For almost two decades, Will Pender has been preparing for his new role, Gulf States president at Adolfson & Peterson (A&P).
After graduating from college, Pender started working at Seattle-based R.W. Beck, where his father was principal and senior director. There he did cleanup and restoration after natural disasters, such as hurricanes in Alabama and Florida. After working on his own and spending 14 years at Rogers-O'Brien Construction in Dallas, Pender landed back at A&P four months ago.
As his career progressed at multiple companies, he worked his way from what he describes as "boots on the ground," to project engineer, project manager, senior project manager and even spent some time in estimating. Over the past six years, he has focused on business development and business operations.
Pender will lean on that wide variety of experiences as he steps into the regional president role. As supply chain backups and labor shortages continue to plague the industry, he will need to navigate a number of obstacles. But the growth in sectors like industrial and multifamily in Texas present plenty of opportunities for construction companies in the region.
Here, Construction Dive talks with Pender about the obstacles and challenges he sees in the business.
The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Out of all of the issues that have crept up since March 2020, which challenge do you see being a consistent issue in the future?
WILL PENDER: This supply chain shortage is everywhere — from roofing to overhead doors, glass, electrical conduit and HVAC equipment. Things are bogged down in the ports. The factory and manufacturers haven't ramped up enough to get the supply not only to the construction industry but also to the grocery shelves.
Then there is also the labor shortage. We're just constantly trying to find good talent from the bottom up — folks that work in the field, quality tradespeople and folks in the office that help us run our business. We're finding labor shortages across the board.
How are you dealing with these material shortages?
It starts at our pre-construction phase. When we're involved in the preliminary phase of the project, we're talking to our owners. And we're saying, "Hey, we have enough information right now to lock in the steel. We have enough information right now to lock in the roofing material. Do you mind us going ahead and locking it in writing with an LOI [letter of intent] and committing dollars to that?"
We're starting to lock in our materials before the drawings are even done. Before shovels are put in the ground, our owners are committed to those materials. And then once they arrive, we're putting the materials into bonded warehouses just to have it on hand when we do need it.
What about on the labor side? In what ways are you handling this complex issue?
We're locking in our trusted trade partners that we've been working with for years and committing to them. The market has a lot of good trade partners out there, but we're relying on our trusted partners. We’re committing to them early and saying, "This project is coming down the line. We're going to commit it to you, as long as you can commit the resources to us."
In some instances, we're actually teaming up trade partners where one may not have the availability [to do the job], but they may have the availability on procuring the resources. We have a mason that didn’t have the manpower but called another one to help out. We see a lot of collaboration within the trading partner world just to get laborers out onto the job.
Also, in our A&P office, we want to create an environment where people want to work and have a sense of home and a sense of belonging. I think that's a big deal coming out of this pandemic. As people are working from home, they want to still feel like they have a workplace family.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for your firm?
I think there are two things. Definitely, the industrial market is booming right now with all of the Amazons of the world, online retail and how everybody has shifted away from brick-and-mortar retail to more of an online environment. Here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, they just can't build it fast enough. The multifamily market down here is still booming. If you build it, they will come and pay whatever rent the market bears.
We also see office construction coming back, probably more toward the spring or summer of 2022. There will still be some work from the office type environments because companies want to spread their culture and knowledge. We also see experiential retail coming back, but the big box retail might not come back strong.