By Graziella DiNuzzo
It’s not surprising that Dave DeLizza chose to major in engineering at Drexel University.
“I remember dad would take me to his jobsites while the bridges were under construction to show me how they were built,” says DeLizza. “The two I remember the most are the Girard Avenue Bridge (completed in 1972), and the Spring Garden Street Bridge over the Schuylkill (completed in 1965).” DeLizza was nine years old when his dad, who spent 30 years working for the City of Philadelphia as a Civil Engineer, took him to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Spring Garden Street Bridge.
“Dad also had a drafting board set up at our house. I enjoyed watching him prepare house plans for side renovation projects,“ recalls DeLizza.
Born and raised in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, DeLizza learned to respect hard work while helping at his family’s neighborhood sandwich shop.
Today, photos of children and grandkids line the shelves of Dave DeLizza’s office at Pennoni in Philadelphia. On July 1st, DeLizza will officially begin his role as the fourth President and CEO of Pennoni, succeeding Tony Bartolomeo who held that position for the past 20 years. DeLizza sits comfortably in his chair to talk about his career at Pennoni, which technically began in 1976 when he worked on the survey crew as a Drexel University co-op student. He would continue to complete all three of his co-op periods at Pennoni.
“I love my job,” smiles DeLizza.
Upon graduating from Drexel University in 1979, DeLizza asked founder and then President, C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni for a full time job and was told there weren’t any immediate openings. However, a few days later, DeLizza received a phone call that would place him on his successful career journey. “When I met with Mr. Pennoni he told me one of the engineers had resigned and he offered me the position of staff engineer.”
“Dave has a proven track record of demonstrating our goals of excellent reputation, profit, and growth through strong leadership, as well as expressing Pennoni’s core values of honesty, integrity, and service in all business dealings with both external and internal clients,” said Chuck Pennoni, in the recent press release announcing DeLizza’s appointment.
DeLizza has held various roles at Pennoni from Haddon Heights Office Director to New Jersey Regional Manager, Director of Strategic Growth and most recently Chief Operating Officer. Founded more than 50 years ago, Pennoni is an ENR Top 500 consulting engineering firm with 35 offices across the United States.
“When I worked out of the Absecon Office in New Jersey, working with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in Atlantic City, it was like an engineer’s dream. We had so many challenges."
DeLizza eased into global business for Pennoni after accompanying then President of the WTCGP, Joanna Savvides to the World Trade Centers Association General Assembly in Barcelona Spain. Chuck Pennoni was one of the founders of the WTCGP and first Board Chairman. DeLizza also attended the General Assembly in Pescara Italy.
“I met Joanna in 2004 when we were looking at international opportunities,” says DeLizza. “Joanna helped us make some great connections.”
DeLizza credits the WTCGP for “doing all the leg work.” He attended several trade missions between 2007-2008 with Dino Ramos, then Director of Trade Services. “We went to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Panama. I learned so much watching Dino navigating his way in these countries. Dino was a wealth of knowledge and has so much international experience.”
DeLizza has been a Board Member of the WTCGP since 2014 and has served on the Advisory Council from 2010 through 2014. He has also helped lead the WTCGP International Design and Engineering Consortium (IDEC) since 2008.
As President of Pennoni, DeLizza plans to use Pennoni’s 5-year Strategic Plan as a guide for the company’s future.
“We are a 100% employee-owned company. I want to focus on the growth of the firm—both organic growth as well as M&A opportunities.”
DeLizza is grateful for his co-op opportunity at Pennoni, which helped fuel his long career with the firm.
His advice to recent college graduates, “Just get into the workforce and find something that you like to do. Get involved in organizations like the WTCGP where you can expand your network of contacts which will help you throughout your career.”
In his acceptance speech, DeLizza remarked, “I follow in the footsteps of Chuck Pennoni, Rick Piccoli and Tony Bartolomeo. To say I have some big shoes to fill would certainly be an understatement.”
While pointing at family photos, DeLizza wants me to know, “Pennoni is like my second family.”