VCC Chairman Sam Alley has always had an entrepreneurial spirit driven by the knowledge that hard work, drive, commitment, and a strong work ethic are what leads to success.
“VCC has a culture, and we want people to come in and add value to the equation,” Alley said while describing what he looks for in new employees at VCC. “We like leaders and self-starters. You have to think outside the box and bring a good team approach.”
Alley immigrated to Arkansas at age 14 from Ramallah, Palestine. He shared one bedroom with his four younger brothers in an apartment above the North Little Rock grocery store his family owned, where they all worked hard to build a life in Arkansas.
“When I moved to Arkansas, I didn’t speak any English,” Alley said. “People thought I came from Mars. That was a distraction for me, but I had a goal to accomplish things in life.”
Alley’s father taught his sons the importance of hard work and education, though Alley did not follow the career path his father envisioned for him.
“My dad wanted me to be a doctor, and I said I couldn’t stand blood,” Alley said. “He went to my second brother, and he became a dentist, so we have four engineers and one dentist. We call my brother the black sheep of the family.”
Alley spoke during the inaugural Titans of Industry Conversation Series Oct. 3 at the UA Little Rock. The new program highlights industry leaders from across the region and provides opportunities for students and guests to engage with visionary titans of industry.
“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to have such an enlightening conversation with a true Titan of Industry,” said Dr. Lawrence Whitman, dean of the Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, who led a conversation about Alley’s education, company, career, and the future of the industry. “Our students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners were lucky to hear such timely advice from a Chairman Alley.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Arkansas, Alley was hired as a project manager for a Little Rock construction firm and gained experience as a construction manager. Inspired by his father, an entrepreneur, Alley co-founded VCC on his 31st birthday. Serving as chairman, Alley is recognized as one of the top engineering and construction professionals in the country. Under his guidance, VCC has built a reputation as a leading top contractor in the nation and is consistently recognized as the largest retail contractor, Top 15 multifamily contractors, and ENR’s Top 100 contractors.
“We started our company in Arkansas, and it makes me proud,” Alley said. “Arkansas is a place we love, and it makes our company more competitive. The cost of living in Arkansas is less, and the overhead in Arkansas is much lower. It makes us more competitive when we go to have jobs in California, the northeast, or even Texas.”
Alley advised the students in the room who will soon be on the job market to invest time in building relationships. He became an avid golfer later in life, which has allowed him to build important connections with people in the industry.
“My golf game needs a lot of improvement, but golf is about life,” Alley said. “It’s a work in progress. You get a lot of experience with people out on the golf course. We want clients for life. To have clients for life, it takes relationships.”
Alley has served as a pillar in the community for more than 40 years. Together with his wife Janet, he established the Master of Science in Construction Management program at the University of Arkansas. He was inducted into the University of Arkansas’ Engineering Hall of Fame this year.
He encouraged college students to see construction management as a worthwhile career pursuit and to build their careers in Arkansas, where many great companies like VCC are ready to hire them.
“We are so fortunate to have such a program in Little Rock, and we are blessed to have a lot of students graduating from here,” Alley said. “Arkansas has a lot of good construction companies, and that is why people don’t leave. I’m glad to hire as many students out of here as possible.”