Interview with Emmanouil Sigalas, CEO, Hill International, Greece

Interview with Emmanouil Sigalas, CEO, Hill International, Greece


Hill International is among the US’s 10 largest construction management firms, and across Southern Europe it has been involved in projects in a variety of fields, including infrastructure, hospitality, healthcare, and Oil & Gas. Can you give our readers an overview of Hill International’s historical presence and contribution to Greece so far? What sort of expertise or know-how are you bringing to Greece?

Hill International is a global project management and construction consulting firm, headquartered In the United States. We were a listed company on the New York Stock Exchange until 2022, when we announced our merger with a holding platform called Global Infrastructure Solutions (GISI). In Greece, the company has been active since the 1990s. At that time, we did not have operations in Greece and the Athens office served as the administrative headquarters for our operations in the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East. In 2011, we saw a window of opportunity as Greece had financial agreements with international institutional lenders, IMF and ECB.

A key element of Greece’s financial aid was a far-reaching privatization program. The broader premise of our strategy was based on our belief that Greece would inevitably need to increase the investment attractiveness of its public assets and attract major FDIs. Fundamentally, we believed in the country’s growth potential and the quality of its professionals, especially within our sector. Investors implementing larger capital expenditure programs would require robust management, combining international best practices and level of professional service with locally available technical skills and talent. That was the broader premise of our strategy, but getting to where we are today involved much hard work and sacrifice.

Our commitment to Greece was rooted and solidified during times of crisis. We never pressed the ‘eject’ button, to abort our mission, and we are delighted with how our efforts have come to fruition. During the past decade we have grown to a headcount of more than 300 professionals, involved in distinctive projects of global caliber across the infrastructure, building and energy sectors. Projects such as the Ellinikon, the Athens Metro extensions, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Health Initiative, the New International Airport of Heraklion in Crete, the Capex Program for the Port of Piraeus, and the re-development of the Astir, currently under Four Seasons management and operation. We aspire constantly to continue to enhance and evolve our team and operations.

Our Athens office is currently the headquarters of our European operations. Working as a team, we turned what was an administrative office into the European operations headquarters of a global US project management firm. I am not saying this as an accolade of what we have achieved, but as a case that reflects Greece’s capabilities, especially in the professional services field.

A key pillar of our strategy has been to repatriate Greek compatriots who work with Hill internationally, specifically in the Middle East and in Egypt. We are also hiring from competition internationally, having transitioned from a crisis period when there were no projects and Greek engineers were fleeing abroad, to a time currently when everybody in the market is hiring and having difficulty finding a qualified workforce.

We have an advantage compared to other potential players in the industry with regard to attracting and retaining qualified staff. We are an international firm, with a good portfolio of projects, making it easier for us to attract young, experienced talent, especially working for projects of global caliber. We also offer opportunities to young talent. We combine senior wisdom and young blood, bringing the generations together, using experienced professional, and hiring and developing young Greek talent. We are hiring young professionals and investing in them and their futures.


Can you give us an overview of the key projects that you are currently involved in in Greece?

We currently work across the infrastructure, building, energy and technology sectors. We are the Project Manager for the Infrastructure & Metropolitan Park Program of Ellinikon, the Independent Engineer for the New International Airport of Heraklion on Crete in Greece, and the leader of the Technical Consultant Consortium for the Athens Metro extensions. We also participate in the consortium of the preferred bidder for the Thessaloniki Metro. Additionally, we are the Independent Engineer for the Port of Piraeus and the Project Manager for the Port of Thessaloniki.

We have recently announced several appointments within the Ellinikon master development, including the supervision of the Riviera Tower, the Cove Residences and Little Athens.  We are also the PM for the GRID, a distinctive mixed-use development in Attica by Brooklane Capital and NOVAL properties. We are also the PM of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Health Initiative, which includes the construction of three new exemplary hospitals in Thessaloniki, Komotini and Sparta.

Further to the successful completion of the landmark Four Seasons Astir Hotel Athens, we have been engaged to project-manage the upgrade and expansion of the Vouliagmeni Astir Marina, which is without a doubt a gem in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the energy sector, we work on the Komotini CCGT, which is developed by Motor Oil and TERNA in Greece, and in Cyprus we work on the LNG Terminal project (FSRU). These are just few of the projects that we are involved with. Regardless of its scale, very project is extremely important to us, as it represents a piece of the puzzle in the investment activity in Greece.


The construction industry is growing at a rapid pace, 26% in 2022 and 6% in 2023, driven primarily by investments as part of the RFF, fueled also by the growth of the tourism and hospitality sectors, coupled with rising FDIs. What new trends are we seeing in terms of property and infrastructure development, and how has Greece been able to take advantage of new opportunities in the market?

We are upbeat about the future. Projects of global caliber have already commenced and there is a strong pipeline of projects that can now be funded and implemented, across sectors.

Smaller projects as part of the RFF program are also complementary to key sectors of Greece’s economy, like tourism. Airport enhancements, the revamping of primary and secondary healthcare facilities, motorways, wastewater projects, water distribution, power distribution and the like are also in support of Greece’s tourism growth objectives. We need to have the backbone infrastructure in place to support a holistic growth plan for Greece’s tourism and safeguard the end user experience.

In terms of infrastructure and building projects and the construction sector, there is a significant pipeline, reflected in the backlog of the larger contractors. If somebody looks at the backlog of the Greek contractors compared to 2018, it has now tripled and will continue to increase. However, the market right now is ‘shallow’ because even contractors reach out to the same pool in terms of suppliers and subcontractors. The market’s capacity needs to be enhanced. Currently, there is a potential risk of certain projects being impacted in 2025 and 2026 by a shortage of labor. However, with a structured and institutional approach, and collaboration between the private sector and the State, the issue can be addressed. Competition for resources is not only pan-European but international, especially in our sector as other countries, such as the KSA, draw upon the same pool of experts to support the delivery of trillions of planned investments.


To what extent do you see a push as well towards more sustainability in the project and towards more green development?

There are no modern projects without integrating sustainability features and design principles, from the concept through the design phases and during construction and operation. As project managers, we have a critical role to play in managing projects, in setting out the requirements, and in advocating this to our clients. We are delighted that most of the clients, whether they are real estate companies or developers, have sustainability at the core of their business plan and end-used requirements.

We need to have strong in-house capabilities, to be able to manage sustainable projects from A to Z. The Green Building Council holds its European Circle this year in Athens, and we are supporting this initiative. In addition to the many LEED certified projects that we have managed, the Ellinikon project Experience Park was the first project in Europe to receive the SITES Development Certification. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has always been at the forefront of sustainability in project development. The hospitals, which are designed by Renzo Piano, aim to achieve the LEED Platinum certification.


In a recent interview you said “Privatisations are key for attracting major foreign direct investments into the country, and these are the investments that help reignite the economy, that create jobs, and also set a precedent for additional investments to come into the country. How is Hill pushing its services in view of the upcoming privatization program of the government?


We have extensive experience working as Technical Advisors in the context of Privatizations, appointed by the Sell-side (State) or Buy-sides (investors).

Specifically, since 2011, the Hellenic Republic (HR), has implemented a far-reaching program that has yielded transaction proceeds in excess of €14Billion, comprising a portfolio of infrastructure concessions (airports, ports, rail, motorways), major urban regeneration projects, real estate assets, utilities and an array of other state holdings.

Beyond the direct proceeds of transactions, privatizations stimulate the economy through job creation. Post-financial closing, several investments involve capital expenditure programs and we position ourselves as an extension of the investor’s team in delivering the project. ‘Execution’ is the name of the game, and we position Hill as a trusted and reliable partner in the chain of execution.


S&P and other rating agencies have raised Greece’s investment grade this year due to the latest reforms and political stability. The USA has traditionally been the country’s eighth largest source of FDI, with major players such as Google, J.P. Morgan, Meta, Microsoft, and Pfizer all participating in the market. To what extent do you think this will trigger a new wave of investments in the country and to how is Hill preparing for this?


Without a doubt the upgrade triggers additional investments from institutional investors. Some investments involve significant expenditure, including infrastructure, tourism, and industrial and datacenters developments. We see both foreign and domestic investors of differing profiles being active in Greece.

As a team we remain particularly active on the ground following the maturity of projects, nurturing relationships. We continue to enhance and involve our team with the required expertise. We hire key experts in different sectors and remain ready to support clients once they reach out for a new project.

When it comes to project management, investors either do it in-house or seek a third-party firm. It’s not rocket science; we offer a professional service.

However, most sophisticated investors right now choose to outsource because there is a difference between making an investment and being involved hands-on in all the details of execution. You need to build a larger team, which comes with its own challenges. Hiring, onboarding and deploying people takes time and energy.

Simply put, some prefer to focus on broader issues concerning the success of the investment. However, for us, assembling expert teams and deployment professionals to support the delivery of a project is part of what we do. Through our operational platform, our colleagues can also work in different projects and/or countries, as we cross-pollinate resources across Europe and give our staff the opportunity to evolve their careers.

Leading this iconic American business to support Greece in this next exciting phase of its development is an opportunity to not only stimulate local socioeconomic development but also to strengthen ties between the US and Greek business communities. How would you summarize your vision for Hill, and for construction and infrastructure in Greece overall?


We have never hidden our vision of having the Athens office evolve into the key hub of our operations, ourEuropean headquarters, and we have achieved that vision. As a US firm with a global footprint and strong bonds with Greece, I think we have a substantial role to play in helping the Greek infrastructure ecosystem, by transpiring relationships with Greek firms into the international infrastructure space. We partner with Greek firms for some of our major projects internationally, including Europe, the Middle East and Nort Africa, and this is the mindset and modus operandi that US firms should have.

Greece has come a long way over the past decade and literally shifted gears in recent years. Having been on the ground during the difficult times, we are delighted to see Greece evolving into a stage that attracts international business interest. As far as our services are concerned, this attracts more competition in our field, but we genuinely welcome it.

Looking ahead, we need to collectively establish a new know-how on the back of all these projects that can be exported and be scalable internationally. We also have colleagues from the US, the UK, France, Spain and other countries who are keen to come to work on the Greek projects.  That was not the case in recent years and this shift in attitude is reflective of the change that has been affected in Greece.

In the coming years I also believe that Greek firms, in collaboration with US firms, can also play an important role in the reconstruction of Ukraine.


Closing remarks? 

We are upbeat about the prospects ahead for Greece and circumstances are more promising than ever before.