From one employee and one $350,000 project in the company’s first year, Megen Construction has grown to employ 57, posting revenue of more than $40 million. The firm has been involved in many high-profile Greater Cincinnati projects, including the Fountain Square revitalization, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and
Museum and Great American Ball Park.
Its owner, Evans Nwankwo, is a native of northern Nigeria whose family was uprooted by Nigeria’s civil war in the late 1960s. Despite his father's passing just before his 10th birthday, Evans and his 12 brothers and sisters all completed their education and went on to college. Evans attended Texas A&M University, working part-time as a motel security guard during semesters and as a cook on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig during summer and Christmas breaks. In 1982, he earned a degree in building construction engineering and joined Turner Construction. He climbed the corporate ladder, became an American citizen and dreamed of owning his own business. In 1993, one week before marrying fellow engineer Catherine, he resigned from Turner and started Megen Construction in his basement. The name Megen is a combination of a tribute to his mother Margaret (Meg) and his own initials (en).
As construction manager on the $110 million Freedom Center project, Nwankwo faced several challenges, including contending with a constant flow of traffic on the building’s north side and a staging area measuring less than half a city block. The Freedom Center site actually sits on top of a public parking garage, which is laid out in a typical column grid. The curved design of the three-pavilion museum, however, did not line up with the placement of the columns, making them unable to support the building’s load. The team used a system of transfer girders between the garage and the museum to evenly distribute the building’s weight across the columns and down into the substructure of the garage. The schedule for construction of the parking garage required that the building’s slab foundation be poured in the middle of winter, with bitter winds whipping off the Ohio River. A system of heaters tended around the clock prevented the slab from freezing.
Megen won the Associated General Contractors of America 2005 Aon Build America Award for its work on the Freedom Center and was named 2004 Midwest Region Construction Firm of the Year by the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency. In 2006, Megen was named Business of the Year by the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. Evans is a member of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber board of directors, the City of Cincinnati Building Development and Permit Center Advisory Committee and the Hamilton County Economic Development Task Force. He is founder and board chair of the NuWay Foundation and chair of the Community Revitalization Agency board, among other community efforts.
"We’ve gotten to where we are today out of sheer tenacity and perseverance," Nwankwo says. "I don’t want people to think that we are just a minority company, but rather a very good company that just happens to be minority owned."