Take the $470-million expansion of the San Diego International Airport, completed in August, for example. "Turner went out of its way to make sure a lot of work went locally and to small, qualified minority businesses," says David Brush, master- plan program director for the San Diego Regional County Airport Authority.
Further, Brush had access to Turner's senior staff. "I've worked with other companies where you don't have any idea who anyone is beyond the small project team," he says. "They were able to mobilize really competent people."
It's the kind of attitude that Henry C. Turner demanded of the firm 111 years ago, when he started it. "We are awarded most of our work based on our reputation," he said at the time.
The firm's innovation awards also reflect a culture of innovation that began in 1902, when Henry Turner helped pioneer the use of reinforced concrete.
Today, Turner Corp. ranks on the 2013 ENR Top 400 Contractors list at No. 1 in domestic revenue, with $8.35-billion, and at No. 4 among U.S. firms in worldwide revenue, with $9 billion. Since a recession low of $7.5 billion in 2010, the firm has increased revenue every year and says it is on track to keep growing this year, inching closer to its record-high 2008 sales of nearly $10.5 billion.
Turner Construction provides construction management, CM-at-risk, general contracting and design-build services in addition to preconstruction consulting, construction procurement, insurance and risk management services. TI primarily provides all levels of project management services (see sidebar, p. 36).
Turner released an IPO in the 1960's. Though publicly traded, it was family operated until Howard S. Turner retired in 1978. In 1999, Hochtief AG, an Essen, Germany-based construction company—also publicly traded—bought Turner Corp. for $370 million. Since then, Turner's revenue has nearly doubled, and it has added at least 1,000 staff.
In 2011, the Spanish construction company Grupo ACS bought majority interest in Hochtief AG, which owns Hochtief US. "Turner decides independently on issues of operating the business," says Marcelino Fernández Verdes, Hochtief's CEO. There is, however, a regular exchange of construction strategies, experts and technology for key projects.
Hochtief US also owns Flatiron Construction Corp. and Turner Surety and Insurance Brokerage, and Turner Construction owns a handful of other construction firms, some of which are jointly owned with Flatiron.
The company tree isn't going to get simpler, says Davoren. He intends to keep purchasing companies that will allow him to expand into new markets.
"We'll do anything within reason"— taking on more work in specialty trades, taking on more risk and insuring itself against potential losses—says Davoren.
"We weren't performing our own concrete work in Texas or Seattle or Oregon, but we are now," says Davoren. "And 10 years ago, we didn't own a company in Canada. We do now."
More Self-Performed Trades
Davoren's interest in self-performing and self-insuring may mean less dependence on high-priced unions subs, especially when price competition with other major prime contractors is intense.
Sometimes, a subcontractor's low bid is more important than its reputation for quality work when price is paramount for Turner to win a job, says one union sub who declined to be named. "Turner still looks for the lowest-priced [sub], if it is locked into a low price with an owner," he says.
Turner Construction's portfolio includes New York City's Yankee Stadium, Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and, recently, the San Diego Public Library and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia expansion. Its less celebrated work is its bread-and-butter. Interiors made up 25% of the firm's 2012 revenue, and education, research and development, and health care made up 32%.