5 questions with Chris Burnett
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2012
5/11/12 at 5:02 AM
Chris Burnett is president of Southwest Operations for Nabholz Construction Services in Tulsa, as well as the 2012 president of the Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma-Building Chapter. He began his career at Nabholz in 1994 as a project manager, later served as general manager of the Oklahoma City satellite office and was appointed president of Southwest Operations in 2005. Burnett holds a bachelor's degree in construction management from the University of Oklahoma.
1: In general, how are commercial builders faring? Are there enough jobs to go around now that the economy is improving?
In my opinion, we're seeing some improvement in project opportunities in light of positive economic trends recently, but the competition is tough among the general contracting community. Fees for construction services are very compressed, which is helping to drive more building activity, especially in the major metropolitan areas.
With regard to the question about the number of jobs - projects - to go around, I believe that most all of my competition, in addition to my company, would say "no." Tulsa enjoys a number of very qualified subcontracting and general contracting firms, all of which are vying for good project opportunities. Collectively, we could all use additional projects.
2: What types of commercial buildings are in the most demand? Have those types changed after the recession and recovery?
Right now there's obviously a lot of activity in the downtown area, with commercial mixed use and hospitality venues. We're also seeing an increase in rural health care clinics and rural municipal work.
The most significant change we've experienced is that the amount of K-12 school work has diminished. The last several years had seen significant spending due to major bond issues being passed in some of the larger school districts such as Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Jenks, which really diminished the impact of the recession on the construction industry.
3: Are there enough skilled workers to meet demand, or is there a strong need for additional tradesmen in specific roles?
With regard to jobs, we're seeing a real need for qualified tradesmen in most all categories and an even greater need to fill positions in the management ranks. It would appear that we're heading for similar labor challenges as was experienced in '07 and '08.
4: How long has Nabholz been operating in the region, and how has the company been able to grow here?
Nabholz was established in 1949 and has been continually growing for the past 63 years. We've been operating in Oklahoma for the past 22 years with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
We've experienced our most significant growth in the last 10 years by dealing with the highest level of integrity in our relations with not only our customers but our subcontractors and suppliers. We honor our commitment to deliver the highest-quality product and ensure that everyone we work with feels that they've been treated fairly.
5: What are some of Nabholz's current projects in the area, and what is the company's general strategy for Tulsa in the near future?
Heritage Elementary, Pushmataha Hospital, Will Rogers High School Cafeteria, Wadley Clinic, NSRF renovation, Atoka Elementary, Bixby Middle School, NSU multipurpose arena, Rhoades Elementary, Arrowhead Elementary, Broken Arrow Optometry, Spring Creek Elementary, Leisure Park Elementary, Vandever Elementary, Tulsa Public Schools Eugene Field, TPS Kendall Whittier, Lynnwood Elementary, Oklahoma State University Energy Center and OSU Library renovation.
In general terms, our strategy is to increase our market share by diversifying our client base and creatively expanding our service offering with other niche business units that have proven to be successful in other areas within our geographic footprint.
Most importantly, make sure we're executing our projects well and taking care of the basic blocking and tackling that's crucial to a project's success.
STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World