Texas Facilities Commission director oversees massive construction at the Capitol 

Business
January 03, 2023

by Jennifer R. Lloyd (M.B.A. ’16) 

Around the majestic red granite dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin has been a flurry of activity in recent years — and it’s not all been about politics. 

Visitors likely have noted a massive construction project underway at the State of Texas Capitol Complex. In November 2022, the Texas Facilities Commission announced it was putting the finishing details on Phase One. More than 1,000 employees have filled two new state office buildings. A new central utility plant began operating. Grass and trees have enveloped several blocks of civic green space. 

Overseeing $1.5 billion in projects across the state, including the Capitol Complex, falls to Executive Director of the Texas Facilities Commission Mike Novak (B.B.A. ’75).  

The San Antonio native was Texas Facilities Commissioner from 2011 until 2018. Then he became executive director, bringing extensive construction experience, entrepreneurial spirit, a commitment to public service and his faith to aid him in the role.  

“When I get to the end of my time, I’m going to reflect back,” Novak said. “I’m going to measure my success and get more satisfaction at the points of my career when I committed to public service.” 

He had previously served as a Bexar County Commissioner in the mid-1990s. But his journey began well before that “tour of duty,” as he called it. 

Novak had initially intended to study law, which drew him to St. Mary’s University, known for its School of Law. He soon found that St. Mary’s provided an excellent business education as well and studied Finance while developing a relationship with the then-business school’s dean, Brother Paul C. Goelz, S.M., Ph.D. 

“Paul had a very interesting focus that got my attention,” Novak said. “He developed specific classes on entrepreneurship and the Forum on Entrepreneurship. I was one of the founding board members, and the Forum is still going on today.” 

“When I get to the end of my time, I’m going to reflect back,” Novak said. “I’m going to measure my success and get more satisfaction at the points of my career when I committed to public service.” 

Mike Novak

An industrial construction company where Novak had interned lured him away from law school to help them with a construction project in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“I said, ‘Bye-bye, law school. Hello, St. Croix,’” said Novak, adding the two years he spent there gave him the experience and cultural immersion that would prove invaluable in launching companies later. 

Though he returned from St. Croix and spent a few more years with that construction company, he said the entrepreneurial spirit kept nagging him to start his own business. 

“You cannot teach someone to be an entrepreneur,” said Novak, who spoke of the risks and hardship of launching a company. “Either you are born with that spirit, or you are not. Entrepreneurship programs should develop that spirit.” 

At age 28, Novak started a construction group that initially built churches and, later, thousands of cell towers. He adapted that expertise to work with defense contractors to build radar towers, including those in the Caribbean to help detect the low-flying aircraft of drug smugglers. He also worked to develop the cellular network in Venezuela before government instability led him to leave the country. 

“You cannot teach someone to be an entrepreneur. Either you are born with that spirit, or you are not. Entrepreneurship programs should develop that spirit.”

Mike Novak

He said several St. Mary’s professors began inviting him back to campus to discuss his work, including Jeffrey E. Johnson, Ph.D., the Emil C.E. Jurica Professor of International Business. 

“Mike Novak is not only a successful businessperson and entrepreneur, but also a gifted speaker who enthralls his audience with stories about his business pursuits,” Johnson said. “Our students who have attended his past guest lecture presentations have been left with lifelong lessons on the challenges, perseverance and rewards of entrepreneurship. He is a true St. Mary’s success story.” 

While raising three sons, Novak also extended his public service by chairing many boards, including the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Later, then-speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus asked Novak to join the Texas Facilities Commission, and his role at the Commission evolved from there. 

Even with the projects on his plate, Novak still has found time to advise the next generation of business leaders. 

“We have an absolute first-class business school at St. Mary’s,” Novak said. “My message to the business students is just be true to yourself and don’t be afraid of testing whether you might have that entrepreneurial spirit. And, if you do, you need to develop it. St. Mary’s can help you do that.” 

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