With 110 years of experience in the New York region, Turner Construction knows how to weather a recession. The firm learned a tough lesson in diversification during the late 1980s and 1990s, when commercial contractors suffered from the overbuilding in that sector. Since then, the New York-based company has created core competencies in a broad range of sectors, limiting its participation in commercial and residential work while expanding its relationships with institutional and government clients.

“That paid off [during] the economic problems of 2008,” says Charles F. Murphy, senior vice president for Turner's offices in New York. “We were able to get more of the market share, because those [available] projects were core competencies of ours.”

For Turner, the payoff is stability during uncertain times. While many of the region's top contractors saw revenues fall off significantly last year, Turner remained relatively flat at $1.9 billion, compared with $2 billion in 2009. It helps that the team garnered contracts on numerous high-profile projects, including the $676-million Madison Square Garden Renovation, a $291-million medical care and research center at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in Buffalo and the $2.5-billion Two World Trade Center, which was the largest area project to break ground in 2010.

For its proven results during one of the toughest construction markets in decades, ENR New York has named Turner Construction its Contractor of the Year.

Diversity in Action

Health care, education and interiors, which are strong sectors for Turner, remained active during the recession. About 25% of Turner's work is in health care. In 2010, for instance, the company began a $70-million expansion of St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside, N.Y.; a $60-million Tisch Hospital elevator and lobby upgrade at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York; and a $340-million facility for University Medical Center of Princeton in Plainsboro, N.J.

“We have people who have worked in these institutions and understand [that they] operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Pat A. Di Filippo, executive vice president of Turner's New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland region. “You need close contact with nursing staff and doctors to make sure nothing [you] do ever puts what they do in danger.”

In the education sector, the New York City School Construction Authority awarded Turner a $54.7-million contract to build PS 51 The Elias Howe School.

In interiors, Bloomberg LP contracted Turner to provide construction management services on an $80-million, 300,000-sq-ft interior fit-out of its New York offices. Turner's interiors business has grown by a third in the last two years, according to the company.

Despite a difficult commercial market, Turner also picked up office projects in 2010, including the $100-million, 325,000-sq-ft The Green at Florham Park in New Jersey, which will serve as BASF's North American headquarters after completion in 2012. Other projects in this sector include Canon USA's new $400-million headquarters in Melville, N.Y., which broke ground last year.

Key Relationships

Long-standing relationships in established markets factored heavily into many of Turner's recent wins. Repeat clients represented 75% of Turner's regional business in 2010. “Having relationships and people who had the right skill set always put us in a preferred position,” Di Filippo adds. “We were never trying to reinvent ourselves for a new product type.”

Turner has worked at Yale University and at Yale-New Haven Hospital, both in New Haven, Conn., on multiple projects during the past 40 years. Norm Roth, senior vice president of administration at Yale-New Haven Hospital, says the hospital continues to call on Turner because of the quality results and competitive pricing it delivers. Turner completed Yale-New Haven's Smilow Cancer Hospital, Children's Hospital and the South Pavilion renovation last year on time and under budget. The company is currently renovating the emergency department facility.

“Many of the people we work with today were junior members 20 years ago,” Roth says. “To a certain extent, they have grown up on Yale-New Haven jobs.”

Advancing the Profession