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Focus - The way to no college debt

image Garrett Hart, President/Master Plumber, Hart Plumbing Southwest, Inc., Sugarland, TX

HOUSTON - Hart spent his summers working in the field of his family’s company. He earned his bachelor’s and then his master’s degree, to take a leading role in the company. Armed with a tremendous degree of education and his experience in plumbing, Garrett has been leading the company for over 10 years.



How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms?
    I can’t speak for the entire construction industry but multi-family is booming right now, in major metroplexes like Houston, especially.

Have you experienced an increase/slowdown?

    There has been a large increase in multi-family construction.

What factors are driving this increase/slowdown?
    I believe the increase is due to more jobs that have become available in Houston, creating more demand for apartments and new living spaces. More people are also trending towards apartment living over home ownership lately.

How has this increase/slowdown affected your company and how you conduct business?
    We have increased our office staff and field staff, almost by double over the past few years. It’s very difficult finding good skilled plumbers that are capable of building 400 units of apartments in a year’s time.

What are the major changes in the industry in recent years relating to the type of work you do? 
    There is so much work going on that general contractors are just throwing bodies at the jobs to man them and a lot of the time they don’t know what they are doing. Very inexperienced superintendents and project managers create headaches for all the subs working for them and so on down the chain.

What is the most significant challenge your industry faces? (i.e. labor shortage, other)

    The biggest challenge would be the lack of skilled trade workers. There aren’t as many people going into trades as there are going into colleges and it shows. Spending four years to become a journeyman plumber while getting paid and accumulating no college debt can get you a  huge head start on a career.

How are you dealing with these challenges?

    We are dealing with the labor shortage challenge by offering as many incentives as we can – bonus packages, 401ks, health/dental/vision insurance, gym memberships, company parties and trips.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?
    Absolutely. We just bid a job for a general contractor from Fargo, North Dakota.

What are the cost increases relating to your industry?
    Skilled workers are demanding more money – and rightfully so – if they are good at their jobs. Uncertainty with the issues in China and tariffs doesn’t help either because a lot of our fixtures come from there.

What is on the horizon for your industry?

    Getting all foreman equipped with smart phones and tablets is a must these days. We’ve also recently upgraded our
office phones to Avaya IP and our estimating software as well.

Have there been any significant code changes in the past year? Or regulations?
    New energy codes popping up have affected our costs quite a bit. Lower flow fixtures, increased insulation requirements, and changes in more efficient water heaters have all effected the bottom line.

What are the rewards of the industry?

    As stressful as it can be, it’s a unique industry and fun to be in most of the time. Fishing/hunting trips from vendors and for customers are quite common. We participate in charity events like the calf scramble at the Houston Rodeo and quite a few charitable golf events like the one we do for Norah’s home which is a place for people waiting for organ transplants in the medical center.

What are keys to being successful?

    Hard work and constant communication with both customers and employees. I think what tops the list is having a good relationship with your team and vendors, though. If you can take care of them then the customers will reap the rewards.
    Hart Plumbing is a multi-family plumbing construction company that has been laying foundations for apartments for more than 62 years. -cmw

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Author Info
Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net