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Focus - The path of construction

image Cloteal Davis Haynes, CEO, Haynes-Eaglin-Waters, LLC, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - Over the years HEW has primarily acted as a subcontractor to general contractors doing interior finishes, and as a small general contractor for projects that are $6 million and under. On February 1st HEW hits 30 years! Here is what’s in store for the 2018 forecast.




How would you describe the state of the construction industry?
    I think this is probably one of the most robust markets for construction that we’ve seen in probably the past 15 years. It’s been a robust economy anyway for construction in Austin. We’ve seen incredible growth in downtown development.

What factors are driving this increase?

    Particularly downtown there is a significant amount of mixed-use development. Austin has seen a number of high tech companies expand which has driven construction development. We’ve seen a number of significant public and private projects, which has benefitted the construction industry in Austin.

Due to the increase in business, how has that affected HEW?

    There has been an increase in residential multi-family development in the city, but my company focuses on commercial projects. It’s been tempting to go and look at residential opportunities because so much is going on here.  It’s important to know your lane and focus on commercial opportunities that are available in the private and public sector. Fortunately there are numerous opportunities in all sectors. We’ve been fortunate to be able to achieve success with public sector projects.

What are the “hot button” issues in your industry?
    Honestly, with so much work going on I think that the key thing for my company is not to extend. Go after things you have the resources to complete. You can get yourself in trouble really quickly if you over extend and over commit.

What is the most significant challenge your industry faces?

    I think we are dealing with a time right now where a lot of the skilled construction labor that was abundant in the ‘70s and ‘80s is dwindling. One of the challenges is we don’t have as many youngsters getting introduced to construction as a profession. I’m happy to see the recent return to construction skills training in schools. So just finding sufficient workers that can perform these skills is a huge challenge. Then with all the weather related disasters that we’ve had over this past year particularly in Texas – we are challenged by labor that goes to where the work is. With the significant need in recovery that is going on in Houston, the coastal cities in Texas, or other states it makes the pool of available workers even thinner.

How is HEW dealing with those challenges?

     First, we are strategic and careful about what we pursue. Secondly, we are trying to find individuals who do not have construction skills or experience, but are interested in getting a job and willing to learn. We bring them on as laborers and pair them with a skilled worker, so they can eventually pick up some of those skills. The key is to find people with a good work ethic who are willing to learn new skills.

What’s on the horizon for your industry?

    I can tell you that every industry is seeing technological advances and if you are unable to keep up with them you will have a hard time being successful. I remember when communication about the work on a project was all done verbally and through punch lists, which were put in your jobsite mailbox. Now communications are instantaneous because everything is on an iPad. To keep up you not only must provide iPads to your workers, but you also have to train your workers on how to use them.

What are the rewards of the industry?

    It’s a great industry. It’s very gratifying when you drive around and point to a building or a project and share with your children or grandchildren that you were a part of making that happen. I remember one of our early projects was the construction of the monument and courtyard for the MLK statue at the University of Texas. It was one of the first jobs that we were awarded as a general contractor. We bid it – we got it – we did it. It was significant not just because I am an African American woman, but it was also significant because I went to UT. For my company to be awarded the contract to build the monument that the statue was put upon and the courtyard where people gather to view that statue – that was huge! To be able to do something that’s lasting and that’s a good product, whether it provides shelter, office space, or a monument honoring a National icon like Martin Luther King, it’s a great feeling to be a part of something like that.

What are the keys to being successful in the industry?
    I think you have to find your passion. Find what you’re good at and stick to it. Never give up. Keep working toward your dream. You’re going to have lots of disappointments and lots of times when you go after bids and you don’t get them. Now 30 years later, I can tell you and everybody else this – sometimes when you bid work and you don’t get it that’s the best “no” you ever received and you didn’t even realize it. It’s not good to get everything you go for and I know that now.
    Haynes reminds us with all the mixed development in Austin to carry an umbrella, sunglasses, and light jacket. 2018 is going to be a mix of all things construction.
    Haynes-Eaglin-Waters, LLC is a general contracting and consulting firm. -lv

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Lexie Velasquez lexie@constructionnews.net