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‘We Were Told We Didn’t Qualify’: Black Woman Making Strides In Construction Business Lands Airport Contracts

What began as a career in real estate, has now blossomed into an exciting and profitable business for Jeanie Hunter, a Black woman making strides in the male-dominated field of construction. Her company Synergy Development Partners recently completed the new airport canopy modernization at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as part of a joint venture project with McCarthy and New South Construction.

“As a career path, construction wasn’t something that I thought about when I went to college. I thought in construction you really had to have a hammer or some type of trade experience,” says Hunter. With a passion for seeing things completed from start to finish, Hunter took a leap of faith and started the company in 2003 with real estate developer Ralph Phillips.

“We discussed the idea of starting a company often, then one day we decided to just do it. … So we opened a business bank account and we put in $500 each,” Hunter reminisces.

Hunter says that even though Synergy is being recognized throughout the Southeast today, the road to fulfilling her dream of working as an airport contractor has not been without obstacles and challenges, beginning with the real estate market crash of 2008-2009.

“Unfortunately, minority companies are often not afforded some of the same opportunities as their counterparts, and it can be very difficult to get lines of credit and bonding. … All of which were major hurdles that we had to jump through early in our business” explains Hunter. “Our aspirations were to work at the airport, and we were told honestly that we did not qualify, that our revenues had to be more, and that we had to have more experience” adds Hunter, who says getting an airport project took lots of persistence. 

She credits a relationship with New South Construction on various projects, and the City of Atlanta’s Minority participation requirements for allowing her an opportunity to finally get her “foot in the door.”

As a entrepreneur of a non-traditional business for women, Hunter is passionate about giving back and exposing other females to the business. She says she intentionally hired a female staff with roles such as office manager, pre-construction manager, and project accountant. To date, Synergy has done over $600 million in construction projects, Hunter says, and she is excited there is more work to come. 

Synergy will soon complete an expansion of the airport Terminal T-Gates, as well as the relocation of the employee gates at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Hunter encourages anyone considering a career in construction to keep pressing on and remember her favorite motto, “Failure Is Necessary In order for Success To Happen!”

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