FORT LAUDERDALE — Former NFL player and Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson has helped generate millions of dollars that went back into the South Florida community and economy by building his business and with philanthropic endeavors through his community foundation. Stephenson will be among six Hall of Famers, former pro football players who will participate as announcers in the 2015 NFL draft which begins Thursday, April 30 and will continue Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2.
Stephenson, a retired Miami Dolphins center, will be among 32 former players who will announce second round selections, according to the website, www.usatoday.com. Other Hall of Famers scheduled to announce draft picks include line backer Dick Butkus (Bears), quarterback Jim Kelly (Bills), cornerbacks Willie Brown (Raiders) and Mel Blount (Steelers) and 2015 electee defensive end – linebacker Charles Haley (49ers), according to the USA Today Sports website.
Stephenson’s company, D. Stephenson Construction, has been a part of the Broward County landscape for more than 20 years and has expanded into Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties as well, creating many job opportunities in the tri-county area.
All Aboard Florida, which is a passenger rail project connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, recently selected Stephenson’s construction company to build the Argentelle Catering facility near its future Fort Lauderdale passenger train station, according to the D. Stephenson Construction website, www.dstephenson.com.
The ex-NFL star also founded the Dwight Stephenson Foundation, which combines sports and business communities in an effort to generate increased funding for charities that provide educational, health and human services to support the needs of children and families, according to the foundation’s website, www.dwightstephensonfoundation.org.
Stephenson’s construction company, based out of Fort Lauderdale, was established in 1992 by Dwight and his wife, Dinah, a lawyer, now has offices in Miami and Delray Beach. The former Miami Dolphins player said they wanted to start a family business that reflected some of their core values such as honesty, integrity and building long-lasting relationships with clients by providing good customer service.
The company has been awarded several major contracts over the years in South Florida including constructing the Urban League of Broward County’s Community Empowerment Center and a $4.4 million project intended to improve airline safety at the Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport by rehabilitating the ramps’ three concourses and providing the labor, materials and other services needed.
Stephenson said that his business has brought in about $25–$30 million annually on average for many years, but the sluggish economy has negatively affected the revenue generated over the past few years. He added that his company however still retains about 38 permanent employees, which continues to help boost the local economy.
Joseph Sanches, executive vice president of D. Stephenson Construction, said Stephenson strives to give back to the community by creating opportunities with his business and supporting educational programs through his charitable foundation. “I think (Dwight) is a compassionate businessman,” he said. “He’s interested in not just growing the company but he’s also trying to give opportunities to young people who have potential but haven’t been given the opportunities.”
Sanches said Stephenson has stayed afloat for the last 23 years through the ups and downs of the economy and he thinks that is a tremendous accomplishment. “Many companies didn’t make it through the last recession,” he said. “For Dwight to keep the company going and keep people on the payroll even though things were tight and come through the other side of it, and now the company has grown is quite an achievement.”
Stephenson said helping other small businesses and other minority owned businesses is one of the ways he gives back to the South Florida community which has given his company a great deal of support through the years. “I think we understand their challenges and issues better than anyone else because we actually paved the roads that they are coming (upon),” he said. “We have internship programs. We deal with students who are in college that are in the construction industry.”
Stephenson said that the most challenging construction project for his company was meeting very tight deadlines with the Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport expansion. “We had about 90 days to start and get the construction work in place,” he said. “And it was over the holidays.”
But the ex-professional football player turned entrepreneur is grateful for the opportunities he has been given and says his business is growing and providing employment opportunities for others. “We want to grow our company, give people opportunities,” Stephenson said. “They have the opportunity to work for an organization that has possibilities. That’s something I’m trying to achieve.”