HPM Contracting

HPM pic copyNew startup HPM Contracting focuses on building a diverse portfolio in Colorado. 

By Kat Zeman

Standing inside the White House Situation Room, Ray Hallquist had a lot of concerns. His crew needed to complete the project with minimal disruption to the building’s No. 1 tenant. Hallquist was employed by Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit Federal Group, a firm hired to renovate the Situation Room. 

“I can’t give you too many details about it, but I can tell you that I worked on it,” says Hallquist, president and principal owner of the newly formed HPM Contracting. “It was probably the most challenging project I’ve worked on because you have to be aware of your surroundings. You have construction work to complete but there’s a certain important person not too far away who’s running the country.”

The Situation Room isn’t really a room, but a sprawling 5,000-square-foot-plus complex that takes up much of the West Wing’s lower floor. For a classified number of taxpayer dollars, Hallquist spent nine months on the project that involved gutting, reconstructing and renovating the complex in 2006 and 2007. 

Earlier this year, two entrepreneurs approached Hallquist about joining them in a new business venture. John Pickford and Alec McDougall – who own several metal panel and glazing companies – wanted to start a general contracting firm.

“I never dreamed of leaving Kiewit Construction,” Hallquist says. “But then it turned out to be an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Centennial, Colo.-based HPM Contracting was born. The three men launched the startup in April. As the newest member of the McDougall Family of Companies, HPM is a general contractor that specializes in a broad spectrum of projects that range from civil and federal to commercial work. HPM Contracting box

“We’ve done jobs that cost $2,000 and we are bidding on work for $15 million,” Hallquist says. “Although I have 22 years of industry experience and my partners have a collective 80 years of experience, the firm doesn’t have much experience because it’s new.”

Forging Ahead

Employee-owned HPM is quickly building its portfolio in Colorado. It recently remodeled a police station for the City of Lone Tree and renovated classrooms for the STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch.

HPM is also remodeling an office building for the Southgate Water and Sanitation Districts in Colorado. That includes a new conference room, additional office space and a new entryway, and replacing carpets and lighting and painting walls. The $350,000 project is targeted for completion by the end of 2017.

“Our plan is to get into larger projects over time,” Hallquist says. “We’re looking at a couple of federal jobs - a data center for the federal government and another job at an air force base.”

The Perfect Job

With more than two decades of experience as a contractor, Hallquist has served as a project manager, leading a variety of field operations and estimating divisions. His experience includes daily oversight of more than $1 billion worth of construction.

Although many contractors stick to a specific area of construction, Hallquist spans the spectrum. He has spent half his career in heavy civil work that includes the construction of highways, freeways, bridges and light rails. The other half has been federal work such as the White House Situation Room project and a $1.7 billion Colorado VA medical center.

“Most people in the industry pick one side, but I’ve had the unique opportunity to work on both sides,” Hallquist says. “A perfect job would be a mixture of both.” His vision for HPM includes a variety of general contractor projects. “I have people that are passionate about commercial work, I have people that are passionate about federal and people who are passionate about civil,” he adds.

Another key figure at HPM is John Todd, the company’s project executive. Todd brings with him 18 years of construction experience, LEED certification and a background in vertical construction. He’s worked on projects that include class A office spaces, parking structures, data centers, military facilities and schools and colleges.

Trends in Trade

As many baby boomers reach retirement stage, a worker shortage could impact construction progress and growth. One of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry is lack of tradesmen and craftsmen, Hallquist says. “There’s a people shortage in the industry,” he says. “You have a lot of baby boomers that will be retiring and we have a craftsmen shortage that is compounding. There are not enough young people that look at construction as a career for them.”

This shortage includes electricians, plumbers, masons and construction workers. “I was talking to an architect last week and his company has equipment onsite but it doesn’t have any people to move the dirt,” Hallquist says. “It’s a problem.” He believes that the industry needs to do a better job of promoting the various crafts associated with construction. “We need to start reaching kids in high school, and tell them there are other options outside of college,” he adds. “College is great for a lot of kids but isn’t necessarily for everyone.”

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