Solid reputation

Having started life approximately ten years ago, as it stands in November 2020 Milis Flatwork is able to undertake any task in concrete construction, from foundations and flatwork to deck slabs and parking lot paving. “We offer the full concrete package from start to finish,” agreed Dylan Milis, the company’s Founder and Owner. “Our projects include multifamily, distribution, industrial, and paving projects, and we service a lot of property management companies.”

The services from Milis Flatwork can be grouped under three broad headings – Agricultural Concrete, Commercial Concrete and Foundations. In the first sector, Milis Flatwork has years of experience in designing and building agriculture MF 168 bfacilities. This means that the company is more than familiar with all of the DNR/NRCS regulations and design standards, and is well versed in creating working relationships with government officials and engineering firms. Within its repertoire of expertise, clients will find feed pads and bunkers, waste storage facilities, free stall barns, grain facilities, poultry facilities, machine shed and storage buildings.

Milis Flatwork’s experience in agriculture also translates to the Commercial sector, where it is able to work on industrial, distribution/ transportation, parking lots, gas stations, commercial retail, multi-family/assisted living homes, super flat floors, and foundations. Indeed, in this last area, Foundations, Milis Flatwork has experience in setting up and pouring all sizes and complexities, including pouring walls from one to 30+ feet tall, using total stations for layout, and the option of multiple wall crews.

This latter point is actually something that Dylan credits as one of the cornerstones of Milis Flatwork’s success. “Our large crew sizes allow us to come in and get the job done in record time,” he asserted. “Furthermore, our crews are some of the most skilled flatwork finishers in the country, who are ACI Certified and who have years of experience and who take pride in their work. Thanks to this, the speed we are able to place and finish our concrete is really second to none.”

Combining this speed of production with a drive to deliver quality, Milis Flatwork is able to offer its clients the ability to adhere to tight schedules and still get a superior product. “We are also equipped to handle all concrete projects from start to finish, which others usually can’t,” continued Dylan, explaining why Milis Flatwork is able to enjoy high levels of repeat business from its clients. “Additionally, we have an in-house engineer and possess the ability to general contract projects for certain clients.”

As Milis Flatwork continues to grow, Dylan and his team are continually recruiting new members of staff, and are looking for hard- working people who have a passion for learning new skills, enjoy working within a close group, and want to be part of a family- focused concrete construction enterprise. “People are what help grow the company,” Dylan confirmed. “Employees are the heart of keeping the company’s wheels go around. We have a family culture here at Milis Flatwork, and by making everyone feel they are a part of the bigger picture we see them taking more pride in the work they do.”

Milis Flatwork encourages new staff to join through generous employment packages that include features such as competitive pay, Per Diem, health and dental insurance, vision, life and short term disability insurance, 401K with company match, paid vacation and an anniversary program. Once staff are on board, there is also a continuing education program, which enables employees to get the hands-on training and certifications.

Having highly skilled crew members is an area in which Milis Flatwork takes great pride, and the business invests time and money in order to see everyone advance their career to the next level. For someone starting in a basic labor position that requires no experience, they can be confident that with the right amount of hard work and positive attitude, growth and advancement are real possibilities at the business.

This approach is backed up by what Dylan describes as ‘the latest and greatest technology’, which enables the business to provide a far better end-result. “We believe in having reliable and well maintained equipment and with that comes MF 168 athe determination to keep it up-to-date,” Dylan stated. “We have three laser screeds that help in landing the accuracy and efficiency we speak of, and we have recently added another laser screed with 3D system to help with production. We have our own in-house pump trucks and conveyor truck that allow us to be self-sufficient and reliable. The whole process works much more smoothly when everyone is in sync with everyone else.”

The business also recognizes that there are contractors out there who would like to take their quality to the next level or are working on longer projects where the production of a laser screed would be beneficial – but they can’t justify the purchase of expensive new equipment. For these clients, Milis Flatwork offers laser screed rental services, with its 3D system available upon request.

Thanks to its successful business strategy, Milis Flatwork has a diverse portfolio of projects to refer back to and a team of staff that are hard-working and dedicated to finishing a quality job. Taking care of these loyal staff members is always a priority, but never more so than this year, with the outbreak of Covid-19 proving a challenge for the entire world. “We implemented a check- in process, so each day prior to arriving at the shop or jobsite there were a series of questions that were asked. If an employee responded yes to any of these questions, further action took place with that individual. The construction industry was fortunate to not take a huge hit due to the outdoor work and we had the ability to put in place safety measures with these check points at jobsites,” Dylan explained, when sharing the particulars of how the business approached the pandemic.

Words can only describe to a certain extent the sheer scale and amount of labor intensive activities that the teams at Milis Flatwork undertake – to truly get a vision of what the crews can achieve, clients can visit the business’ website – http://milisflatwork.com - where the videos of its past projects/contracts perfectly highlight what it can complete for customers. Today servicing all of the United States, with the majority of its work in the Midwest, Milis Flatwork plans to continue to expand going forward. “I think for our future outlook in three to five years’ time, our aim will be to have multiple locations; nationwide established hubs throughout the United States,” said Dylan.

“We have had a lot of milestones through the years, but two of our most significant achievements were completed in the first year of business, when we hit our first million sq ft and when we did our first 1000-yard pour. Nowadays we achieve over five million sq ft a year and pours of over 2000 yards regularly and have established a reputation for excellence across the sector.”

Milis Flatwork has the ability to deliver projects with care and precise workmanship, and that can be on a 1000-sq. ft. addition or a new one million+ sq. ft. distribution facility. Prioritizing the needs of its customers through a professional partnership approach, delivering on customer satisfaction and exceeding the industry’s standards, it is clear to see why Milis Flatwork describes itself as ‘STRONG from start to finish’.

Milis Flatwork
http://milisflatwork.com/
Services: Concrete specialist

Conquering the Concrete Jungle

A leader in the New York City heavy civil construction market for over 30 years, Perfetto Contracting Co. is a family organization that continues to make a positive impact in the communities it serves

There are countless challenges when working in New York City. Not only must a contracting firm negotiate relentless traffic and busy crowds, but unforeseen underground infrastructure issues are common, costs are continuously fluctuating, PCC aand markets are highly competitive industry-wide. It is in this demanding environment – in which so many businesses have floundered – that Perfetto Contracting Co. (PCC) has made its mark, building a reputation for professionalism and quality in completing complex projects for both public and private agencies.

“With over three decades of experience, PCC is equipped to handle New York City’s most challenging projects, including service within heavy civil construction, utility work, waste or storm water work, water main work, parks and green infrastructure, as well as streetscape and resurfacing developments,” explains Stephen Ascoli, PCC’s Vice President of Operations. “What sets us apart is our ability to deliver the highest quality product on time, while emphasizing the importance of our relationships with our clients, vendors, and partners. It is our aim to perform work that has a positive impact on people, our society and the environment.”

Founded in 1986 by Cesare Perfetto, PCC has grown substantially over the years, but the company has never lost sight of its origins. Today, the 2nd generation is well involved to make great strides to carry the company forward. Cesare’s son Chez is PCC’s Chief Operating Officer, and Matthew is co-leading the shop and equipment fleet on behalf of the company. The family nature of the organization is reflected in how it operates, both internally and externally.

“The company has always been heavily involved in giving back to our surrounding communities,” Chez reveals. “We have done several projects where we have donated our resources to help accomplish something for churches and other community organizations.”

“We’ve been involved in some major volunteering efforts over the last 20 years,” Matthew adds, “most notably during 9/11. The firm also performed numerous hours of community service in the crisis following Hurricane Sandy. We believe it makes a difference to society when you do things like that. Most recently, in March and April 2020, we made donations towards PPE and safety equipment for local hospitals in dire straits due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit New York incredibly hard earlier this year.”

Delivering quality
As Stephen suggests, Covid-19 has been an inescapable topic for businesses across the world in 2020, and the situation has been no different for PCC. Reacting quickly to the onset of the virus, the company implemented remote meeting software like Microsoft Teams prior to March 2020, which has facilitated safe and efficient communication throughout the year. As for the firm’s field operations, PCC stayed abreast of all the latest regulations and industry guidelines, as well as creating a Covid Task Team to help with the completion of daily temperature checks, sanitizing, and other additional covid prevention measures.

Though the pandemic forced PCC to entertain new ways of working, the firm has continued to deliver the same quality product for which it is renowned. In February 2020, PCC was a competitive low bidder on a unique $31 million cable suspension bridge project for NYCDOT in Brooklyn. The signature scheme involves the removal and replacement of two pedestrian bridges that span the Belt Parkway in a high visibility location by means of full demolition, new abutment with true arch ribs and bracing, suspension superstructure, concrete deck, and new landing stairs and ramps.

More recently, in June 2020, the firm was pleased to be a competitive low bidder once again, this time on a high profile, four-year project for the NYCDDC. Located between East 14th Street and East 25th Street in lower Manhattan, the development has been many years in the making following Hurricane Sandy. It will address the threat of flood risk to property, landscapes, businesses and critical infrastructure. The project scope includes full reconstruction of multiple parks, new floodwalls with floodgates and complete infrastructure improvements.

People power
Despite the uncertainty around the persistence of Covid-19, PCC continues to thrive. Chez argues that the company’s workforce deserves a large portion of the credit.

“To help the company overcome the challenges it has faced over the years, PCC has always had great employees with a strong depth of experience, the right attitude, and good understanding of accountability when working in and around unexpected changes,” he states. “Much of our success is a direct result of the people we have with us. Along with their dedication to safety, our teams strive for continuous improvement, finding ways to deliver projects early, and always leaving the owner with a quality-built product

“Every day we feel honored to be part of, and contribute towards, making a difference to all the agencies we work for. We’re proud to leave our city a better place as we build roads & bridges, upgrade vital underground water and sewer utilities, and make a difference in a variety of other heavy civil projects for NYC.PCC b

“We’re extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful group of employees, many of whom have seen the company grow from the bottom up,” Tadeo Bolgiani declares, PCC’s Chief Financial Officer. “Every department contributes and we feel we reward that through recognition, career advancement, encouraging personal development and providing support. We are a medium-sized, family organization and our people benefit from that. This is not a large corporate environment; there is a lot of room for opportunity.”

To support its employees, and to help keep them safe, PCC continues to invest in the industry’s latest technology, including GPS, cameras, and state-of-the-art management software. In 2018, the company installed Viewpoint, a complete construction project delivery software designed to improve cost management and help PCC extract better data from the field.

“Better data makes for better decisions, both today and tomorrow,” proclaims Tadeo. “That’s why we’ve added the technological improvements in software.”

Strong values
“Everything else is geared towards safety,” he adds. “GPS, cameras onboard our equipment, and cameras on job sites, are aimed at keeping our people extremely safe, as well as helping to enforce rules and regulations across the board. Safety is critical in every industry, but especially in construction, and technology has offered us a big improvement in health and safety over the last three or four years.”

When it comes to the future, PCC is, in many ways, already well prepared for what the coming years may hold. Alongside its commitment to technology, the firm is highly environmentally responsible and re-uses and recycles onsite material on the majority of its projects. Recent investment in material processing equipment has enabled the company to take concrete and soil removed from a site and transform it into high-quality permanent material capable of meeting client design specifications. It is a green approach to construction in line with modern trends and is not only environmentally beneficial, but also allows for quicker product delivery and as such, the faster completion of projects.

“At the moment, we are growing at a very healthy and steady pace. We’ve competitively bid new larger heavy civil projects in NYC, which have increased our overall revenue and backlog during these uncertain times. With that said, we’re always open to bidding on new scopes of work to expand into, while maintaining our core strength to grow the business and develop our people.”

Success at PCC is derived from each team member’s willingness to unite behind the company’s core values of integrity, hard work, and teamwork. The shared belief and common ethos has allowed the organization to rise to the top, and as a result, Chez and Stephen are always on the lookout for driven, willing, qualified, and talented individuals keen to join PCC and develop with the company on the next phase of its journey.

“In the business today, we have project managers that started with us as junior engineers, and an Assistant Project Manager that became General Superintendent,” Chez says. “We are an evolving business, and our people evolve with us.”

Perfetto Contracting Co
www.perfettocontracting.com
Services: Civil construction

Rising up

An innovative modular manufacturer and design-build firm, Rise Modular is on a mission to revolutionize the traditional ‘stick-built’ construction process

According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, manufacturing productivity has increased by almost 800 per cent over the last 80 years. Conversely, across the same period, construction productivity has increased by only six per cent. To RP aChristian Lawrence, the astonishingly slow, single-digit growth - facilitated in part by a lack of change or development in construction methods - was a major hint that the industry was in desperate need of innovation. It was a notion that would eventually become reality in the form of Rise Modular, a company focused on faster, safer, more affordable, environmentally friendly construction methods.

Not long before founding Rise Modular, Christian returned home to Minneapolis to start a real estate business. After learning that construction costs, and the rental rates resulting therefrom, were rising faster than household income, he soon became fixated on solving the issue with technology.

“Soaring costs have directly contributed to the affordable housing crisis in the US,” Christian says, “and I was certain that technology would be the answer, not just more subsidies. I had read about modular construction being used successfully in Europe and Asia for many decades. It was increasingly being used on the East and West Coast of North America, but had not been done on a large scale, to my knowledge, in the center of the country. We do have a few modular plants in the Upper Midwest, but they are all focused on single family homes and they all, respectfully, turned down a multi-family apartment project I was developing.

“After deciding to go it alone, I visited a few plants and was captivated. The technology made sense from a high level and I could see how it might industrialize construction by way of manufacturing units on a factory assembly line like we do with pretty much every other product in our lives. When I mapped out the closest modular company that could do a large-scale apartment project, it was over 1500 miles away and transportation costs would eat up any savings that could be achieved in the plant. It was clear to me then that there was an opportunity to start a company in the center of the country and serve a market that previously had no suppliers.”

Subsequently, Christian committed to the formation of his new modular business, and in October 2019, he acquired a 150,000-square foot facility in Owatonna, Minnesota, to house its manufacturing operations. After months spent planning, designing, retrofitting the plant, and installing custom machines and equipment, Rise Modular’s Owatonna facility started production in May 2020.

Unsurprisingly, for Christian - not just Rise’s Founder, but also its CEO - the modular construction process itself is the most important technology the company employs. As a result, when designing and equipping Rise’s production facility, the focus was predominantly on ensuring that everything was in place for the process to be as smooth and efficient as possible.

“Modular construction is an entirely different process than traditional stick-built practices. Because most of a project is performed in a factory, on an assembly line, you need to have a facility equipped accordingly,” Christian explains. “Our assembly line is proprietary and we spent months designing it. We also employ automated processes where we think they make sense, for example, our saws are robotic, meaning all wood for a project is cut and labeled by an automated saw and then brought to a station on the assembly line where it is going to be used. Automation in that sense reduces waste because it optimizes efficiency and eliminates errors. It is a reflection of how our whole factory and assembly line is designed – to increase productivity and efficiencies.”

Of course, a factory cannot operate on automation alone, and it is the people at Rise Modular who have made a real difference in the early days of the company’s journey. The modular executives, professionals, builders, and general contractors working for Rise have collectively constructed several thousand modular, and more than 10,000 traditional stick-built, hotels and multi-family projects.

In terms of culture, Christian has instilled a focus on innovation and quality across his workforce and the result is a team relentlessly determined to deliver successful projects for Rise customers - and have fun whilst doing it. When the company embarked on its inaugural project in the second quarter of 2020, the cumulative years of expertise and experience in modular and stick-built construction were successfully leveraged as that is wrapping up on time and on budget.

“We fabricated and stacked our first apartment project in September 2020,” Christian reveals. “All that remains is finishing the exterior of the building and landscaping. The complex will be open before the end of the year. Meanwhile we are excited about starting our second project, which is much larger. Based in St Paul, Minnesota, it is a 200-unit, seven story project - five wood over two concrete - which, like our Minneapolis project, will be the first modular apartment scheme in that city - our state capital.”

As described by Christian, the success Rise Modular has achieved in its first year of business is remarkable considering the circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic has 36presented a major challenge for businesses across the world, and the hospitality industry - a major sector for modular construction firms - has been hit particularly hard. Though the company did lose one hotel project because of Coronavirus, Rise has been able to adapt, pivoting instead toward multi-family RP bmodular projects throughout this year. With activity in a resurgent hospitality sector already picking up for Rise, the distinctive benefits of the company’s work are becoming clearer and clearer to those in the industry.

“We’ve had a number of hotel developers reach out to us in the last month or two about projects to start in 2021, so that is a really good sign,” Christian reports. “It’s obviously been a challenging year to grow a business, but we are lucky because there aren’t any other commercial modular suppliers like us in the center of the country. People come to us because their construction costs are too high and we are a solution to a problem. Our projects are completed 30 to 50 per cent faster, cost ten per cent less, offer better quality, and are more environmentally sustainable than traditionally built projects.”

Among the environmental benefits Christian mentions are a reduction of waste due to the factory environment, easier reuse of scrap materials, and a decrease in emissions thanks to the company not relying on just-in-time delivery insofar as vehicles make fewer trips with greater loads. For these reasons alone, it is not hard to see why modular technology is increasingly viewed as the construction method of the future.

“We really believe that offsite and modular technology can revolutionize certain segments of construction,” Christian states. “Obviously, modular doesn’t apply to all construction types, but for multi-family and hospitality properties, we really think modular can transform the way we do things and we are going to see much more adoption over the coming years.”

What the future holds for Rise is yet to be determined, but all indications suggest that the business is set to grow rapidly. Christian’s vision includes multiple Rise plants around the US by 2025. Interested in more than just expansion though, the company’s CEO ultimately believes that Rise can have a widespread, positive impact on the country’s affordable housing crisis.

“Currently, we are in the pricing phase, or some level of pre-construction, on about 3000 units of projects across the Midwest, including in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Colorado. We think that, once we establish ourselves here, there is great opportunity and demand to bring this technology to other parts of the country,” Christian asserts. “One thing I strongly believe is that modular has the potential to really move the needle on affordable housing. Increasing the housing supply at whatever price point is beneficial to housing costs, but if we can reduce the cost of building subsidized affordable housing, we can increase the number of units being built with a finite amount of subsidy going toward those projects. Ten per cent more units with the same amount of subsidy would be huge for the affordable housing crisis. It’s not the only market we are going after, but we would certainly like to play a role in solving some of the issues that the US faces.”

Rise Modular
www.risemodular.com
Services: Modular construction

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Delivering quality

Over the past 13 years, Precision Precast Erectors has grown into an industry leader, thanks to its culture of excellence and dedication to client satisfaction

To find the moment that sparked life into Precision Precast Erectors, LLC (PPE), we have to travel back to 2007 and a conversation between a contractor called Lou LaVé and his client Walt Worthy. Walt wasn’t satisfied with the building installation options in the market and he asked Lou to set up a company that would undertake the construction of a landmark new office building for him.

PPE a“My father wasn’t going to pursue this opportunity,” says Denny LaVé, the Co-Founder of PPE, “but I looked at it, and I had some background in business, and I said, ‘Dad, let’s do this!’”

Drawing on the expertise that the father and son team had accrued over many years in ironworking, precast and rigging, Lou and Denny created PPE and took on their first construction for Walt – a project with an aggressive build schedule of 62 working days. The fee depended on the ability to deliver quality, safety and incredible speed, and this is where the innate benefits of precast erection come into their own. “Precast erection is like working with adult building blocks,” explained Denny. “The components are all fabricated in a plant environment and then they are shipped out to the jobsite where we undertake the assembly of the pieces to make a complete structure.”

Looking back at that first contract, in an industry where an installation rate of 15 precast pieces per day was exceptional, the PPE team averaged 27 pieces per day. The client was ecstatic with the work, not to mention the time and money saved, and from that point Lou and Denny have continued to steadily roll out the business.

“We are now achieving $10m a year in annual revenue, we have made the Inc. 5000 list five times, we are the go-to pre-cast installer for the manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest, and we have manufacturers from all over the Western US calling us to come and do their challenging installations or help relieve pressure on their current systems,” stated Denny with justifiable pride.

PPE’s impressive rise to its current leading position is underpinned by a philosophy that Denny learned when working with Jay Abraham, an American business executive conference speaker, and author. “I really took his strategy of ‘pre-eminence’ to heart,” Denny revealed. “Essentially this means that you see your clients as people that are under your care and protection, and you really need to take that seriously. You need to care for and protect them at a greater degree than anyone else, and if you do that they will continue to do business with you at a much higher level.”

Denny used this methodology to differentiate PPE from the usual players in the industry, approaching precast manufacturers with the idea that they can work much more closely together. “We got a couple of manufacturers to give it a try and they were very happy with the result; they found that they were able to sell more of their product by partnering with us than by being a standalone service and so they were able to grow their market share substantially, and everybody wins.”

Having started its journey with a pre-cast office building, PPE soon expanded its services and now steel projects make up a significant portion of its portfolio. In fact, the company is able to handle a huge variety of requirements and designs, and it has been trusted to create some incredibly important and significant undertakings. From the FBI Building in Portland, OR, to the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA, PPE’s ability to be flexible, take on unique challenges and achieve tight deadlines have all contributed to its impressive collection of finished schemes. “One project that stands out is the Providence Park Stadium, in Portland, OR,” highlighted Denny. “That was really an interesting and unique project, featuring giant cantilevered raker beams, with seating units going in on top of those.

“We have also done a lot of schools,” he added. “The precast solution and our ability to deliver at a very high rate of production has been something that has really helped our partners and us succeed in this segment, as we can compress the build cycle substantially from a traditional school build.”PPE b

The complex and demanding nature of the builds undertaken by PPE require close working relationships between all parties on site. PPE prides itself on a culture of collaboration and professionalism, not just with external suppliers and customers, but also within its own four walls. “This is another one of the concepts behind ‘pre-eminence’ – your employees and your vendors are seen as your internal clients,” explained Denny. “When you start thinking of your employees as clients, as people that you are obligated to care about and protect, it really forces you to think about and treat them in a different way. That has fostered a culture of respect and loyalty within our business that is really unusual in our industry, which tends to be brash and loud and chase the money. We have found and established a group of men and women who are incredibly loyal, who appreciate the respect and being essentially part of the family, and to be able to take that to scale on even the small degree that we have been able to is really a great achievement for us.”

Denny also describes PPE as a ‘union shop’, sourcing well-trained staff from the union halls and calling on them when extra labor is needed. Usually a very reliable and successful process, with the advent of Covid-19, staff remaining at home and lockdowns being introduced, on a recent project Denny found himself struggling to find staff. His response goes a long way to demonstrating PPE’s overall approach to getting the job done. “One of my best friends, two of my sons and myself went down and undertook the work!” he said.

“While it was frustrating that the labor pool was unavailable, it was a good experience to take my sons on site and show them what it was like.”

Having taken all the recommended precautions for staff to deal with the coronavirus, including temperature checks, face masks, social distancing and working from home where appropriate, PPE has also embraced digital options and taken a lot of its training and meetings online, and Denny believes that this will be an integral part of its success going forward. No stranger to technological innovation, PPE has already been implementing digital solutions for blueprint management and blueprint distribution into its field teams, and looking to the future, this willingness to be at the forefront of new ideas and approaches is going to stand the company in good stead.

“We are making an attempt to venture into solar panel farms and solar power plants,” Denny divulged. “It seems like photovoltaic technology is at a point where it is a good fit for a lot of the sites here in the Pacific Northwest that already have wind turbines established. We are currently negotiating to be the installer of the structural components on a 1600-acre solar power plant and there is something about it that tells me that if this one is successful there will likely be many more.

“The infrastructure and power transmission capability is already there, oftentimes in our region the sun will shine even if the wind isn’t blowing, so it makes sense to layer those renewable resources where the infrastructure is already in place. We think that if we can get into the solar power generation market then that could be a very big step for us as a company.”

Another exciting development for PPE is also underway in the shape of a hybrid construction system that it is working to bring to market. “The technology now exists where we can take the best components from different areas and layer them together in new ways,” explained Denny. “We are working with the North American subsidiary of a Finnish company called Peikko, and we are going to try to combine their structural components with precast and wood components to make a hybrid building structure that is essentially cost neutral to the market. The assembly time should be significantly faster than traditional means of construction. That should allow developers to bring their projects to market and recover their capital more quickly. So, we are excited to see how that goes.”

Undeterred by the challenges that 2020 has brought, and with such ambitious plans on the agenda, the future is filled with positivity for PPE. It is clear to see how Denny earned his title of ‘fearless leader’ and it is going to be exciting to watch as this innovative and inventive business continues to change and evolve, while it cares for and protects both its staff and its clients.

Precision Precast Erectors, LLC
www.ppe-llc.com
Services: Erection services for precast concrete, mass timber & structural building projects

Here to help

For many years now, Southwest Industrial Electric has been proud to serve Southern California and its industrial and commercial electrical needs. Now, in 2020, the company is eyeing further expansion, while maintaining its ‘help’ mentality

Founded in 1988, Southwest Industrial Electric has since been the leading solutions provider to electrical issues in Southern California. A commercial and industrial electrical contractor that predominantly works with businesses directly, Southwest Industrial Electric’s services are tailored to any and all projects of various sizes. Said services include lighting repairs and new installations, control systems, power installations, emergency services, and machine repairs, SEI atroubleshooting and maintenance. Completing thousands of electrical projects each year, these range from complete ground-up builds to underground electrical distribution.

The company’s ambition is to be its customers’ electrician for life. As such, it takes great pride in the relationships that it has built over the years. “A number of our customers have been with us for many years, for instance there is one large distribution company that we have worked with now for over 30 years, and we continue to service many of their locations throughout California to this day,” explains Southwest Industrial Electric’s Chief Executive Officer, Kristin Larson. “We make it our mission to support all of our customers. We exist to help and support our customers. We do everything we can to integrate ourselves into their respective operations in a way that is helpful to them and aids them in achieving their own goals. Therefore, if they ever have an emergency or an unexpected demand, we do whatever is required of us to get them serviced and make things right. Our customers know that they can depend upon us to show up on time and to deliver work that is above satisfactory.”

A major contributing factor to the company’s continued success is the work of its experienced electricians. Indeed, it is the level of professionalism, promptness and competence of its employees that qualifies Southwest Industrial Electric to solve its customers’ electrical problem, no matter how big or small it may be. “As a business, we very much have a ‘help’ mentality running through every facet of our operations, including every member of our team,” Kristin states. “When we bring people into the business, as well as considering past experience within the industry, we look for those individuals who display drive and spirit, and who share a mentality of wanting to help our customers. If they have this, as well as a clear willingness and desire to grow in terms of their own careers, then we feel that they will make a great addition to what is a business with a fun, team-spirited culture.”

The list of clients that Southwest Industrial Electric has had the pleasure of working with over the years reads as a veritable who’s who of well-known organizations, including Amazon, Pepsico, Tesla, FritoLay and Swinerton. “As previously SEI bmentioned, a big area of business for us in recent years has been our work with distribution companies,” Kristin continues. “During this time, we have built up a great deal of familiarity with conveyor systems and how they operate and, coupled with our understanding of controls and how power systems can be best utilized, this allows us to successfully support the build outs of large, new facilities for such clients. Typically, these are high pressure jobs in terms of schedule, and we take pride in meeting such challenges head on and delivering to our clients’ specifications.”

More recently, the company has been solidifying its position within the field of electric vehicle (EV) charging station installations. “As the demand for EV’s increases and the technology powering them advances, so too does the need for a way of charging these vehicles,” Kristin affirms. “Again, distribution companies are a good example of those that are investing more into their fleets of EV’s, and we are working with them to put in place the infrastructure needed to power these fleets. Many of the sites that we have worked on to date are pilot sites, and our experiences thus far give us great reason to be excited about the future of this sector.”

Each year, Inc. Magazine releases its list of America’s fastest-growing private companies – the Inc. 5000 – and in 2020, Southwest Industrial Electric appeared on the list for a third consecutive year having achieved a three-year revenue growth of 145.17 per cent. Speaking at the time of the list being published, Kristin said; “We are honored to be a part of such an outstanding group of companies that have made the Inc. 5000 list, and making the list three years in a row is really a dream come true. We feel very lucky to have our customers, vendors, and team members that we get to work with every day. We would like to thank each and every one of them for their hard work and dedication to what they do. We look forward to continuing to build this company to be able to expand our services to our customers.”

Southwest Industrial Electric’s third consecutive listing on the Inc. 5000 comes during an unprecedented period of time, where the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact across all walks of life. For the company, it was fortunate to have been considered an essential business from the offset, meaning that it was able to continue working with essential entities when many others shuttered operations for several months.

“We immediately set about implementing all of the necessary safety precautions in line with CDC guidelines in order to protect our people, and we had to adapt ourselves, adopting greater use of technologies such as Zoom to maintain SEI ccontact between our employees, wherever they may have been working from,” Kristin adds. “While business levels did slow down, especially when compared to the mid-year periods we have experienced in past years, collectively we managed to push through this to the point where activity is now returning to near-normal levels, which we are very happy to see.”

With this in mind, Kristin opens up about what she hopes the immediate and medium-term future will hold for Southwest Industrial Electric. “In terms of business opportunities, EV service station installation is definitely an area that will remain very exciting for us over the coming years, with several companies already working with us on devising projects that will hopefully come to fruition sooner rather than later,” she enthuses. “We are also actively working towards becoming licensed in multiple states. Currently, we are licensed to operate in California, Arizona and Nevada, and we are now aiming to establish a location in Texas within the next 12-to-18 months. Once established here, our aim is to set ourselves up to operate in as many states as we can, so as to allow us to take on more projects on a national stage. This will again prove invaluable when it does come to working on EV charging station projects, as those companies that we are working with now have grand plans for a nationwide roll out, and aturally we want to ensure that Southwest Industrial Electric is as best prepared as possible to support and help our customers in making their plans become a reality.”

Southwest Industrial Electric
www.southwestelectric.com
Services: Industrial and commercial electrical services

California dreaming

Focusing on the development of multi-family housing projects in core metro areas, Canfield Development is at the forefront of some of Southern California’s most contemporary real estate trends

Based in Los Angeles, Canfield Development is a residential and mixed-use real estate and development firm, founded by company President Steve Erdman. An industry veteran with more than 40 years’ experience in the real estate sector, Steve established Canfield in 1990, and since then, the business has successfully developed countless high-quality apartments, condominiums, and custom homes across the wider Los Angeles area.Canfield a

Described by Steve as a ‘small’ and ‘nimble’ organization, Canfield’s success over the years has been driven by the company’s ability to recognize and adjust to market trends, as well as its capacity to identify properties and locations that are prime for development. From there, Canfield acts as a full-service provider capable of leading a project from land acquisition to handing over the keys.

“Los Angeles is an area where the development process can be very difficult,” Steve says. “The political situation is complicated and, among other things, you have to deal with city officials and neighborhood councils - most of whom oppose construction. We have a very strong movement in Southern California called Nimbyism, which means ‘not in my back yard’, so if you demolish three or four houses and hope to put up an apartment building in their place, there is often a lot of opposition on the grounds of increased traffic, diminished views, and sunlight obstruction. This is why we have a housing crisis in Los Angeles and it can be difficult to bring new products to the market due to these obstacles. At Canfield, our strength is being able to identify these little nuggets and use our experience to navigate through the development process. We offer a complete service from beginning to end that encompasses the identification of land, the entitlement process, the hiring of architects and engineers for design and planning, and finally construction, after which the building is either sold or managed by us.”

When it comes to Canfield’s investment strategy, the company has traditionally focused on acquiring undervalued multi-family and commercial properties in high population, upcoming areas of the Los Angeles Basin, thus achieving long-term capital gains and benefiting local communities. Though the firm is constantly evaluating opportunities, Steve believes that extravagant land costs make many areas of West Los Angeles unsuitable for development in 2020 and consequently, Canfield’s recent projects have been focused closer to Culver City, the heart of Hollywood, and the University of Southern California.

“We approach things with a balanced and conservative mindset,” Steve states. “The most important question we ask before making an investment is, ‘does this make sense economically?’ because, at the end of the day, the amount of land you wish to purchase will depend on how much rent you can eventually collect when the project it completed.

“The areas we are looking at currently are in need of modern housing. When developing in these places, sometimes the city will provide us with incentives, whereby if we offer part of the project as low-income housing, we will receive certain concessions. For example, if we are working on a 100-unit development, the city may suggest a deal that will let us build an extra 30 units, if 10 of those units are designated low-income housing. As an experienced organization, we Canfield bare very familiar with all these legal ins and outs and because the costs are so high, it is very, very important to maximize usage. If you buy a piece of land and can construct 20,000 square feet of living space rather than 10,000 square feet, the land has effectively cost you half of what you paid for it. This is our specialty - being able to seek out these properties and come up with a plan that makes economic sense and that will please our investors.”

Among Canfield’s latest developments are The Estelle and Fig 31, two projects contrasting in style that go to illustrate the company’s wide range of skills and deep industry knowhow. Completed and brought to market in October 2020, The Estelle is a modern, high-end condominium project with 61 units. Each unit has been fully equipped with the latest fixtures and appliances, including Italian furnishings, wooden floors, and coffee machines. Tenants will also be able to make use of various public areas, such as large entertainment rooms, a technologically advanced gym, a pool and jacuzzi area, and three rooftop decks offering spectacular views down to Santa Monica beach and across the city.

A student housing development close to the University of Southern California, Fig 31 may have a different target market to The Estelle, but that didn’t stop Canfield from approaching the project with the same passion and attention to detail. Like The Estelle, Fig 31 is equipped with high-end features designed to best serve its tenants and boasts four seven-story buildings within walking distance of USC. Very modern and highly amenitized, the site contains enhanced access procedures and a variety of common spaces specially-designed for student study and leisure.

“A third thing we are working on is a co-living development called the Hauser project,” Steve adds. “It is very expensive to live in Los Angeles today. In the past, you would have lived far away and commuted, but that option is no longer viable as the freeways are so busy and commuting is expensive and inefficient. The solution is to bring people to the metro areas. The Hauser development is right outside Culver City in an up-and-coming area called West Adams, which is very close to Amazon Studios, Apple, HBO, and many other hi-tech employers that hire younger people in need of modern, secure, clean and affordable housing.

“Hauser units will cost around 40 per cent less than similar sites in the city and the key to this is co-living, which means that we will provide high-end living for less money through the sharing of fully fragmented apartments. The idea is that five people live in a large apartment, share public areas, such as the kitchen and living room, but have their own private, lockable bedroom and bathroom. In addition, these buildings like Hauser have large public areas with the availability of coffee and full wi-fi access, as well as gyms, workstations, study areas, and private rooms for conducting business to support the growing amount of people working from home.”

Steve believes that co-living has the potential to become an increasingly popular trend for younger people working in cities like LA, and as such, we can expect to see many more developments like the Hauser project in the near future. As environmental consciousness increases and social norms change, Los Angeles is finding that younger generations are rejecting the USA’s traditional car culture in favor of cycling, ride sharing, and public transport. As a result, Steve indicates Canfield cthat the real estate sector needs to adapt.

“In general, young people today want to be able to live close to work, walk down in the morning and grab a Starbucks on the way. They want to live in metro areas and hang out with their friends for a drink after work. They don’t want to spend three hours in their cars each day,” he declares. “Right now, in LA, we are in the midst of constructing a fairly elaborate underground train system. It’s a process that will take many years, but slowly, as we bring people to metro areas, traffic will be reduced. Co-living will not only help to lessen traffic in a convenient and affordable way, but also increase human connection, in a city where a lot of people are very lonely, and so there is also a social aspect to this development. I definitely think it is a major trend.”

In a year when many businesses have struggled, Canfield remains strong. Though Covid-19 restrictions led to the company’s offices being closed temporarily in early 2020, construction has continued throughout and Steve reveals that all the firm’s projects have moved towards completion largely unhindered. Though the persistence of Coronavirus and the upcoming US Presidential elections have shrouded the short-term future of the industry in uncertainty, Steve is hopeful that, in the longer-term, Canfield will be able to benefit from a reduction in superfluous bureaucracy and the introduction of a more streamlined LA real estate development process.

“We are dealing with a very difficult environment in California at the moment,” Steve asserts. “We have a housing crisis and a huge homeless problem because housing is so expensive. It is not a construction issue, it is a development issue, and so I would like to see politicians soften and streamline the system, allowing us to build a lot of units more quickly and more easily. It may be that the units have to be smaller, but projects along transportation corridors and in high density core areas would help to soothe the homelessness crisis, reduce traffic, and decrease pollution.”

Canfield Development
www.canfield-development.com
Services: Real estate development

Restoring glory

Specializing in restoration and renovation projects, LS Contracting Group’s focus on building and maintaining key relationships has launched the company on a rapid growth trajectory

In June 2019, LS Contracting Group found itself named among Crain Chicago’s Fast 50, an annual ranking of the fastest-growing companies in the Chicago area. It was a moment to savor for the business. Recognized for a leap in revenue from $18 million in 2017 to $25 million in 2018, the listing was a fitting way to cap off five years of hard work for the team at LS Contracting – a period of time that saw the company grow by over 180 per cent. Speaking to Construction LS aToday, LS Contacting’s President, Thomas Laird, divulges some of the secrets behind the firm’s swift rise to prominence.

“I would say that the heart of the business is our strong culture,” Thomas begins. “The company started in 1999, so this is our 21st year, and 70 per cent of our management team has been with us since the start. When it comes to newer team members, our turnover rate is incredibly low too. Darin Mehrings, Senior Project Manager of 20 years, and Maria Lobo-Corey, Controller of 18 years, have been instrumental and an integral part in the success of our organization.

“Our values are taking care of our clients and ensuring we maintain long, fruitful, repeat client relationships. We have an incredibly strong and committed customer base that really appreciates our commitment to continuously high performance and competitiveness in our market. We’re willing to do a job from a couple of hundred dollars, right up to $5 million dollars in revenue. The fact that we are able to commit to those small, challenging, little projects is greatly appreciated. We believe that our most important project is whichever project we are currently working on, and so smaller jobs receive exactly the same quality and attention as the larger ones. A lot of contractors only want the larger projects, so our willingness to take on anything is a real differentiating factor.”

A company on a mission to ‘restore, preserve, and build’, LS Contracting is a full-service commercial general contractor with experience in a wide variety of services including new construction, alteration, commercial office build-out, lobby renovation, common area updates, and plaza repair services. Over 70 per cent of the firm’s revenue, however, is provided by LS Contracting’s specialization in restoration projects, which incorporates complete building envelope restoration whether it be masonry, terracotta, structural concrete repairs, waterproofing membrane repairs, or curtain wall restoration.

Among the most celebrated examples of LS Contracting’s restoration work is a project the company performed for the Lakeview Presbyterian Church. A complete exterior façade renovation, the work included the rebuilding of a deteriorated bell tower, installation of code-compliant fire-resistant wall systems, installment of architectural cedar shingles and siding, and new leaded glass window units. Each individual element was directed towards restoring the historically significant church’s original 1888 design – an undertaking that proved successful and earned LS Contracting the Exterior Renovation Project of the Year Award from the American Institute of Architecture. Grateful for the recognition, Thomas suggests that the award is an endorsement of the way the company approaches its work.

“We self-perform 80 per cent of the specialty restoration and repair work that we do and at least 50 to 60 per cent of the more standard commercial general contracting. Our ability to complete a successful project like at Lakeview Presbyterian is down to the skill and experience of our team members onsite, but also our ability to effectively manage a project, ensuring extensive communication with the owner with regard to setting expectations, creating a mutual LS bschedule, adhering to that schedule, and then completing the long- lasting work in an exemplary, economical, and competitive manner,” Thomas explains. “I think we have generated that culture and it is carried down to our employees at all levels. They understand the importance of performing the work in a top-quality manner and making certain that we are setting out and meeting initial expectations. The dialogue and interface we have with our clients while work is being carried out is what generates the repeat business. It’s the relationships we develop with people that keeps them coming back.”

Having been in the business for over 20 years now, LS Contracting has built up a vast portfolio of general contracting and specialist restoration projects for a diverse collection of clients. In 2017, the company won the ICRI Chicago 2017 Project of the Year for concrete restoration work performed on Lake 44Michigan’s Harrison-Dever Water Crib, proving that even offshore projects cannot slow the business down. The public trail of success, and the award-winning projects themselves, have not gone unnoticed by potential clients.

“With regards to the consultant engineering community that we work with, we have become a very well-respected contractor that performs excellent work, very competitively,” Thomas declares. “At the end of the day, if owners are happy, then consultants are happy, and if the consultants are happy with our end product, then we become a more favorable contractor to work with.

“Our reputation is growing all the time and people know that we are not combative. We are problem solvers, rather than problem makers. I think some contractors can have a very rigid philosophy where they stick to the scope of the work in any instance. At LS Contracting however, we are open and agreeable to things like scope modifications. It’s about building relationships and going the extra mile. If that means we don’t nickel and dime and change order every modification, then so be it. I think that goes a long way.”

LS Contracting’s flexibility has been particularly useful in 2020, a year marked by uncertainty and change. Considered an essential business in the state of Illinois, the company was able to continue working on a number of projects, but restrictions put in force to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic did mean that around 20 per cent of the company’s developments were put on hold. Still, it wasn’t long before LS Contracting was back out in the field.

“As soon as shelter-in-place orders were lifted, we put all our workforce back to work, which was around 85 to 90 employees,” Thomas reports. “Our admin and office staff were set up a week before restrictions were enforced, so they were LS cable to continue working efficiently and productively from home. For the most part, our project management team remained in the office, abiding by Covid-19 requirements we established and in line with a pandemic plan we had in place within the organization.

“It’s been challenging,” Thomas adds. “Our revenue is about 15 per cent off last year and our work backlog, when compared to last year, is down around 20 per cent. Nevertheless, we know we have been extremely fortunate when compared to many other businesses. The fact that we were considered essential by the state of Illinois and city of Chicago helped us significantly.”

Having successfully negotiated the major obstacles presented by 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, Thomas is confident that LS Contracting will now be able to adapt to the times, targeting its offering towards contemporary trends and requirements. Whatever happens over the next 12 months outside the walls of the company, LS Contracting will be taking assured and methodical steps forward.

“I think there is going to be a course of interior office modification and renovation as a result of the pandemic and the unfortunate circumstances it has created in terms of forcing businesses to find ways to install safe distancing and other restrictions,” Thomas states. “We are also going to make a concerted effort to do a marketing blast aimed at all existing clients, as well as trying to establish a list of new potential customers.

“One thing I’m certain about is that there will be some recession components coming into play at some point, but we have historically been very successful, even in the downturn between 2008 to 2010. There are necessary maintenance, restoration, and repair works required on any building or owner’s asset and so that benefits us. Like in 2008 to 2010, we will now drill down and focus our marketing efforts on our ability to do minimum necessary repairs and restoration. The fact that we are experienced in navigating and completing that work will be 45very helpful in the coming year or two. Even in the current climate, I see no reason why we can’t achieve $50 million in construction revenue across the next five years.”

LS Contracting Group
www.lscontracting.com
Products and Services: General contractor specializing in restoration and renovation

Community driven

A second-generation, family-owned and operated business, Johansen Mechanical Inc. has built its nearly 40 years of success on the back of long-term connections with its customer base, its employees, and the communities that it works within

It was in 1983 that Allen Johansen established his Washington State-based business, Johansen Mechanical Inc. (JMI), primarily as a sheet metal and HVAC construction entity. “In its early days,” begins second-generation President and Owner Keith Johansen, “the company mainly focused on delivering small, commercial HVAC tenant improvements. Over the years, it evolved to include HVAC service and maintenance, and custom architectural metals, along with controls and energy-saving retrofits. We have also become licensed as a General Contractor, performing select bid prime HVAC replacement projects, where the project scope is substantial in terms of mechanical and/or HVAC work.”JOhansen a

In 2004, Keith and his business partner – and now Vice President – Derek Holm formally took over the management/ownership of JMI following the retirement of Allen. Since that time, the company has remained profitable each year, including during the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. “JMI has always promoted ‘quality work’ and a family culture, which in turn leads to a more personal customer service experience,” Keith continues “We don’t promote ourselves as being the lowest in terms of cost, but rather as providing real added value and ensuring that we take care of our customers in the long-term. The repeat business generated via this approach has helped JMI to survive economic downturns, including that which the world is currently facing with the impact of Covid-19 to the commercial construction industry.”

Companies that JMI has performed work for over the years include the likes of CenturyLink, Verizon Wireless, T Mobile, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Expedia, BPA and Boeing to name a few. JMI also carries out work on numerous public and private projects. At the time of press, it was working on a new Math & Science building for Overlake School in Redmond, two new Fire Stations for the city of Tukwila, and had recently completed the new Tulalip Gathering Hall in Marysville.

“JMI provides a great range of services, from our quality HVAC fabrication to custom stainless or blackened steel handrails and stairways, as well as 24/7 service and maintenance and round-the-clock customer care,” Derek states. “Our HVAC ducts and fittings are professionally cut and processed, meeting or exceeding SMACNA standards, while our specialty metals division fabricates all types of products, from corner guards to radius hand and guard rail systems. JMI has a high degree of expertise in this area, with our professional welding personnel certified in all welding processes.”

After operating out of its facility in Woodinville, WA for 37 years, it is perhaps understandable that the company would eventually find itself restricted in terms of things like shop space and outdoor storage. It was serendipitous therefore that an opportunity would present itself for JMI to purchase a larger, almost four-acre, facility with plenty of storage space, increased warehouse capacity, and ample onsite parking in Monroe, WA. Having completed a major office renovation in June 2020, JMI commenced in moving its entire operations to the new site.

“We didn’t add any new equipment when we moved, but what we did do was carefully lay out all of our shop equipment to obtain the maximum productivity flow in the shop,” Keith explains. “The new shop has a 24’ wide roll up door for loading 20’ sections of material, and we can now have delivery trucks drive right up to the front, whereas at our previous location we needed to block one lane of the street and offload trucks with a forklift. Needless to say, it has made JOhansen bmaterial deliveries flow in a much smoother way!”

The majority of JMI’s custom metals projects are ‘design build’, where it works with architects and contractors to turn a concept into something that can be fabricated in its shop. For this reason, the company has endeavoured to remain at the cutting edge when it comes to its processes and technology. “Our computer operated Hi Def Plasma cutter, with its CAD expertise, can cut all metals with great accuracy,” Derek says. “There is a catalogue of HVAC fittings and with CAD, JMI can cut anything that you can draw from the HVAC world. Having CAD and other modelling programs that drive our equipment allows JMI to be at the forefront of fabrication. Meanwhile, having the correct amount of space in our new facility allows efficiencies to increase.”

Since the advent of Covid-19 – and more specifically late March 2020 when the pandemic began to take hold in the United States – JMI has further utilized its technological expertise to develop a new product to assist with PPE shortage challenges, one that it calls Hands Free UVC (www.handsfreeuvc.com). Sold through a new satellite company of the same name, it is a hands-free, stainless steel disinfecting chamber that utilizes UVC light at a particular dose to disinfect any items placed inside. One dose lasting 90 seconds will eliminate 99.9 per cent of most known pathogens, including Covid-19. In removing hand controls, the chamber prevents the transfer of pathogens from one user to the next, and with the UVC system remaining dry at all times, products that come out of it are ready to use, making it especially useful for the disinfecting of masks and sports equipment.

Drilling down into the multi-year success of the business, Keith draws particular attention to the efforts of its people. “It is 100 per cent true to say that employees can make or break a company, and we are fortunate at JMI to have a large number of dedicated, long-term members of our team,” he enthuses. “They know our focus is on quality and customer service, and if we don’t keep our customers happy we would not survive in what is a competitive construction market. Our goal is to create a culture of family and fun, where employees feel valued.

“Among the things we do to reward our people is hold an annual holiday party, normally in January, that the whole family is invited to. We have a company fishing trip to Chelan over in Eastern WA in late April, and we do monthly barbeques. At our new facility, we have a covered outdoor barbeque area with a water feature, and a second-floor mezzanine 40featuring a large break area complete with ping pong and shuffleboard table, and a Pacman/Gallaga arcade game. We also hold regular safety meetings, because everyone working and staying safe is a major deal here at JMI. We recently received an award from AGC for having an Employer Modification Rate that is as low as you can go. This benefits both the company and its employees, by having a lower cost for workplace insurance.”

The company’s approach to its people also extends out to its local community, with JMI having participated in numerous events and initiatives over the years, including supporting the local Sky Valley Food Bank, RAVE Foundation, various charities, and Boys and Girls clubs. In the case of the latter, the company has recently sponsored its countrywide virtual auction by donating two live auction items. In the near future JMI will also be building a custom stainless steel counter for an outdoor kitchen area for the World Relief Seattle community garden in Kent WA.

“Our motto of work hard/play hard has been another key to our success and has allowed us to have some fun along the way,” Keith declares. “My own passion is fishing and being any place out on the water. I am a partner in a fishing lodge ‘Screamin Reels’ on Prince of Wales Island in Craig, Alaska (www.screaminreels.com), which is a great place to get away to for a few days, and be able to bring friends, family, and customers to experience this remote and beautiful part of JOhansen cSouth East Alaska. Derek’s passion is racing, which has been a family event with his wife Cindy and two boys since they were in pre-school 15 years ago. They started with quarter midget go carts, but have now evolved to race on the big track at Evergreen Speedway going 140mph!”

In the years ahead, JMI’s focus will be channeled towards continuing to work with select customers and niche markets, as well as making an ongoing positive difference in its local community. During this time, it also intends to begin strategizing over an ownership transition plan to guarantee the long-term future of the business.

With this in mind, Keith has one other important message to share. “As anyone in a similar position will know, business is challenging, requires a huge time commitment, and can take a toll on you as an owner. I can proudly say, however, that the support and understanding of my wife Laura has made a big, positive difference and has influenced both our family and corporate achievements,” he declares.

“The long hours away from home do, at times, get taken for granted,” Derek agrees. “That is just one of the reasons why I am also hugely appreciative of my wife Cindy’s support over the years.”

Johansen Mechanical Inc. (JMI)
www.johansenmech.com
Services: HVAC and custom metals fabrication

Modern family

Blending traditional values with state-of-the-art technology, McKnight Construction has become a full-service construction business with a reputation for high quality craftsmanship and long-lasting relationships

Since its incorporation in 1961, McKnight Construction has been providing superior quality commercial construction throughout the Southeast United States. A full-service construction company, the firm was founded by Mason McKnight Sr in McKnight a1929 and has been family-owned and operated ever since. Today, third-generation family member and company President Will McKnight is at the helm. Having seen revenues grow significantly since taking up the role, Will is now welcoming fourth-generation family members into leadership positions at McKnight - a move he hopes will drive the company towards achieving its full potential.

“With each generation, the company has grown and diversified, innovating, changing and modernizing, yet remaining in line with our traditions and family values,” Will says. “What sets us apart is our willingness to combine old school values with modern innovations. As a family company, we value our team members and their families as an extension of our own. That type of support is evident in the longevity of the careers at McKnight, which all benefits the quality of work we produce and the enjoyable process of partnering with us. We create an integrity and efficiency not possible with any other company. It’s the reason that our clients come back to us over and over again.”

Specializing in large commercial projects - including all types of institutional buildings for local, state, and federal governments, as well as various contracts for the US Army Corp of Engineers - McKnight’s complete package of construction services takes projects from design to completion. Thanks to the company’s long history, McKnight’s estimators, project managers, and field teams are widely experienced in everything from occupied school campuses to historical renovations, private business outfits to high security federal facilities. This experience, paired with the company’s family ethos, has resulted in a workforce with a wide and varied skillset, committed to completing every project safely, efficiently, on time, and with integrity.

“Our family values spread through our entire company culture, and it affects everything we do,” Vice President and Director of Business Development Jane Marie Kinsey declares. “The family nature of the business has been particularly important since the outbreak of Covid-19. In one way or another, the pandemic has resonated in every area of each person’s life, and as a company, we feel responsible for our people. That responsibility looked unique for each team member based on their circumstances, but the familiarity we feel with each person helped us address each concern individually. Working mothers educating their children at home were given support to change their office schedule to McKnight baccommodate this stressful and exhausting additional workload. Meetings were moved to video conferences, and site meetings were moved outdoors. Masks and PPE were distributed to all sites, along with hand washing stations and signage reminding our staff 34about social distancing. Lastly, we established a company newsletter to help distribute information, company policy, mental health resources, and the many updates that have been available during the pandemic.”

Despite the challenges presented by Coronavirus, McKnight and its team continue to tackle some of the most exciting commercial projects in Georgia and South Carolina. Among the company’s latest work is the construction of Fairforest Middle School, a brand-new facility in Spartanburg, SC. Alongside modern design features like outdoor eating areas and open common spaces, the school includes an observatory and planetarium. Ceilings and mechanical rooms are exposed to allow students to see the inner workings, and the terrazzo is glow-in-the-dark and depicts the solar system. Throughout September and October 2020, the firm has made commercial bids for six more major projects.

“We’re proud of every project we complete,” Director of Marketing and Procurement Blakely Downs asserts. “Each one serves the community in different ways, and we are honored to be a part of those communities. As well as Fairforest Middle School, we recently completed renovations of varying floors in a historic skyscraper in Downtown Augusta, GA. While all of the offices feature sweeping views and share the landmark property’s character, each was outfitted to fulfil its unique needs, whether it was a high security SCIF for classified military information, or shared common areas to facilitate team building.

“In September, we finished South Carolina’s Charleston Center for Advanced Studies, which not only includes beautiful design and craftsmanship, but will be used to train the workforce we so desperately need in our industry, as well as others. We feel privileged to contribute to the education of the next generation, and to do so for our trade in particular makes it extra special.”

As the fourth-generation of McKnight’s begin to shape the company’s future, technology is becoming more influential in the way the business operates, benefitting the construction firm at every stage of its process. From the early stages of design and estimation, outreach software called iSqFt enables McKnight to communicate with a variety of the most competitively priced and highly rated potential subcontractors, no matter the network or scope. Additionally, as bids get more complicated, the software allows McKnight to seamlessly communicate updates, addendums, and RFIs with all of its prospective partners.

In the design and construction phases of a project, when schedule and budget are arguably the biggest concerns for owners, Primavera software ensures McKnight’s schedule is maintained, as well as effectively communicated to all partners. McKnight cRegarding budget, Sage 300 keeps all contracts, finances, holdings, payroll and inventory organized and managed to guarantee that the company’s focus remains on its clients.

Communication is often cited as one of the most vital and challenging aspects of any construction project, but McKnight has technology to assist with that too. As clarifications, changes, answers, or updates occur, circulating that information becomes increasingly important and PlanGrid software allows the firm to upload and share project plans, as well as add notes, amendments, and even photos.

“Innovations such as the photo function in PlanGrid have proved invaluable for us, especially in the punch list phase because once an item is complete, it can be checked off with a corresponding photo,” reports Field Project Manager Davis Heigle. “A sense of balance is important too though, and while the fourth-generation has introduced such useful technology, we still appreciate what has kept McKnight Construction successful since 1929, and that is our teams and our quality of work. Technology is only as good as the people who use it, and we’ve got the best people in the business.”

“Thanks to the hard work of our employees, we’ve reached a few milestones this year of which we’re particularly proud. Our safety record continues to stand as a testament to our standards and protocol, and through efficient checks and balances, we’ve created a work environment where our people feel safe. We’ve kept our EMR rating below 1.0 for well over five years now, and not long ago, we received the prestigious Lighthouse Beam Safety Award from BB&T Insurance.

“Our teams are our family, and we’re exceptionally proud of how long we have all worked together. One team member will celebrate being with McKnight Construction for 50 years next September and another team member has reached 45 years. We also have an employee who is the third-generation of his family to work for us. It all goes towards the creation of a special type of comradery and teamwork that I have never seen anywhere else.”

A construction firm with a difference, McKnight is working to change the world around it for the better – both through its construction projects and its dedication to the communities in which it operates. Fully embracing its corporate and social responsibility, McKnight recently won a LEED Silver Project at Moody Airforce Base and, thanks to an in-house LEED specialist, proudly upholds LEED standards in all its work. Additionally, the new technologies in use at McKnight have supported its efforts to become a paperless organization.

An active presence in its local community of Augusta, Georgia, McKnight continues to find ways to help its hometown thrive and has recently worked in some of the city’s Opportunity Zones, helping owners take advantage of the reduced capital gains taxes available. The work is indicative of how McKnight perceives the future – an opportunity to develop the lives of the people it comes into contact with on a daily basis, both inside and outside the business.

“Our three to five-year plan predominantly focuses on our team members,” Jane reveals. “Our industry is typically a tough one, with hard deadlines and pressure, and we want to work on congratulating our workforce, as well as providing career development opportunities to ensure they get the kind of training and support that will help them to advance their careers. In that same vein, we want to focus on our future workforce too, supporting the youth of our communities and encouraging them to pursue training in specialties that have such huge opportunities. At McKnight, we not only want to fill a need in our industry, but we also want to support young people in finding a clear path to success.”

McKnight Construction
www.mcknightconstructionco.com
Product and Services: Full-service construction firm

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