John Rakolta Jr.
John Rakolta, Jr. is the Chairman of Walbridge, a privately held construction company founded in Detroit in 1916. The company is one of the largest contractors in the United States, according to Engineering News-Record. He is the former US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates having served from 2019 - 2021.
Walbridge provides general contracting, construction management, IPD, EPC and design- build services for customers in the aviation; commercial; education; manufacturing; mobility; mission critical/data center; power and energy; and water/waste water markets. The firm is consistently ranked as the top U.S. builder of automotive and manufacturing facilities and has achieved considerable market diversity led by the expansion into the hyperscale data center market.
The second generation of the Rakolta family to lead Walbridge, his father, John Rakolta, Sr., served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and spent the final days of the war as a prisoner in a German POW camp. John Sr. joined the construction firm as a timekeeper after returning to Detroit. He worked his way up to become Secretary/Treasurer and, eventually, company Owner and Chairman in 1970.
John joined Walbridge in 1971, shortly after graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering from Marquette University. John also completed the Smaller Company Management Program at Harvard Business School. However, his first job at Walbridge was at age 12, working at the company yard painting safety barricades yellow under the watchful eye of his grandfather, then the yard manager.
After joining Walbridge, he worked as a project engineer, estimator and held positions of increasing responsibility. He was named Chief Operating Officer in 1975, followed by President in 1979, and succeeded his father as Chairman, CEO and Owner in 1993. John Sr. served as Chairman Emeritus from 1993 until his death in 2003.
In 2019, the company began supporting mobility customers with their transition to an all-electric future providing construction services focusing on redeveloping current, as well as building new, facilities throughout North America.
In addition to directing and nurturing the growth of one of America’s largest privately held construction companies, John has been honored for his public service commitment including:
Zayed II Medal – United Arab Emirates, 2021
United States National Security Medal, 2020
Michiganian of the Year, 2019
Urban Land Institute Michigan Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017
New Detroit’s Leadership in Race Relations Award, 2015
Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, 2005
A third-generation Romanian American, John has served as Romania’s Honorary Consul General to the United States in Detroit since 1996.
John and his wife, Terry, have four children: Eileen, Lauren, Paige, and John III.