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March 3-7, 2026

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Ryan Priestly thrives amid organized chaos



In the world of construction, stress is an ever-present companion, and projects often come with unforeseen challenges. Yet, for one seasoned contractor, these pressures have become a driving force that fuels success. Ryan Priestly, President of Priestly Demolition, who many may know from The History Channel’s “Salvage Kings,” joined the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast in September 2022 (revisit the episode here) to share some of his most memorable “Oh, man” projects and discuss how the industry's organized chaos has shaped his journey. With over two decades of experience, he delved into the complexities of the contracting world, revealing the secret to thriving amid the constant turbulence. 

Priestly recalls one of his most defining projects: Terminal One at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. A mammoth undertaking that stretched the company's capabilities at the time. Despite the overwhelming odds, the team refused to back down. “We didn't say ‘no’,” Priestly emphasized, as they persevered to deliver a tremendous success, instilling 20 years of confidence in the market. This achievement not only bolstered their reputation but also paved the way for continuous opportunities, including a recent runway project at the same airport.  

The significance of Terminal One remains a testament to the company’s unwavering commitment to excellence. It demanded immense coordination and some new, larger equipment purchases. With 12-hour workdays for eight consecutive months, the project was a logistical challenge. Priestly reminisces about a pivotal moment when they encountered an unexpected setback during the final demolition. "The thing didn't fall over," he recalled, revealing the suspense that gripped the team. However, their resourcefulness and the use of specialized equipment ultimately secured the successful completion of the demolition. 

While he acknowledges the difficulties faced in the contracting world, Priestly also recognizes the growth and opportunities that emerge from these challenges. Taking on projects beyond their immediate expertise and succeeding nurtures a sense of camaraderie within the organization. New talents rise, and the team becomes more versatile, expanding its capabilities with each hurdle surmounted.  

Of the Terminal One project, Priestly recalls: “To be done with that job on time with the amount of equipment we had at that time was pretty remarkable. It's just the teamwork that happened and the commitment from everyone. Actually, it allowed a lot of people from within our organization to grow as well.” 

Amidst the trials and tribulations, Priestly makes clear his love for the “organized chaos” that permeates the construction industry. He attributes his passion for thriving in this environment as a vital factor in his success. This attraction to the fast-paced world of construction has allowed him to conquer obstacles with vigor and adaptability, and he stresses the importance of embracing the unpredictability that comes with the territory. 

To be able to predict what's going to happen is almost impossible,” he says. “So to adapt and move onwards and keep your head up and keep positive. It's only for the certain kind, you know, only certain people, and that's probably why there's so many people love it.” 

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