.
“The struggles I’ve seen him go through to educate five children in this county — and obviously the opportunities that this country has allowed — have been tremendous. To think at the age of 35, he would pick up and go to a country with four children and not know the language and produce five professionals with college educations. That to me is a hero and a great role model,” he said.
Just as assuredly as parents Carlos and Marcilia Halley proudly looked on as their son, an executive vice president of Community Asphalt Corp. in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., accepted the FTBA Chairman’s gavel in August at the association’s annual convention, Ignacio Halley’s life circle can be traced to his children.
Halley, who has been married to his high school sweetheart, Lizette, for 24 years, talked about how sons Danny Michael and Alex, have followed in his footsteps. Danny has a civil engineering degree from Notre Dame and is currently working at Community Asphalt, and Michael and Alex are in their fourth and second year, respectively, studying civil engineering at the University of Florida.
“One of the things that I’m very proud of is the fact that all three of my boys have chosen to be civil engineers … I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve lived my life enough to show my kids that this is a very dynamic industry, and that they’ve chosen to go into it.”
His youngest child, Angela, a senior in high school, plans to also serve the public by pursuing a career in physical therapy.
That sense of pride, which has transcended one Halley generation to the next, also is what made Halley form a longing infatuation with construction more than 25 years ago. As a summer job in college, Halley worked for Miami-based Capeletti Brothers Construction.
“I liked the accomplishments from starting from nothing, and at the end of the day you had something concrete to look at that basically helps society at the end of the day.”
Like the circle of life, and like his father who traveled from another country to start from nothing but can now look upon his five successful children, Halley enjoys a similar sense of accomplishment with his children and livelihood.
Born in Cuba, Halley was a standout athlete growing up in Miami. The fourth of five children, he received a full scholarship to play football at Villanova University, where he played for the Wildcats from 1978 to 1980.
“I’ve always been an athlete and my interests revolved around athletics,” said Halley, who stayed close to sports after college by coaching his children’s football, baseball and soccer teams. “I was always at the parks coaching one of their teams here or there all the time; that’s basically how I released stress — if you can believe that.”
Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1982, Halley returned to South Florida and continued working with Capeletti Bros., and later with Westwind Contractors before joining Community Asphalt in 1987 — about the time he became a registered professional engineer in Florida and received his general contractor’s license (1990).
While accepting the reigns of FTBA at the recent annual meeting, Halley recognized both Rick Espino, of Condotte America (formerly of Capeletti Bros.) and Jose Fernandez, president of Community Asphalt, for their mentoring and “freedom to operate and spread my wings.”
Halley also learned the importance of communications from Espino and Fernandez, which is something he said FTBA provides for its members.
“I think FTBA is an association that has very good communications with the agencies in which we work, and that dialogue allows us to instill change for the better for the industry and the taxpayers. As long as we can keep that dialogue and that communication going I think the industry and the association and the state of Florida and taxpayers will be successful.”
An FTBA member since 1995, Halley has served on the association’s board of directors since 1998, and most recently has filled the vice chairman and secretary-treasurer positions. He also has served two four-year terms on the board of directors of the Engineering Contractors Association of South Florida.
As a member of several organizations, Halley said associations not only serve as a voice for its members but also as a sounding board.
“As a member, FTBA gives you a place to express your concerns to where action can be taken through the association to answers those concerns. The association has access to people who can make change.”
Halley believes being a good communicator has been integral to his career thus far and will help him this year with FTBA.
“I think I’m a very good communicator,” he said. “I’m not passive in my ways in the sense that if I have something to say I will say it. And I will always look out for the betterment of the industry and how we can make our industry better. I know how to express my thoughts.
“Make no mistake the key to our success and my success are the people around me and I want to make sure that is clear. This business is a people business, and what has made Community [Asphalt] successful — more so than anything — is the people that we’ve had within the Community family and the way you treat those people. Understanding and taking care of their needs, and if you’re able to do that as a manager everything else falls in line.”
In his term as FTBA chairman, Halley said he sees the industry being in a “state of flux.”
“Our industry faces some very unique challenges in the days ahead. Five years ago, who would have imagined that today we would be talking about labor shortages, material shortages and projects above DOT estimates? Back then our major complaint was not having enough work. One thing that I would like to accomplish is stabilizing our industry.”
Halley said the success of FTBA and the industry in the coming year will be if it can somehow stabilize labor and material shortages and price increases.
“The association has already been working on this through the past chairmen, but it’s that stabilization of our industry that is of utmost importance.
“There’s plenty of work, but there is so much flux in those three areas that it makes it very difficult to actually compete and price out the work at the proper price. And it’s affecting everyone, from the owners to the contractors.”
(This story originally ran in the Fall 2006 edition of “Florida Transportation Builder” magazine.)