Editorial: 06.20.2022

Dan O’Neal Has Made His Mark on a Wide Range of Projects

dan o'neal

The expertise of Dan O’Neal is evident on soaring commercial developments in St. Louis and sprawling solar fields in Michigan and Ohio.

As project director at Castle, he manages and guides project teams working on a variety of jobs led by McCarthy Building Companies—where O’Neal spent the first 18 years of his career.

Born and raised in St. Louis, O’Neal initially set his sights on becoming a structural engineer so he could design innovative buildings.

But after enrolling in the engineering program at Missouri University of Science and Technology and completing a couple of internships, he realized the repetitive nature of designing buildings didn’t appeal to him. “I had a vision of designing tall buildings and cool bridges, but it wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined it to be,” he says.

Changing Focus: Becoming A Civil Engineer In The Construction Industry

Instead, during an internship with a bridge builder in Columbia, Mo., O’Neal discovered his love of the construction process. “What I like about construction is that there’s a different challenge to figure out every day,” he says. “That’s a lot more exciting than sitting behind a desk and looking at a computer screen all day.”

As a result, he shifted his focus to earning a civil engineering degree with a construction emphasis. O’Neal’s goal was to work for McCarthy, so when the company visited his college career fair, he wanted some face time. “They hosted an informational session the night before, and I wasn't on the list, so I just showed up and said I wanted to talk to them,” he recalls. “I begged for an interview, basically.”

O’Neal’s persistence worked, as McCarthy hired him as a project engineer immediately after he graduated. His 18-year tenure at the company included managing projects that included the Lindbergh tunnel at Lambert St. Louis International Airport, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a research laboratory for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and a renovation project for Cornell University in upstate New York.

O’Neal also worked on the McCarthy Castle joint venture team that collaborated on the renovation of the north and south grounds at the Gateway Arch National Park and then as a prime and subcontractor on the expansion and renovation of the Museum at the Gateway Arch. During the project, McCarthy Holdings acquired Castle…and Castle acquired O’Neal. “I really liked the self-perform aspect of Castle’s work, so when they approached me and asked if I'd like to come over, I said yes.”

Initially working on the civil self-perform portion of all general contractor-led projects, his current focus is on McCarthy projects, such as the Next NGA West campus, Phase 3 of the BJC Campus Renewal Project and the Forsyth Pointe mixed-use development. 

Most recently, his role has shifted to multiple solar projects. “The scale and speed of solar jobs is pretty amazing, and they're all over the country,” he says.

What Does A Civil Construction Project Manager Do? A Lot! 

Each day, O’Neal checks in with his project managers, reviews financials and productivity reports, and identifies ongoing issues that might need help solving. He regularly visits local jobsites and schedules trips to the solar projects about every six weeks. He also assists with estimating efforts on new solar project pursuits.

“What I like best about working at Castle is how close we are to the work,” he says. “Since we're a 100 percent self-perform company, the impact we can have on a job is really up to us.”

Beyond his project leadership skills, O’Neal is probably best known for the home office where he conducted video calls during the initial onset of COVID-19. Located in an unfinished basement, it has a distinctive backdrop—with a staircase and framed wall in the shot. “I probably have the most famous basement in the company,” he jokes. “I still get comments and questions about it.”

O’Neal and his wife have three kids: two daughters, ages 10 and 7; and a son, 5. “My kids take up most of my non-work time,” he says. “But when we do get some free time, we like to pack up the travel trailer and go out camping or exploring some place we haven't been.”

Join Dan and the rest of the Castle team! Explore open positions with Castle Contracting today. 


Sign up to receive Castle Insights