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Spotlight - Marty Burger, American Constructors

image American Constructors’ CEO Marty Burger

AUSTIN - Engineering has taken Marty Burger from an Oregon farm, to Hawaii, to Austin. In 36 years, it has also taken him from field engineer to CEO of American Constructors. Along the way, he has learned valuable lessons that he takes with him as he continues the work he loves.

 

 

 

Share about your background.
    My dad was a dentist in Portland, OR and I was born in Portland and grew up there in my younger years. We moved to a little rural farming community just west of Salem, so I spent my formative years on an Oregon farm. I went to a very small high school; there were a total of nine kids in my graduating class. 
    I always knew I would go to college, and I enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis. I initially majored in general engineering and changed to construction engineering in my junior year.

Why did you study construction engineering?
    Construction is very tangible to me. Growing up on a farm there was a lot of hands-on experience. I got to help build grain storage bins, a barn and a number of building renovations.  Though small, those projects were fun and engaging. Construction Engineering was a relatively new degree program at OSU.  It was led by a very dynamic group of professors, and I immediately fell in love with it.

How did your career unfold after college?
    When I graduated in 1981, like most kids I initially wanted to stay near home. I had a number of job opportunities around the country, but not one of them was in Oregon. I took a field engineer job in Honolulu, HI, and by the end of my first day I knew I had chosen the right profession, and a great company where I would learn a lot very quickly. The company specialized in building high-rise concrete framed condominiums. In a boom-ing Honolulu market, the high costs of construction and the fast pace of the work created an environment that valued inno-vation and fostered creative construction methods.  Many of the technologies I learned in my time there have carried over to American Constructors today.

Did you experience culture shock, moving from Oregon to Hawaii?

    Growing up on a farm and moving to Honolulu was quite different culturally. It taught me so much about life that has stayed with me even today. In Hawaii, if you work to become part of their culture, you are immediately welcomed; otherwise, they think you are just a temporary visitor.  I embraced their culture, and loved their food, so I fit right in!

What brought you to Austin?
    Bill Heine, the founder of American Constructors, was an Operations Vice President in charge of recruiting for the construction company in Hawaii, and he hired me after I graduated.  Bill left Hawaii and came to Austin in 1982 and started American Constructors.  I joined him in Austin about a year later as a field engineer and assistant superintendent.
    The economy was starting to turn south in Hawaii, and I was ready to pursue other opportunities – including starting a family – but I chose American Construc-tors because I trusted Bill. He established a culture of innovation and excellence that allowed us to succeed from the very beginning. I’ve been with the company for 36 years this month.

What lessons have you learned in the past 36 years?
    Most people think construction is about bricks and mortar, but it is a very people-focused business. It’s something you learn very quickly – it’s about your team, your clients and your partners.
    The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to treat people right – with respect – because it will come back to you. At American Constructors, and from Bill Heine in particular, I learned to do the right thing from the beginning, even when it’s hard. Often, people look for the easy way out, but it’s best to do what’s right from the very beginning.
    I’ve learned that no matter what type of work you are in, but certainly in construction, you will excel when you own the work, and own the process.  This is one way that you can truly differentiate yourself and your business.

What do you enjoy about your work?
    I enjoy construction because I love working with people and solving problems.
    I enjoy producing something tangible: a building, a house, an apartment, a place where people work and live. Recent-ly, we helped celebrate the opening of a new elementary school.  Watching the excitement of those young children while they explored their new space for the first time was heartwarming. It’s moments like that when you really appreciate being in the construction business and how purposeful and tangible it is.
    Another part of this business that I love is seeing young, new employees learn, grow and become building professionals.  Many now have children, and I want to be there to help them provide for their families. It’s very gratifying to see people stay with our company for such a long time.

What advice do you have for those wanting a construction career?

    Construction is not for the faint of heart. You have to work hard and be humble. Humility will get you a long way in this business. At American Constructors, we constantly strive to listen, to learn and to improve.
    I advise new people starting their career in construction to raise their hand for every task that is available. You’re going to learn so much more – and much faster – than your peers, and your attitude will differentiate you. And always put people and customers first.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

    My wife and I live in Austin and we have four grown children. I enjoy spending time with people, being outdoors and working. That doesn’t necessarily mean construction work; it could be yard work or helping a friend or neighbor.  
    I travel some, for business, and we travel to see family and friends across the country.  We also work on our bucket list when we have time; last year included some “leaf peeping” in the northeast.  There are many places we still want to see.

Is giving back to the community a key focus for American Constructors?

    Philanthropy has always been a focus at American Constructors, and I take pride in how much our entire team has leaned into this aspect of our company culture. When the company was formed in 1982, Bill was already involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs, and we continue to support that organization among many others today.
    The American Constructors Foundation, which we recently launched, focuses on bringing lasting and positive impacts to communities by funding charitable and educational organizations, providing scholarships and more to benefit the community.

What are your future plans?

    I plan to work at American Constructors until I retire, and even after that point I want to be here for the company as long as I can help and be useful.
    General contractor American Constructors in Cedar Park offers pre-construction, construction, specialty and facility services for K-12, higher education, commercial and municipal projects for all of Central Texas. – mjm


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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net