Cameron Graham’s career has been defined by the application of reason and logic, leading to his current position as the first president of Dart Development.
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Graham believes it was destiny that his initial overseas contract turned into to a three-decades-long career in the
It started in June 1987 when Graham was sent to the Cayman Islands by the Johnston Group, the parent company of Hadsphaltic International Ltd., to work on the construction of the government-owned West Bay Road sewer system.
Every project starts with collaborative input from teams across the Dart organisation to ensure the vision balances form and function. Cameron Graham, President – Dart Development
Graham remained with Hadsphaltic for more than 16 years, being involved in a number of local construction projects including what is now the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort, the Hyatt Beach Suites and the former Holiday Inn/Courtyard by Marriott. He was also instrumental in the construction of civic buildings, hospitals and a handful of private homes. Grand Cayman’s development was taking off and Hadsphaltic was often at the centre of solving complex construction problems. It was an exciting time in Graham’s career.
“By 2003, I was the country manager and director with Hadsphaltic,” he says. “It was essentially as far as I could go with the company without having to relocate, but for my family, Cayman had become home. My wife Fiona and I had settled in and made friends. Our son had started school and we enjoyed the island way of life.”
Serendipitously, just as Graham decided it was time for change, opportunity came knocking from Dart, with which he had some interactions while constructing a Camana Bay connector road. When discussions ensued with Mark VanDevelde and Jim Lammers to help build the Camana Bay Town Centre, Graham recalls he was blown away by the project.
“I thought it was fantastic. That’s the only word I could use to describe my initial reaction to the vision,” he says. “I said yes to the opportunity almost immediately. What was a visionary project on paper has totally surpassed all my expectations over the past 14 years.”
Graham was the first person Dart hired on the real estate development team. Today, after delivering more than 1.5 million square feet of built space, consistency in project delivery is the cornerstone upon which Graham has built the Dart track record.
Dart Development, originally incorporated as DECCO, deals with more than just bricks and mortar; it guides each project from vision to delivery, Graham says.
“Every project starts with collaborative input from teams across the Dart organisation to ensure the vision balances form and function,” he says. “Once a concept is recognised, our investment group conducts a feasibility study to ascertain whether the project is financially sound. If the development project gets the green light from our board, we can then set cost, quality, functionality, schedule and design expectations.”
In this vein, Dart Development collaborates closely with sister company Dart Real Estate.
“In a nutshell, we design and deliver the asset, while Dart Real Estate operates and manages it,” he says. “Together we deliver on Ken Dart’s vision of place-making to create exceptional places and spaces in the Cayman Islands.”
As President of Dart Development, Graham believes that a trusted track record opens doors. “It gives our shareholder Ken Dart comfort so that he can invest,” says Graham. “Equally, it gives tenants, operators and purchasers confidence that our group has the competency to complete a project with world-class standards to the timeline promised.”
Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is a testament to this. “We completed the hotel exactly on schedule that we initially estimated at the start of the four-year project,” says Graham. “Not only that, we were a month ahead of what is considered the ‘drop-dead’ date for Caribbean hotel projects, which need to be open for the start of high season on 15 December.”
This type of accountability is one of the attractions of working in infrastructure and complex construction projects, says Graham. “Projects of this complexity involve thousands of products with logistics and installation activities to be managed and be accountable for safety, schedule and financial performance. It is demanding work, interchangeably requiring leadership and management but it is extremely rewarding to be able to realise projects.”
EVERY BEAM NEEDS SUPPORT
Dart Development’s successes are a result of the commitment and talents of the entire organisation, starting at the top and including all employees.
“Whether specialists, manpower or systems, Dart is unwavering in its pursuit of delivering excellence,” Graham says. “The Dart Development team is made up of nearly 90 people. Our impeccable track record has teamwork at its core, with all members of the team doing their job to the best of their ability, using the technical skills, precision and patience they have developed over years.”
There are many Caymanians employed with Dart Development, but Graham would like to see more young Caymanians embrace construction careers. He believes Dart’s Minds Inspired programmes, which encourage students to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – STEM – subjects, will help steer high school and university graduates towards careers in civil engineering, surveying, architecture and construction management. Even though these fields are laden with opportunities, not enough Caymanian students are entering the construction industry.
“Whether it stems, no pun intended, from a view that work in this field is too taxing, or that it’s not considered as glamorous as the financial services industry, we need to reposition these as attractive careers,” he says.
It appears fate has stepped in once again for the Graham family: His 21-year-old son Jack may be following in his father’s footsteps. Jack is studying international business at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. However, this summer he is working as an intern in civil engineering on The Thames Tideway Tunnel sewer project in London. Graham believes this opportunity with a large international firm will give Jack just the kind of experience he needs early in his career.
Balancing work and family life has not been easy, but Graham relies on his golf hobby to relieve stress. “I’ve been golfing with the same group of friends for 25+ years,” he says. “We come from all different walks of life which makes the conversation as entertaining as the game. It is intensely competitive; we play golf with friends but we do
not play friendly golf.”
Even longer-standing than his golf friendships is his marriage to his wife Fiona, to whom he’s been married for 31 years. As a father, Graham enjoys spending time with his son, who shares his passion for football team Arsenal.
However, as a curious and driven self-starter, it’s clear that Graham is engaged and looking for the next challenge with Dart Development.
“As Dart continues to grow and expand, I look forward to working on projects designed to solve even more complex challenges, like those dealing with solutions to issues on a large scale that are meaningful to the relevant community,” he says. “The roads infrastructure is one good local example. Solving these types of problems will make a real difference in the quality of life for people here in Cayman.”