Jacob Ballard, Dan Benken, Paul Berendes and Bradley Blackmon.

40 Under 40 Awards: Ballard, Benken, Berendes And Blackmon

For the seventh year, 40 of the industry’s future leaders were honored at the Inland Marine Expo with the “40 Under 40” award, which recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to the inland marine transportation industry in a variety of fields. All 40 honorees were nominated by executives and peers for their hard work and dedication to the industry.

Over the course of 10 weeks, The Waterways Journal is featuring recipients. This week we recognize Jacob Ballard, Dan Benken, Paul Berendes and Bradley Blackmon.

Jacob Ballard
Jacob Ballard

Jacob Ballard

Jacob Ballard, 38, is site operations manager for Yager Materials in Owensboro, Ky.

Ballard has worked with Yager Materials since 2010, starting as a maintenance welder and deckhand. He then became a leadman on the aggregate side of the business, working his way up to become a drydock supervisor in the marine division.

“As site operations manager of the aggregate yards in Owensboro, he manages three towboats, 30 barges and a dredge,” said David Graves, site operations manager.

Ballard’s operation moves about 1.5 million tons of aggregate each year, he added.

Ballard is also president of the Owensboro Spill Group, which consists of member companies along the Ohio River in the region who are trained in spill prevention and response.

Dan Benken
Dan Benken

Dan Benken

Dan Benken, 28, is director of port and barge line services for Parker Towing Company in Northport, Ala.

In nominating him, Parker Towing Company President Tim Parker III said Benken was deserving because of his outstanding contributions in the realms of sales and business development.

“Dan has been instrumental in expanding Parker Towing’s presence in the inland marine industry,” Parker said. “Through targeted business development efforts, he has identified and capitalized on new markets, resulting in increased market share and enhanced visibility for the company within the industry. In a rapidly evolving industry, Dan has demonstrated a keen ability to develop and implement innovative sales strategies. Whether through the introduction of new service offerings, or the creation of strategic partnerships, his forward-thinking approach has kept Parker Towing at the forefront of the inland marine sector.”
Additionally, Parker said, Benken’s strong relationships with clients have not only led to the acquisition of new clients but have also fostered long-term partnerships.

“His dedication to understanding client needs and delivering tailored solutions has contributed to high levels of customer satisfaction and repeat business,” Parker said.

As director of port and barge line services, Benken has also played a key role in shaping the company’s business development strategy, aligning it with industry trends and ensuring that the company remains competitive in a dynamic market, Parker said. He praised Benken’s dedication, strategic vision and tangible results, crediting him for individual excellence as well as having a significant impact on the company’s overall success in the inland marine sector.

Paul Berendes
Paul Berendes

Paul Berendes

Paul Berendes, 37, is director of asset management for La Crosse, Wis.-based J.F. Brennan Company Inc.

Berendes has a degree in aviation mechanics and started his career at Brennan working in shop logistics and operations. He quickly took over managing yard operations and equipment repair. In that position, Berendes led a group of highly skilled mechanics and fabricators.

In his current role, Berendes leads many facets of Brennan asset management, including equipment specification, purchasing and repair, logistics, Department of Transportation compliance, equipment rental, and fabrication. He oversees the maintenance, work order and inspection system that ensure Brennan’s marine assets are maintained to the highest industry standards.

“Paul has guided Brennan’s internal operations through all of our past growth and continues to lead in our present growth,” said Ken Peterson, Brennan’s vice president of asset management. “Paul is one of the many employees that embodies the culture of Brennan.”

Bradley Blackmon
Bradley Blackmon

Bradley Blackmon

Bradley Blackmon, 38, is vessel maintenance supervisor for Golding Barge Line in Vicksburg, Miss.

Blackmon joined the Golding Barge Line team five years ago.

“Bradley has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge about the types of equipment that we have on our vessels,” said nominator Hannah Lewis, Golding’s health and safety director. “He has been a part of our lead group on brand-new builds, drydockings, incident repairs and routine maintenance. Bradley is talented and mechanically savvy, which provides the best care and maintenance to GBL’s equipment.”

Lewis praised Blackmon’s work ethic and integrity.

“Bradley never turns down a phone call or a request for assistance,” she said. “He is able to diagnose a problem over the phone and walk our crew members through the repair process. Not only does he keep most of GBL’s repair costs in-house, but he trains our own team on how to work on our equipment.”

Lewis added that one of Blackmon’s best talents is his ability to explain how equipment is supposed to work on a level that everyone can understand.

“After an incident or maintenance repair, if Bradley is asked why the event took place and how we can prevent it, he makes you feel like you are a pro by the time the reports are finished. This makes Bradley easy to work with and learn from.”

Outside of work, Blackmon enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.