With an appetite for technically complex and otherwise demanding projects, and several recent, high-profile wins in both the building and civil sectors, PCL Construction Enterprises is flying high when other Southeast contractors are lying low.
From the recent success of its building division delivering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Universal Orlando, to its civil unit's lead on the bid-build-finance of a nearly $400-million interchange project in Tampa for the Florida Dept. of Transportation, PCL has a momentum uncommon in today's economy.
The latest evidence of its hot streak came in April, when the Orlando-based Southeast building unit, PCL Construction Services, beat out a half-dozen top firms to land the construction-manager contract for the $383-million Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center project for the City of Orlando. That same month, the Tampa-based civil division, PCL Civil Constructors, landed a $94-million design-build contract with FDOT to reconstruct the Flagler Memorial Bridge in Palm Beach County.
Those are the kinds of contracts that top Southeast firms can remember from the region's heyday. That PCL is winning such notable contracts in the hyper-competitive market of today, in both the building and civil markets, shows a company immune to some of the pressures affecting more specialized contractors.
“The three-pronged approach balances the company very well,” says Deron Brown, company vice president in Orlando, referring to PCL's building, civil and special projects divisions.
For these reasons and more, PCL has earned its recognition as ENR Southeast's Contractor of the Year.
PCL's building division has been a big driver of the firm's current momentum, building an impressive roster of completed and newly awarded contracts. The April win of that much-sought-after CM contract for Orlando's $383-million arts center project was just the latest, well-earned victory.
“PCL submitted a strong team with previous performing arts center experience in Denver and Canada,” says Tim Ackert, project director of the City of Orlando Venues Program, which includes the arts center. Ackert sat in on selection meetings but did not participate in the vote by members of the Orlando Community Construction Corp. “They did a good job on the submittal and presentation.”
The cash-strapped arts center project has been on financial life support recently, and only moved forward when members of the arts group's board of directors signed a personal letter of credit to overcome a potential funding gap. The pressure will be on PCL to find substantial cost savings and bring the high-profile project in under budget.
The seeds for that win may have been partly sown elsewhere in downtown Orlando, where PCL last year wrapped up the $32-million, 1,876-car GEICO Garage at the new Amway Center arena. The firm's accomplishments on this project, much overshadowed at the time by the larger, $400-million arena it would serve, would nevertheless prove to be a noteworthy feather in its cap when the firm competed for the city's arts center project.
Ackert praised PCL's efforts to secure unexpected LEED points on the garage project, for example, enough to elevate the project to Gold status, instead of the expected Silver.
Also, after construction began, when the city decided to add a rooftop helipad, PCL accommodated the structural modifications at no additional cost to the owner.
“They more than exceeded our expectations,” Ackert says. “I would use PCL in a minute as a construction manager on another facility.”
Apparently Ackert's not the only one. Entertainment owners have a long history of hiring PCL, which has handled more than 175 contracts for theme-park operators, according to Brown. That includes SeaWorld, which hired the contractor for its Discovery Cove Grand Reef attraction in Orlando, completed in 2010.