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North Bay post-wildfire: Local construction firms talk about challenges, opportunities

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North Bay Business Journal asked 14 local firms at the top of this year's commercial general contractors list about conditions in an industry that has been hit with a labor shortage, demand for rebuilding thousands of homes destroyed by wildfires in the past 12 months.

Eddinger Enterprises

62 West North Street, Healdsburg; 707-433-5113; www.eddingers.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

Between 6 and 7 percent

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

Permit process, increase in costs, subcontractors work load.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Working closer with Sonoma County permit and resource development as well as being a member of the Healdsburg Planning Commission and being able to share our industry concerns with the county of Sonoma (Permit & Resource Management Department) Director’s Advisory Group. We work closely with planning and building in Healdsburg and are able to express our construction needs with city government.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Northern Sonoma County

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

We have been in business for 50 years and have some very long-term employees, as well as some newer employees we’ve been able to recruit over the past five years. We have a workforce of committed employees who are dedicated to our company and clients. We work together as a team which has contributed to our success and our ability to keep our very valued employees over the years.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

Vintners Inn — two new hotel buildings and spa; Golden State Cider relocating to Healdsburg; Capital Lumber storage building.

What is interesting about them?

Hotels are very challenging as they are very high end and time sensitive with multiple subcontractors to organize. The spa is unique with specifications that only fit a spa with indoor and outdoor pools.

Golden State Cider is moving to a larger facility as they are expanding their production, and although its an existing building, there are many changes that need to be made for such a special operation.

Capital Lumber is a very large lumber supplier in the western U.S. and needs more enclosed storage space as well as larger offices. One of the challenging things for Capital Lumber is that even though it is in the Healdsburg city limits, it is on its own water and sewer systems which makes fire requirements difficult.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

North Bay commercial market continues to grow because the North Bay is a special place. Hopefully we can find a way to satisfy our housing needs so that we’re able to keep up with the growth demands of the commercial market in our area. We have an abundance of great restaurants, hotels and world class wineries, but are in need of housing for all the workers.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

We have contracts for a large commercial building in downtown Healdsburg, as well as a new industrial building in Sauers Industrial Park in Healdsburg and three new custom homes. So, we think the construction industry will continue to grow at a pace we have never seen before.

Ghilotti Bros., Inc.

525 Jacoby Street, San Rafael; 415-454-7011; www.ghilottibros.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

10 to 12 percent

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Prop. 6 and their effort to repeal SB1 and sustainable infrastructure spending. (Vote No on Prop. 6!)

2. Dynamex Supreme Court ruling affecting criteria for owner-operators

3. Trained and skilled workforce availability

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

This is the single most important issue that will face our industry for the next 20 to 30 years, so to fight the Prop. 6 campaign we have set up a website to educate at www.noprop6.com, as well as a significant contribution to the No on Prop 6 campaign.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

For Ghilotti Bros., Inc., the heart of our work continues to be in the North Bay counties.

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

We are somewhat fortunate being union that we maintain a strong core of skilled and well compensated employees but to grow our business we will need to take an active role in training and developing the next generation of construction workers.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Highway 101 San Antonio Creek

2. Highway 29 repaving in Napa

3. Highway 80 repaving in Vallejo

What is interesting about them?

The single most challenging aspect of these projects is employee safety. Working at night can be hazardous, especially with some of these jobs paving next to live traffic and lane closures with no buffer lanes (lane without traffic next to the lane we are working in).

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

These jobs say that traffic congestion relief and safer roads are on their way. Counties, states and transportation agencies are investing in infrastructure to enhance the safe mobility of people, goods and services, to help our local economies grow and prosper.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

The outlook for local construction for 2019 is fantastic as long as Prop. 6 does not pass! If the repeal of the gas tax takes place it will jeopardize $50B of infrastructure spending over the next 10 years (some key North Bay Highway 101 projects) jeopardizing 6,500 projects and the repair of 1,600 deficient bridges, lose 682,000 high paying construction jobs and forfeit $183B in economic development.

Ghilotti Construction

246 Ghilotti Ave., Santa Rosa; 707-585-1221; www.ghilotti.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

Optimistically, it will grow 10 percent this year.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

The main challenge is finding a qualified skilled labor force, including operators, laborers, truck drivers, cement finishers, etc.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

The North Coast Builders Exchange set up a program called Construction Corps to get high school kids interested in construction and construction-related fields.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Napa County and Silicon Valley

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

The shortage of supply of labor in the South Bay, North Bay and East Bay makes it difficult to operate.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Ukiah Recycled Water Project: $22,357,358

2. Saggio Hills: $24 million

3. Highway 101 Widening- Petaluma: $27 million

What is interesting about them?

Ukiah Recycled Water Project: Procuring a disposal site for 200,000 cubic yards of export dirt off of the project.

Saggio Hills: It’s interesting because it’s Healdsburg’s brand new high end five-star resort hotel.

Highway 101 Petaluma Widening Project: challenging part is the multiple stages of configuration in traffic flow.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

Since the recession in 2008, the construction market is back to being strong in the North Bay. Although, there is a threat to public funding called Proposition 6 which will recall last years passage of a fuel tax bill. This will stop public funding for state roads, county roads and city roads.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

It is looking very strong. There is a lot of confidence in the marketplace, in consumers to buy houses, and developers to build residential and commercial properties.

Kirby Construction Inc.

York Saccomanno; 625 Ware Ave. Santa Rosa; 707-526-0880; www.Kirbycon.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

We have been very busy this last year working with some of our regular clients doing fire mitigation repairs, as well as providing service for new clients and existing clients. That being said, we expect our growth to keep pace with where we currently are. We would prefer to grow slow and steady so we can provide quality work and service on all of our projects.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

The biggest challenges facing our business this year is that many of our subcontractors are incredibly busy with fire restoration projects; that makes it difficult to provide a timely response to all job inquiries, as well as a fast turnaround with estimates.

Material costs are constantly changing and increasing. This, in turn, drives up the cost of building and sometimes that makes the project beyond our clients’ budget.

Lastly, finding and retaining great people that share our vision and want to consistently produce a superb product that our clients expect.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

We are focusing more on design build, where we can help design projects that fit our client’s needs as well as their budget.

With our workforce, we are encouraging and paying for further education and training. We are also doing community outreach to find new people to come into the trades, showing that working with your hands and seeing the fruits of your labor is very satisfying at the end of the day. The pay that they can earn is also extremely competitive in today’s economy.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Most of or work is in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties.

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

Safety has been our highest priority since our company’s inception. We want all our people healthy so they can contribute on every project. Great workers being at a premium these days means that we need to stay on top of our schedules and material flow, so our projects move smoothly and we can man projects as needed. Project management is even more critical these days to help ensure that work continues uninterrupted.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

Major reroofing project for a local tech company.

Clean-room reconfiguration and improvement.

Tenant improvement for new production and distributing.

What is interesting about them?

All projects are becoming challenging due to the fact that many of the materials we need to use have to be ordered and shipped. Companies don’t keep a surplus on the shelves anymore. Materials prices are ever-changing and increasing due to some of the tariffs that are being imposed, as well as shortages that are happening. Traffic also plays a key factor because of lost time for our employees trying to get from place to place.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

The North Bay’s building market will be very healthy for the next few years. Quality companies and people will be at a premium. The work that used to be done in a matter of a few weeks will take a little longer, and that’s so we need to be proactive in our planning.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

I think the outlook is good as long as the shortage of quality workers and materials doesn’t drive the cost of projects out of companies’ reasonable budget expatiations.

Ledcor Builders Inc.

550 Gateway Drive, Suite 215, Napa; 707-257-5231; www.ledcor.com/napa

How much is your business set to grow this year?

Our business is set to grow 10 percent this year.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Attracting qualified personal for increased workload.

2. Retaining current staff.

3. Material and subcontractor price escalations.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

1. Being part of a large company we have an extensive recruiting department that is always searching for new qualified talent. We can also draw qualified Ledcor employees from our other branch locations.

2. Competitive pay and benefit packages. We work hard to make sure the employees are challenged professionally and are supported and mentored.

3. We are constantly looking for qualified subcontractors to partner with and add to our deep pool.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

Clinic Ole health care facility

Twin Hills Winery

Fisher Winery

What is interesting about them?

The Clinic Ole health care facility has been a very rewarding and challenging project. The teamwork with the architect, consultants and ownership has been exceptional and is one of the reasons we are ahead of schedule and below budget.

It is also personally rewarding to the entire Napa branch to be a part of a project that will give back to the Napa Valley community.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

All construction sectors are busy.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

The North Bay marketplace will continue to be busy throughout 2019.

McDevitt Construction Partners

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 6, Petaluma; 707-763-3000; www.mcdevittconstruction.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

10 to 12 percent

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. A shortage of skilled construction workers

2. Labor and material cost increases

3. Building department plan review and inspection delays due to the overwhelming number of both new project and fire rebuilds

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

1. Constant communication with subcontractors regarding scheduling of current projects and upcoming opportunities. Continual development of existing staff and constantly looking for good people to add.

2. Proactive management of early material ordering, and fostering and maintaining relationships with key subcontractors.

3. Tighter inspection scheduling/monitoring to avoid potential multiple day delays.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Sonoma and Marin counties

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

1. Tighter scheduling of crews – updated on a daily basis

2. Selective overtime

What are your biggest jobs right now?

• 200 Nellen retail & office building – Corte Madera

• Hansel Auto Group – Honda & Acura – Petaluma and Santa Rosa

• Weatherford BMW - Berkeley

• San Domenico Dormitory – San Anselmo

What is interesting about them?

200 Nellen – this building has a drilled displacement steel pile foundation, lightweight fill under the parking areas, and a very elaborate and contemporary design

Hansel Auto Group – working in an operating dealership that is still selling and servicing vehicles requires a lot of preplanning for site logistics (customer traffic patterns and parking, staging of construction materials, etc.).

Weatherford BMW Collision Center – conversion of three separate zero setback metal industrial buildings into a unified state of the art BMW “certified” collision repair facility. Connecting the three standalone structures into one unified building and reskinning the exterior envelope with a modern façade.

San Domenico Dormitory – Condensed summer schedule and numerous unknown conditions in a building originally constructed in 1965.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

That it was and still is robust, not even counting the new fire-related work.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

Probable increased difficulty obtaining a trained, safe, and qualified labor pool for our subcontractors, suppliers, and other partners.

Continued growth, unless cost increases result in owners delaying projects.

Meylan Construction Inc.

3145 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael; 415 256-1620; www.meylanconstruction.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

15 to 20 percent.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Manpower, mostly skilled carpenters and qualified superintendents. The supply and demand issues are requiring that we pay top dollar for less quality labor and skill sets.

2. Subcontractor availability and ability to find sufficient manpower to keep projects on schedule.

3. Competitive pricing from subcontractors.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Hanging help-wanted banners on job sites and offices. Using recruiting websites, including Indeed, Glassdoor, Craigslist and Zip Recruiter. Getting the word out, asking existing employees if they have any friends or relatives, telling everyone I know, including dentists and barbers, that we are looking for construction trade workers.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

65 percent of our work is in Marin County; 20 percent in Sonoma County; and the balance in San Francisco and nearby East Bay (Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland).

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

Significantly, it restricts the amount of projects that we are able to take on. We could probably do another 50 percent volume if we had the labor capacity.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

All our work is commercial tenant improvements and typically range between $20,000 and $2 million. For the most part we typically have between 20 and 30 projects ongoing at one time.

Currently renovating Murray Engineering’s new office at 403 Fourth St., approximately $1.3 million, and two floors of renovation at 990 A Street, San Rafael.

Phase I is approximately $600,000 not including future build outs. 505 San Marin, Novato renovation of the third floor and other common areas on first and second floor, approximately $500,000.

What is interesting about them?

No two projects are the same.

They require understanding the customers’ businesses and how they operate in order to provide the results that will enable them to maximize their productivity. A significant number of projects are completed while still occupied and keeping the customers’ operations at full capacity during the construction phase has its share of challenges.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

The North Bay is vibrant and innovative and constantly changing. It has been exciting to have a front row seat and witness the new frontiers in technology and businesses that drive our local economies that are world leaders.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

We are optimistic that the supply in labor force and availability will increase significantly after the completion of the majority of the fire restoration. We are hopeful that the available workforce will become a well-trained and capable resource.

Midstate Construction

1180 Holm Rd, Petaluma; 707-762-3200; www.midstateconstruction.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

The last few years Midstate Construction has grown steadily at the approximate rate of 15 percent. The demand for construction has grown exponentially this past year and we expect our volume to grow approximately 45 percent this year.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Shortage of skilled labor

2. Shortage of entry level labor

3. Rapidly increasing construction costs

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Midstate is working diligently with local schools and programs to inspire students to join skilled construction trades. We believe by motivating and educating students of the career paths and pride of construction it will rejuvenate the work force and help ease the shortage.

Midstate Construction works hand in hand with ownership and their design team to carefully review the project and suggest any cost reduction items that would be beneficial.

The wisdom from 83 years of business allows creative and efficient advice that leads to projects commencing within the budget and schedule the owner desires.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Midstate Construction has experience in the Sacramento Valley, East Bay and South Bay but has intensified its work efforts in the North Bay.

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

Labor shortage has been a common thread affecting the North Bay for several years.

Midstate Construction has hired skilled craftsmen that enable us, as a general contractor, to self-perform tasks within a project. This option also allows us to supply relief to subcontractors that are in danger of falling behind schedule.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Altura Apartments - Petaluma

2. Crossroads Apartments - Santa Rosa

3. Hana Gardens Senior Apartments - El Cerrito

What is interesting about them?

All of Midstate’s projects involve aggressive schedules and budgetary restrictions. We have tremendous support from our committed subcontractor base that allow us to run efficiently.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

The North Bay residential construction market is booming. There is a real and apparent need for housing within our community.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

We expect local construction to continue to grow rapidly within multi-family and hospitality projects. The pressing need to accommodate housing needs and tourism continue to drive the construction industry.

Jim Murphy & Associates

464 Kenwood Court, Suite B, Santa Rosa; 707-576-7337; www.j-m-a.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

25 percent

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. It was difficult to face the fact we don’t have the capacity to help all of the former clients who have reached out to us to rebuild after the fire. There are more than 20 of them.

2. Quality Labor. At JMA, perfect is only barely acceptable, so the expectations of our team are very high. Finding craftsmen that understand our dedication to quality of work is a real challenge.

3. Scheduling. Everyone is pretty busy. Planning has always been a priority for JMA, but even more so now that access to qualified subcontractors and suppliers is more of a challenge.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

1. While the rebuilds are not our main focus, we are taking on a few. We’ve all worked a lot more hours than normal to help where we can.

2. Mentorship. JMA participates in mentorship programs and community outreach programs to find young people with strong work ethics and core values that want to develop into craftsmen.

3. Precision planning. We are publishing schedules to secure subcontractors and materials three to six months in advance.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Sonoma and Napa counties

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

What used to take us two hours of planning a project now takes 10.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Vérité Winery in Healdsburg

2. An estate home in Healdsburg

3. Another estate home ­— a fire rebuild — in Napa

What is interesting about them?

1. One of the areas JMA excels in is commercial construction during existing operations. The winery needs to stay completely operational while we conduct our activities in the same area.

2. We added a gym to the main house, making the entire home now longer than a football field.

3. With the fire rebuild, the owners had just moved in in early 2017.

Rebuilding the same home over again has made for a more efficient project than the usual experience. Since the client changed very little this time around, nearly all the decisions involved in material selection, shop drawings, finishes, appliances, etc. had already been made.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

We were pretty well booked up before the fire, and have a huge backlog now. There is a very strong construction market here, even outside of the fire rebuilds.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

Both our private commercial work and our estate home building are very strong.

Nordby Construction Services

1229 N. Dutton Avenue, Suite C, Santa Rosa; 707-526-4500; www.nordby.net

How much is your business set to grow this year?

We are currently projecting a 30 percent increase in revenue over last year.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Labor availability

2. Material and labor cost increases

3. Tariffs and trade wars

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

1. Securing subcontractors and suppliers earlier

2. Pre-purchasing materials

3. Creating action plans to address these concerns with the clients.

There is no way to avoid them, but there’s strategic ways to manage and forecast them.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

The bulk of our work is in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Mendocino counties.

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

Everyone is experiencing the labor shortage and we are no different in that regard.

What we have found is that if we set the expectations with the client on the current market trends, we are able to manage the labor shortage in a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach.

We are focusing on the type and the size of our projects, not the number of projects, so we do not have to expand our team. This protects us from being required to bring on people to fill roles that might not have the capabilities to fill and are unproven.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Signorello Winery

2. Billa Landing

3. Fountaingrove Country Club

What is interesting about them?

The Signorello Winery project is interesting because it is highly publicized. After losing their main facility to the 2017 fires, the winery is rising from the ashes with a new hospitality building, fermentation building and wine caves.

Billa Landing is a commercial warehouse development in Santa Rosa that is one of the only new commercial spaces available in Sonoma County. With the current market at only 2 percent vacancy rate these buildings are in high demand.

The Fountaingrove Country Club is interesting because it was burned in the Tubbs Fire last year. The rebuilding gives the club the unique opportunity to rebuild a club that represents Sonoma County and its beauty after a devastating event. The club’s new motto is “One Club, One Community.”

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

These projects say that the North Bay recovers in spite of disaster.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

A large percentage of our work is in the wine and hospitality industry, and these industries are currently showing no sign of slowing down in 2019.

Pacatte Construction Co., Inc.

5560 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, Santa Rosa; 707-527-5983; www.pacatteconstruction.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

We are set to double our work load this coming year.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Finding the right help in the construction trade.

2. Winter weather conditions out in the field.

3. Scheduling and overcoming labor and material shortages.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Willing to take the extra time to train and hire who’s willing to learn.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Santa Rosa and Windsor areas

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

It has been a struggle to find quality help.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. 56,000 sq. ft. metal/concrete building,

2. 45,000 sq. ft. single family home

3. 40,000 sq. ft. concrete building

What is interesting about them?

We are diversifying between housing and commercial.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

Seems to be in an upswing as commercial is branching off into the residential housing increase.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

The outlook for 2019 is good. We have begun work on projects for the coming year.

Precision General Commercial Contractors

300 Turney Street, Sausalito; 415-332-8390; www.precisiongc.com

How much is your business set to grow this year?

25 percent

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

1. Skilled labor availability.

2. Timeliness of building. inspections

3.Uncertain material pricing.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

1. Greater outreach to the subcontractor and labor markets

2. Schedule inspection 10 to 30 days in advance of inspection date

3. Work with subcontractor to lock in prices

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Northern California

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

Negatively

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

38 North, Santa Rosa, 120 multifamily units.

Pullman lofts, 72 units, Santa Rosa.

Napa apartments, multifamily, 115 units.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

If you can build it they will come.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

Excellent.

Western Builders

1400 N. Dutton Ave., Suite 7, Santa Rosa 707-542-3213; www.westernbuilders.info

How much is your business set to grow this year?

20 percent.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business this year?

Subcontractor and supplier availability.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Casting a broader net to pool resources.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

North Bay Area, Napa and Lake counties

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

The challenge has increased.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1.Redwood Credit Union.

2. St. Rose Church restoration.

3. St. Joseph’s medical facilities.

What is interesting about them?

Unique construction means and methods and fast track approach.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

The construction market is alive and well.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

2019 will maintain a steady stream of construction opportunities.

Wright Contracting

3020 Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa; Branch Office: 1303 Jefferson St., #200A, Napa; 707-528-1172; www.wrightcontracting.com

How much is your business set to grow this year (percentage growth in revenue over last year?)

We expect approximately 5 percent revenue growth.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your business this year?

Even before fires struck the region in 2017, construction activity was surging and we found ourselves regularly fielding questions and concerns from existing and new clients, such as “Is this a good time to build?” and “Do you have the resources to take on my project?”

And, after the fires, “How much have costs gone up?”

These three questions, along with subcontractor availability and material lead times represent the greatest challenges we currently face.

What actions are you taking to overcome them?

Is it a good time to build? This is a very difficult question to answer.

Is now as good a time to build as three years ago?

No.

Is now better than it is going to be next year?

Probably. Our response really depends on the immediate need of the client. If an owner is intent on building now, we work with the owner and design team to select building types and materials that can be procured and erected in a time frame that will meet the owner’s expected occupancy date.

Certain building systems have shorter lead times and construction durations than others and, depending on the intended use of the building, we provide valuable input so that the structure is designed with those materials and systems in mind.

How much have costs gone up since the fires?

The fires have impacted costs in a few different ways. Quite simply, the laws of supply and demand have resulted in a premium being placed on resources that can be turned toward rebuilding homes as there is such a dire demand.

While we have certainly felt the impact, because our business is mostly commercial, we are not as directly impacted as residential builders. There has also been an increase in costs of materials- not necessarily because of the fires, but rather due to overall demand and, to a degree, the recently imposed steel tariffs.

One piece of advice we give clients regarding controlling costs is that there are advantages to locking in a general contractor early in the design and planning process because value engineering is then provided from the get go.

As soon as designs take shape, a knowledgeable general contractor can make recommendations regarding which materials or building elements should possibly be substituted to decrease costs and which materials should be purchased early due to long lead times.

Do you have the resources to take on my project?

This question was largely answered under the “Is this a good time to build?” question, however there is another aspect that touches on how we provide the same, high level of service with an increased number of projects to manage.

We have successfully increased our staff over the past year to take on the larger project portfolio and we are also addressing this challenge through the use of technology. Project management software, such as Procore, which we use to manage large volumes of information is critical for improving the efficiency of communication, especially on large projects with multiple stakeholders who need to keep apprised of issues that arise, changed conditions, schedule updates, etc.

Because all team members can access the information 24/7 via the cloud-based software, it alleviates the need for the project manager to communicate the same information to multiple stakeholders individually and to update and keep documents in multiple locations.

We have also benefited from a natural consequence of these busy times- the creation of opportunity.

It is in times like these when people rise to the occasion, expand their knowledge base and enjoy greater opportunities for growth. Though it may be painful at first for a project manager to carve out the time to train someone newer in their career, such as a project engineer or a junior project manager, the payoff is big, as they are then able to delegate responsibility, cover more ground and allocate resources to provide the greatest benefit to clients.

This stretches the team’s capacity and ensures that clients are receiving the level of support they deserve even in very busy times. Newer, younger employees hoping to advance their careers enjoy more rapid career growth have the opportunity to step up, learn quickly and meet greater challenges.

Where geographically is the bulk of your work these days?

Mostly in Sonoma and Napa counties

How is the supply of labor for your crews affecting how you operate?

In addition to the increase in staff and use of technology, we are fortunate that our reputation allows us to depend on an excellent team of responsive and reliable subcontractors. Because our company is large and known for being fair, paying subs in a timely fashion and providing a steady workflow, we benefit from greater responsiveness from subcontractors than other companies in the area, which helps us overcome challenges presented by the supply of local labor.

What are your three biggest jobs right now?

1. Montage Healdsburg Luxury Resort

2. Rancho Cotate High School Theater, Auditorium & Gymnasium

3. The Meadows of Napa Valley Assisted Living

What is interesting about them?

This represents a perfect mix of the industries within which we build: hospitality, education and healthcare and multifamily housing. As a company we intentionally diversify our mix of projects, never knowing when changes in the economy can dramatically impact a particular type of project.

Each of the three projects presents a different set of characteristics that shape our approach.

The Montage project is on an undeveloped, 258-acre sloped site with a specific Stormwater Pollution Prevention (SWPP) Plan that requires that the utmost environmental protection efforts be put in place.

The Rancho Cotate High School project is on an occupied school campus over the course of two years, which means that a commitment to student and staff safety and minimized disruption shape every decision made on the project.

The Meadows of Napa Valley project is also on an occupied site. The interesting thing about this project is that the residents and the Wright team meet regularly to discuss project status, concerns and questions, which has created a uniquely close relationship between the team and the residents.

What do these jobs say about the North Bay construction market?

These projects represent what seem to be strong and growing markets. Due to the timing of recent bond measures and the growing population in our community, the volume of school projects appears to be quite large and steady for the next few years.

The hospitality market in the region, both in terms of hotels and wineries, is growing strong. Regarding the project at the Meadows, due to the size of the population passing retirement age and thinking about downsizing and living in a community environment, the assisted-living construction industry also seems to be a steadily growing phenomenon.

What’s the outlook for local construction activity in your specialty areas in 2019?

We have many winery projects at the moment in the Napa Valley and some upcoming projects in Sonoma County, so we see this as a continuing growth trend. Even larger than that, however, is multi-family housing and hotels.

Due to the devastating impact of the fires on our housing and hotel supply, we have been approached by a number of developers about large housing projects and hotel (new and re-build) projects. We expect this to be a growing part of our business over the next few years. School projects are also expected to continue.

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