Capability and Culture

TBD Celebrates Teacher, Trainer, And Builder Christine Fortenberry

When it came to the subject matter nearest and dearest to her heart – universal design, construction education, and opportunities for women in construction – homebuilding was a place of fearless, constant pursuit that her friends and colleagues call passion.

Capability and Culture

TBD Celebrates Teacher, Trainer, And Builder Christine Fortenberry

When it came to the subject matter nearest and dearest to her heart – universal design, construction education, and opportunities for women in construction – homebuilding was a place of fearless, constant pursuit that her friends and colleagues call passion.

September 30th, 2022
TBD Celebrates Teacher, Trainer, And Builder Christine Fortenberry
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This is a people business."

In good times, not so good, and ugly ones – if you stick around long enough – you'll hear that phrase in homebuilding, remodeling, and residential construction probably as often as you hear anything else.

And it's because people like Christine Fortenberry, who died this past Sunday, September 25, 2022 in Powder Springs, GA, at the age of 71, reinvigorate the simple, elegant, and profound truth of the statement time and again.

Most recently, Fortenberry worked as director of construction for Chamblee, GA-based custom homebuilder Gus Pounds Homes. However, for Fortenberry, a galvanizing fixture in the greater Atlanta residential real estate and construction community as well as a nationally prominent pioneer in construction education, aging-in-place building and remodeling, and women's opportunities in building, her day job – being a high-quality, sucessful homebuilder – was only part of her job.

What counted most, what got her up each day, and what drove her most, could only be described as a personal mission and purpose, partly as a childhood polio-survivor, and partly as a person in a livelihood dominated by others not like her.

Former students, team members, colleagues, business partners and associates, local officials, and National Association of Home Builders IBS attendees count themselves among those her work touched, inspired, motivated, empowered, and educated during the arc of her four-decades-plus professional career.

Her career – self-described in a bio she provided for the NAHB IBS program – looks like this.

Christine Fortenberry has more than 42 years of experience building custom homes, remodeling and light commercial. She is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in Industrial Management. As founder and CEO of Fortenberry Construction Inc, Christine has been a unique player in a male-dominated industry.
Her skills, experience, and reputation for quality, integrity, and professionalism have earned her local, regional, and national recognition. In 2007, Christine established Fortenberry Construction Services LLC, a full service residential and light commercial design, renovation and construction company. This company also provides evaluation, design and construction services for special needs and aging-in-place projects including ADA evaluations and reports for Light Commercial projects. In 2012, Christine created FCSatlanta LLC, a full service Real Estate Consulting firm specializing in horizontal infrastructure for developers and specializing in Reserve Study and Analyses Services for Single Family Communities, Condominiums, Townhome Communities and Office Parks.
I am the President and CEO of Fortenberry Construction, Inc. which is a general contractor. At this time FCI primarily builds large homes from $399,900 and up. FCI has been in business since September 1971. I am a graduate of Georgia Tech, class of 1971, with a degree in Industrial Management. This degree (which is no longer offered) is a degree combining design, engineering and management skills.

What followed through the decades, certifications, licenses, recognition awards, achievements, and milestones in a career devoted not only to mastery of home architecture, engineering, and construction, but to serving as a force of nature that impacts others' commitment to that mastery.

As our name recognition has heightened and our company has experienced sales growth and profitability, we have been recognized as a solid contributor to the redefining of "professionalism" of the home building industry in our community. Simultaneously, I have been thrilled to learn that our pro-activeness rather than re-activeness has been an inspiration to the women who work or want to work in our industry, a traditionally male dominated industry at most all levels. I am proud to have been instrumental in significantly contributing to the re-introduction of a focus on customer compassion and satisfaction to an industry which has been notoriously self-serving in the past. In the Civic arena, we strive to re-characterize the construction industry and its civic responsibilities and the civic attitude towards our industry. Because of my notoriety in this traditionally male dominated industry, it appears that we are now a strong force in the movement of the tide of change rather than flowing with the tide. Our goal is to give back to the community which has given so much to the success of our company!

George McClure, Georgia Builder Hall of Fame member and Life Director of the Home Builders Association of Georgia and Greater Atlanta HBA, met and befriended Fortenberry more than 40 years ago when the two teamed up – McClure as land developer and Fortenberry as builder – on building out subdivisions.

She drew her own plans, and did a top quality house, and was an early-on champion in building and designing for disabilities access," says McClure. Then, later on in their respective careers rising through the ranks of the HBA, McClure recounted that as chair of the Greater Atlanta HBA education committee, Fortenberry would deliver an annual report to the association.
Builders' in the room would fret – 'she's going to go on and on and on with her report' – because Christine didn't leave out a single detail when she gave that report. But, then after all, when she was finished with the official presentation she was actually only getting started. Their questions for her would go on and on because she knew the code and where code was going next better than anybody else in the room."

When it came to the subject matter nearest and dearest to her heart – universal design, disabilities access, aging-in-place, value engineering, construction education, and opportunities for women in construction – homebuilding's community was a place of fearless, constant pursuit that her friends and colleagues call passion and resolve.

About a decade ago – having failed in a first attempt to convince the board of executives of the Greater Atlanta HBA to formalize a Professional Women In Building Council – Fortenberry joined with another local Atlanta homebuilding leader Carol Morgan in a renewed effort to codify the council.

She put together a slide presentation that made a case that women should have a place in this industry," says Morgan. "She won them over. She wasn't going to take no for an answer."

Adds Atlanta area realtor and friend Meg Thompson,

At first they didn't see the value in it – the PWB council. But she persuaded them that it would be good for the HBA, that women would join the HBA. That year, when we chartered the council at an IBS luncheon in Las Vegas, we were the nation's largest council at that time. She made believers of all of us."

Christine Fortenberry's obituary adds:

She was an accomplished musician and volunteered her talents at the First United Methodist Church of Marietta. She possessed a warm and generous spirit and she adored her family and friends immensely. She is survived by her sons, Robert Kelly (Lorna) Fortenberry, Theodore (Nikki) Fortenberry, and Clifford Fortenberry; sisters, Dale Miller and Marie Carter; granddaughters, Kimberly Suzanne Fortenberry and Ellison Lydia Daniels; and a host of other loving grandchildren, other family and friends.

Thanks to the mission and purpose Christine Fortenberry brought to her workplace, her peers and friends, and the many many people she impacted through her efforts as an instructor and trainer, homebuilding and its related fields continues at its core as a people business. Her own words say it best.

It appears that we are now a strong force in the movement of the tide of change rather than flowing with the tide."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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