Amid Success, Balfour Beatty Strives to Keep Getting Better
For the first time in five years, Balfour Beatty Construction's Southeast revenue topped $1 billion last year—a 15% gain over 2013. That's a solid increase for a firm ranked No. 2 in the Southeast, and well above the average growth rate of 11.2% reported by the other firms in this year's top 10.
A geographically diverse range of public- and private-sector work is keeping the company busy. Projects range from the Hotel at Marion Square, a nine-story, 208,000-sq-ft boutique hospitality hotel in Charleston, S.C., to the $124-million, 7.5-mile final section of the Interstate-140 Wilmington Bypass project in North Carolina. Balfour Beatty is also building 300 South Tryon, a 25-story, 634,000-sq-ft office tower in Uptown Charlotte and playing a role in the estimated $500-million Avatar project at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom.
For most firms, that list of projects would make 2014 a pretty good year. And for Balfour Beatty, it contributed to the firm's selection as ENR Southeast's Contractor of the Year. But chairman and CEO Mark Layman just wishes it were better.
"The market does continue to improve," he agrees, "but it's not back to 'good.'"
Don't get Layman wrong. He says the Southeast has been "a core of strength" to Balfour Beatty's U.S. growth since the British-based parent company purchased Centex Construction in 2007, as well as a welcome contrast to the financial challenges the company faces on a broader global basis.
Layman is also encouraged by the Southeast market's increasing strength and the opportunities it has provided, particularly in the active multifamily sector, which includes such projects as the 350-unit 33 Peachtree Place in Atlanta and the 400-unit Solitair Brickell in Miami.
"We just need to get back to a more broadly robust market," he explains, "and I believe we're on the way."
It's also essential to Layman that Balfour Beatty continue to grow "the right way" in a hotly competitive region by being both balanced and disciplined about its project pursuits.
A sharpened focus to complement its inherent versatility has benefited Balfour Beatty across the Southeast transportation sector, where its infrastructure portfolio includes a two-contract, $237-million role on Charlotte's $1.2-billion LYNX Blue Line light rail extension and two Savannah-area projects: a $27-million flyover interchange for King George Boulevard and the $14.4-million Back River Bridge replacement.
"We're working hard to stay true to costs and bid responsibly," says Mark Johnnie, vice president and Southeast regional manager with Balfour Beatty Infrastructure. "We're also starting to look at larger projects with a design-build focus, which requires a skill set that not everyone can offer."
Today, "It's not enough to be good at managing design and construction. You also have to understand the dynamics of working with other partners," he says.