Age 38 | President, Generation Green Builders Co.

Matt Connolly overcame a serious mental illness to become successful in construction and real estate, and he’s not shy about educating others about it.

Though schizophrenia first turned his world upside down when he was 19, it wasn’t until 29 that he was diagnosed with the disease and began to get treatment.

After years of alienation from family, friends and community, Connolly got on the road to recovery and began reaching out and re-establishing relationships. His father, builder Tom Connolly, offered him a position with his company in 2004, and he earned a real estate license in 2005 and began working as an agent for Iowa Realty Co Inc. In 2009, Connolly started his own company, Generation Green Builders Co., and in 2011 became president of the Green Building Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

Connolly said he has used the five pillars of recovery – medication, therapy, social worker support, family/friends/community and support groups – to maintain his recovery since 2004.

“I give a lot of people hope because I was able to recover so well,” he said. “Life to me is best spent being healthy. The more things you can do to feel good, the better, and being involved in your community feels good. That’s a big part of why I’m involved in the community.”

Though he credits many people as mentors, Connolly holds his father in the highest esteem.

“I would not be in this position, on the right track, if it had not been for my dad,” he said. “He’s always been there for me; he taught me how to be a go-getter.”

Developer Jack Hatch called Connolly “an extraordinary example of how people can beat the disease and then advocate by helping others.”

Connolly said becoming a green builder was a natural move, given the trends in the industry toward sustainability and energy efficiency. He took advantage of industry training through the home builders’ association to increase his knowledge of green building techniques.

Though he and his wife, Jodi, are both small business owners – she runs her own massage therapy business – the couple and their two children, 2-year-old Maliaya and 5-month-old Lane, sit down to dinner together every night at 6:30 p.m. “I go 100 mph every day, but I give equal attention to my wife and children,” he said.


Five reasons he’s a 40:

• Advocates for awareness of mental illness and serves as a role model for recovery.

• Started his own green building company.

• Serves as a leader in green building for the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

• Earned Certified Graduate Builder and Certified Green Professional designations; working toward additional certifications.

• Balances work with time for family and community involvement.

Mentor: Tom Connolly, owner, Tom Connolly Homes

Fun fact: Built the first National Association of Home Builders certified green home in Greater Des Moines.


Presenting the 2013 winners:

Desmund Adams, Principal, AdamsDouglas
Lindsay Alderman, Client operations manager, LightEdge Solutions Inc.
Erica Axiotis, Director of development, Mercy Foundation
Kate Banasiak, President and CEO, Diversified Management Services Inc.
Erin Beamis, Senior vice president of logistics and operations, IronWorks
Jonathan Brendemuehl, Marketing events coordinator, Bankers Trust Co.
Curtis Brown, Economic development director, city of Ankeny
Matt Connolly, President, Generation Green Builders Co.
Lawrence Cunningham, Director of business development, Catchfire Media LLC
Angela Dethlefs-Trettin, Director of community investment and initiatives, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Josh Fleming, Digital strategy director, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.
Felix Gallagher, Principal, PharmServ Solutions
Lori Gelhaar, Director of career services/ corporate relations, Kaplan University
Tina Gray Carstensen, Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.
Shane Greenleaf, Vice president/commercial banker, First American Bank
Danielle Haindfield, Shareholder attorney, Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
Emily Harris, Patent attorney and shareholder at Davis Brown Law Firm
Matthew Harris, Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Angela Hilbert, Sales and marketing director, Deerfield Retirement Community
Joey Hinke, President, Miller, Fidler & Hinke Insurance Agency Inc.
Hannah Inman, Director of communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Keegan Kautzky, Director of national education programs, The World Food Prize Foundationn
John Lozier, Pediatric interventional cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology P.C.
Dennis McDaniel, Police chief, Windsor Heights
Rachel McLean, Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos
John Mickelson, Associate managing director, The PrivateBank & Trust Co.
Keith Olson, Commercial associate, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.
Matt Ostanik, President, Submittal Exchange LLC
Benjamin Page, Director, Des Moines park and recreation
Dustin Peterson, Partner, McGladrey LLP
Nick Renkoski, Director of marketing and communications, Des Moines Metro Opera
Rachel Rowley, Partner, BrownWinick PLC
John Ruan IV, Vice president, financial institutions, Bankers Trust Co.
Jennifer Soma, Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.
Heather Starr, Real estate agent, RE/MAX Innovations
Aimee Staudt, Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.
Courtney Strutt Todd, Shareholder attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Nikki Sylverson, Event Director, Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation
Howard Tempero, Experience design strategist, Spindustry Digital
Tony Timm, Executive director, Central Iowa Shelter & Services