The highest-profile job in Denver these days might just be operating one of the many tower cranes that sprout up like new flowers around town.
“We got it made,” crane operator Aaron Genova says with pride. “We’ve got the best view in town.”
It’s hard to argue with that. More than 30 tower cranes soar above the skyline, symbols of the continuing construction boom. As we’ve previously reported, there are 25,382, mostly rental, apartment units under construction in the Denver area right now, and 26,884 more in the planning phase.
So what's it like to work in a crane?
Denver-based RMS Cranes introduced us to Aaron Genova. He's the operating engineer and tower crane operator constructing Alexan 20th Street Station. His workday starts around 6:30 a.m. And unlike his fellow downtown worker bees in the high-rises, there’s no elevator. He climbs, rung by rung, 200 feet up to work.
As he climbs higher into the sky "it gets nice and quiet," Genova says, "which is nice."
He's never claustrophobic in his tower, since there are glass windows on all sides, including beneath him.
"There's enough room for your lunch box, and to stretch out."
While the view is breathtaking, there's a drawback. There’s no bathroom.
"That's probably one of the worst parts of this job,” Genova laments. “Rule No. 1 is to stay regular and make sure we're eating well and taking care of ourselves. I guess you could climb down, but most of us don't do that."
What he does have is a trash bucket outside his cab, and he'll use that if he has to. But it's not ideal.
While there's plenty of work for a crane operator right now that wasn't always the case. As a man whose job depends on growth and new construction, Genova certainly knows that “booms like these come and go.”
"I'm sure most people remember we just went through a recession, and there weren't many tower cranes around," he says. "If all you know how to do is run a tower crane, and we go back into a recession, you're going to get pretty hungry."
However, he's passionate about his job, and when he sees the completed buildings he's worked on, Genova has a sense of pride.
"All of these gentleman out here are very professional. They're great to work with," he says of the small army needed to construct Denver’s latest buildings. "It's nice to look back and reminisce and think about what you did out there and what you were a part of."
"But, it takes a bunch of us to build these things."