Editorial: 08.18.2021

Jay Watson’s Wide-Ranging Engineering Background Leads Him to Castle

jay watson

As a boy, Ja-Mes "Jay" Watson III and his grandfather spent hours designing and building bridges, tunnels and other structures for their model train set. 

He didn’t realize it at the time, but this hobby was setting the stage for Watson’s future career in engineering and civil construction.

“It was my introduction to engineering, but I didn't have a name for it at the time,” he says. “I just knew that I wanted the train to go over the top of a riverbed, so I needed to design a new bridge.”

When it came time to choose a college, Watson decided on Morehouse College in Atlanta, a historically Black college that offered a dual-degree engineering program combining a general sciences degree with a specialized degree from a partner college. He completed a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from Morehouse, then earned a second degree in civil engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Following graduation, Watson gained hands-on experience in geotechnical engineering and land surveying, then began exploring the intersection of engineering and the regional economy.

In 2017, he joined the St. Louis Development Corporation, the city’s economic development agency, as a project manager. He worked on the Project Connect program, a city initiative to create alignment between the people, plans and projects within the neighborhoods surrounding the Next NGA West campus in north city.

“I was able to marry the things that I learned from engineering school and prior practice with an understanding of macroeconomics and how regional economies work,” he says. “It was a great learning experience.”

That experience also reinforced to Watson the importance of the Next NGA West project to the future of the city and entire region. “The NGA site is in the heart of the city, in an area that has historically seen a lack of private investment, so the development is a win-win for the city and will jumpstart the local economy,” he says.

Eager to take on more of a hands-on role in bringing the new campus to life, Watson joined Castle in November 2020. As a project engineer, he engages in tasks ranging from managing submittals and materials purchasing to tracking stormwater runoff and assisting with design components.

“I’m honored to work on the NGA project because it’s so much bigger than myself,” he says. “There are national and international security implications to the work that will occur at that site, so to know that I was able to contribute is something that I take very seriously.”

He also appreciates the opportunity to learn more about civil construction work from his Castle colleagues. “Even before joining Castle, what stood out to me the most were the people,” he says. “They’re confident, talented and bring so much to projects.”

And he’s impressed by the breadth of projects that Castle works on. “We’re nimble enough to play a number of roles. On one project, we could be the prime contractor and on another, we can be a subcontractor, which allows us the flexibility to get great experience on projects across the region.”

Watson lives in the city of St. Louis with his wife, 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, standup comedy, movies and attending St. Louis sporting events.


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