The article below is courtesy of Tony Adams and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
It's not every day that a construction project manager gets to launch his new job with a 32-story office building in the heart of a fast-growing city.
But that's what happened to Randy Hall in the late 1990s, when he was tasked with overseeing completion of what is now known as 3 Wells Fargo Center in the heart of Charlotte, N.C.
The roughly $100 million project was completed in 2000, with Hall following that up with work on the upscale Radcliffe Condos on the same city block of the office tower.
"My assignment was in Charlotte on one block for my first five years with the company," said Hall, 51, who ultimately rose through the ranks to succeed Raymond Moody as chief executive officer of general contractor Batson-Cook in early 2013. He took the reins as president the year prior.
Today, Batson-Cook is headquartered in nearby West Point, Ga., with offices in Atlanta and the Florida cities of Jacksonville and Tampa. Hall, an Auburn University graduate, worked seven years out of West Point, relocating to Atlanta with his rise to CEO.
The company, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015, has left an indelible mark on the Columbus landscape. Its projects include business, education and city structures, with the National Infantry Museum at Patriot Park one of its crowning achievements locally, Hall said.
The Ledger-Enquirer talked with the CEO recently about his job, the projects his company tackles with its 350 employees and myriad subcontractors, and the Columbus connection. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
So it's not normal for land such a large project as the Wells Fargo building out of the gate?
That's not normal. I really think I was blessed, is the only way I can put it. At the time it was the company's largest project. I was assigned to a leader that still works for our Atlanta office, just a great mentor, and I was put with some really good field staff, and we had a good time and did some nice work. I was just real fortunate.
At the start, did you ever think you would reach the level of CEO?
That wasn't in my mind, of course. At the time I was building projects. When my work ended in Charlotte -- I was living in Peachtree City at the time and commuting back and forth -- I came back to Atlanta.
At the time our president named Raymond Moody needed someone to run our West Point office ... He asked me if I would run the West Point office. I was certainly interested in that. And I really enjoyed my seven years in West Point mainly because of the Columbus area. We decided to re-engage in Columbus in a big way, and I got involved with the local chamber there and met a bunch of really good people.
In 2009, Raymond shared his succession plan to me ... I needed to be moved to Atlanta to run that office to fit into his overall succession plan because he was thinking about retiring at the time. I ran that office for two years and he made me president of the company in 2012, and in 2013 he officially retired and I moved into the president and CEO spot.
Do you travel a lot; what's a typical day like?
We have four offices and six business unit leaders, really qualified executives that run different markets for us. So my interaction is with those executives.
We have a chief operating officer and my interaction day to day is with the chief operating officer and our chief financial officer, and together we communicate with our six business leaders.
Do you try to visit key projects or are you in the office a lot?
I'm in the office quite a bit. My primary role as CEO of the company is to set the vision for the company, being plugged into sales, and to oversee and maintain profitability. So a lot of that is office time, a lot of that is involved in presentations, presenting our company to folks that are interested in doing business with us.
Next week, for example, I'll be visiting a job for a building in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday, and then I'll fly the next day to Houston, Texas, to see a job, and the next day I'll go up to Knoxville, Tenn., and look at some jobs. Once a month, I try to spend a couple of days on job sites.
Do you do a lot of work in Texas?
Our mission is to do work primarily in the Southeastern United States. With the exception if a client takes us outside of the southeast. We have a particular client that has asked to build a project in Dallas, and one in Houston.
So to keep things organized, you must have a really good assistant?
I do. But more important to that is the key to any successful organization is putting the right people in the right place and then trusting them to do the work. And we have some really qualified folks and I trust them.
What are the biggest projects you're working on now?
We do a lot of different types of work, but what we're doing a lot of today is health care, and we're focused on manufacturing and then private commercial work. I guess our largest dollar-volume project that we have ongoing today is in the neighborhood of a $55 million project. We probably have five or six projects that are in the $50 to $60 million range.
What are those top projects?
We have a high-rise luxury apartment building in that $50 million range going on in Raleigh, N.C. We have a similar one in Dallas and Houston, and then one in downtown Atlanta, and we just broke ground on a $50 million similar high-rise project in Tampa. Those particular projects are called SkyHouse luxury apartment high rises.
On the health-care side, we're doing a $35 million project in Newnan (Ga.) for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and we're about to start a $115 million hospital up in north Atlanta for Northside Atlanta.
At any given time, how many projects are you working on?
Those are what we would call larger projects. At any given time we may have 10 to 15 going on. And then we have a multitude of smaller projects that range from $250,000 up to $20 million.
Your company goes back many years in Columbus. Is this city one of the places where your presence is most noticeable?
It is and we absolutely love Columbus. With our company being founded in West Point, Ga., Columbus was closer than Atlanta. There are projects ... I believe over at Fort Benning someone in our group saw a nameplate dating back to the (1920s) on a construction project. In recent years, we've worked on Columbus regional library; we worked on two really neat large projects for Aflac; for Columbus State we did a performing arts center; and, of course, the whitewater rafting venue.
What are your thoughts on Columbus in general. Does it stand out to you compared to other cities you've seen?
To me it does. I think it's got fantastic leadership and energy that a lot of cities do not have. Being involved with the chamber exposed me to that energy. Columbus is certainly a target market for Batson-Cook.
Do you get down to Columbus often?
I do. I'll be down there next week. It's not like I used to, but I do go down there and keep in touch with several folks in the community.
Why does the National Infantry Museum project stand out to you?
That is what we call a purpose-driven project. Some of the projects we build are not so easily tied to purpose. But that's a special project we think about every year. In fact, our West Point office gathers veterans up and takes them to the museum on Veterans Day every year to remind the folks at Batson-Cook of the purpose of the building, as well as to invite veterans from around the state to go and see it.
Is there anything Batson-Cook can't or won't build?
The things we won't do is any civil road-related projects, interstate projects. We don't do heavy road projects, but we did do the bridge (with the statues) there leading into Fort Benning. We were asked to participate in the planning of that bridge.
What's Batson-Cook's annual project total?
We expect to do somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million this year.
Is that an all-time high or about average?
This year we will be back to the numbers that we were at in 2008 when the economy started going bad.
That's means the economy must be improving?
We feel like it is. We're doing more pre-construction work, meaning estimating and working on projects that are on the drawing boards, than we have in six years.
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