Building a strong future

Workers use a crane to lift a steel beam into place as construction continues on expanding The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown, Md. It is one of several major construction projects underway in the Crossroads Business Journal region.

Crossroads area contractors talk about the industry and the year ahead.

Story and photo by Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Construction work tends to heat up as the temperatures rise, and some area construction firms said they’re looking forward to continued growth this year.

The Crossroads Business Journal reached out to several construction companies in the region. Three responded.

Here are their views.

Tim Campbell

Timothy R. Campbell, president
Callas Contractors Inc.

“2019 should prove to be a year of sustained growth for the Tri-State area. For example, Procter & Gamble will be rolling out their new 2.5 million-square-foot facility in Berkeley County (W.Va.), where many other businesses will likely spin off for proximity convenience. Improvements to the local infrastructure should also spur an attraction to locate here.

“Along with growth there becomes an even greater challenge to hire and retain qualified employees. The average age at our company is over 50 years. We have the talent, but as we retire it needs to be replenished. Many are encouraged not to enter the construction trades sometimes due to an unfounded stigma. Today, mechanics can earn a terrific income with great opportunities for advancement. A college education can set someone back into excessive debt, meanwhile a career in construction will guarantee four or five years of productive revenue. There is a learning curve in construction, but it is hands-on job training.

“Callas Contractors is currently engaged in several projects. After tedious demolition and deep shoring activities, the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts five-story addition in the Arts and Entertainment District of Hagerstown (Md.) is beginning to take shape, coming back out of the ground. The Pohanka Fine Arts Center on the campus of Saint James School (in Maryland) will enhance the student body opportunities in music and art. A chilled water plant at Fort Detrick (Md.) will provide conditioned air to numerous buildings for laboratories in cancer research. A building at the Forest Glen annex to Walter Reed is being repurposed for vivarium laboratories. The reconstruction of the Waynesboro (Pa.) American Legion has just begun, and improvements to a Veterans Administration training center at the Clarion Inn in Shepherdstown (W.Va.) is in its second phase. It is fortunate that we are able to secure more local work than in the recent past.”

Greg Maciulla

Greg Maciulla, construction operations manager
Triple Crown Construction

“The economy and stock market are on the rise. Like Triple Crown, companies are growing and expanding. They are building and renovating hotels, buildings and other places of business. The entrepreneurial spirit has increased as new businesses are on the rise. Triple Crown is positioned strongly technologically. There are systems in place and being utilized providing economic efficiencies.

“The labor pool is light with the booming economy, and the talent is not deep. Those candidates with a vast skill set and depth of experience are highly sought and paid a premium. The craftsman is no longer valued. There are no resources being trained in the more mechanical areas of construction (electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, etc.). For those few who are interested, it is increasingly more difficult to obtain proper credentialed training.

“The tariffs/trade wars being instituted are driving costs and extending ship dates for product. Owners are forced to utilize alternate supply chains that are unknown and not proficient with the industry. The hospitality niche is extremely specialized and fast-paced, needing well-orchestrated scheduling and logistics in a timely manner.

“Triple Crown Construction has been and continues to work with the rebranding of hotels. As hotels are bought and sold, brands may also be converted to assist in the Ownerships portfolio. Our expertise in this niche market has proven to be successful.

“The renovation of guest rooms and public spaces continues to be robust with the hospitality industry. Triple Crown is working in several states servicing our partners of different brands to meet their specific requirements.

“Triple Crown is performing in the general construction arena on a local level to service our partners’ and neighbors’ needs. Bidding local government projects, private enterprise fit-outs and ground-ups and restaurants and specialty shops.”

Tim Cowan

Tim Cowan, division president, based in Williamsport, Md.
Dan Ryan Homes

“We had what I consider a very successful year (in 2018, selling 410 homes). We’re very excited about our new product offerings.”

Dan Ryan has added two product lines, aimed at different parts of the market, and added a couple of lines, aimed at different parts of the market.

One is the Heritage Series. “They’re a little more entry-level homes,” Cowan said. They feature 8-foot ceilings (instead of the standard 9-foot for Dan Ryan) and are built on a slab, rather than a basement. They are generally smaller but maintain quality features, such as 2-by-6 construction.

The other, the Elevate Series, is aimed at the 55-and-older market.

“My hope is we’ll have an Elevate community in 2019,” Cowan said.

Cowan’s division is looking forward to the development of The Overlook at Riverside Villages in Falling Waters, a multi-year project that will have about 130 single-family homes and 120 townhomes of various configurations.

“We’re going to be building single-family homes, townhomes. That’s a big project for us in 2019,” he said.

“Affordability and interest rates remain a concern. … Interest rates are close to historic lows,” he said, but those rates don’t feel low to younger homebuyers who haven’t lived through other times. Also, the market is seeing higher costs for property, materials and labor.

“It’s very cost-sensitive here. … You can only raise your home prices so much,” he said.

“My hope is we’ll do 435 to 440 homes (in 2019). We’ve been growing since we opened this office five years ago.”