SAVANNAH, Ga. – With his perma-grin and easy going attitude, you’d never guess Spencer Davis carries the weight of a $973 million megaproject on his mind.
As the senior project manager for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, or SHEP, Davis ensures the overall project, along with its eight sub-projects remains on track for the nation’s fourth busiest port.
The project will deepen the Savannah River from 42 to 47 feet and allow larger, neo-Panamax vessels to call on the port with fewer tidal restrictions.
Managing this highly complex, nationally recognized project requires Davis to be in constant coordination with hundreds of people from agency partners like the Georgia Ports Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Georgia Department of Transportation – not to mention the myriad contractors and sub-contractors – while providing weekly updates to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District’s commander and division chiefs.
“It’s never the same day twice,” Davis said. “The project delivery team is routinely working on initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling work, and even starting the closing process as features are completing construction.”
Davis’ life before SHEP acutely prepared him for the rigors associated with juggling so many moving pieces.
After serving in the Army for 21 years and finishing his career as a company first sergeant leading an organization of more than 200 personnel, he cut his teeth as a project manager in Savannah District’s military construction branch. There, he managed the planning, design and construction of several projects including a Department of Defense school, a hospital renovation and expansion, and multiple other types of facilities on several Army bases in the Southeast.
“It was a great transition to be able to continue to serve our Soldiers by building facilities for the Army,” Davis said.
From there, he bolstered his project management skill in civil works, coordinating and managing the acquisition of SHEP features like the Entrance Channel deepening, Raw Water Storage Impoundment and the Dissolved Oxygen Injection System contracts.
During this time, Davis earned an MBA with a concentration in resource management, and M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Columbia Southern University. A few years later, he became certified as a project management professional.
Though they added complexity to his already bustling daily schedule, the degrees paid dividends immediately.
“Higher education helped me to continue to develop and be able to assimilate new tasks,” he said.
Juggling so many competing priorities could make some lose sleep or wake up in a cold sweat – Gantt chart form, of course, with timelines for when the sweating would cease – but Davis takes it all in stride.
“Every job has its stressors,” Davis said. “It’s just about finding ways to handle them.”
So how does the project manager with nearly $1 billion of responsibility unwind?
With his family. And golf, lots of golf.
Davis uses the sport to get away and decompress. He has been playing since he was 10 years old and currently has a 12 handicap (though he still hasn’t made a hole-in-one).
When he’s not playing sports, he’s watching his two sons play sports in college, perform in the arts or traveling with them.
Last summer Davis’ family traveled to Europe with a group of 10, including his brother and his family.
“We toured on our stomachs,” Davis said, eating their way through Italy, Spain and Greece. The families have been vacationing together for 20 years. (Interestingly, SHEP began around the same time the families started traveling together in 1999.)
This summer, Davis said he’s excited about finishing the Dissolved Oxygen Injection System and starting the dredging for the inner harbor. The megaproject is on track to wrap up in 2022, and when finished, will return $7.30 to the national economy for every $1 invested.
So what will his life be like when SHEP is complete?
“I don’t know,” Davis said with a laugh. “It’s my vision to see this project through completion.”