Ray Nunn of Nunn Construction Honored as 2016 Colorado Legacy Award Winner
Colorado contractor’s passion for making a difference in the community is evident on and off the jobsite
Colorado Springs general contractor Ray Nunn has spent his career building projects that matter. That includes dozens of churches and more K-12 schools than he can count, projects like the El Paso County Regional Building Dept.—one of the first LEED-certified buildings in Colorado Springs, which opened in 2004—and Pueblo’s Municipal Justice Center.
Ray says his firm, Nunn Construction, intentionally chooses to build projects “that make a tangible difference in our communities and for society.” Nunn Construction recently completed the first phase of an expansion for the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. The next phase is a daytime facility that will provide health and dental care and more self-sufficiency programs. Ray has hired three graduates of the program to help them “get back on their feet,” he says.
“Your organization is reflective of the people in it, and Ray’s been a big part of giving the company its personality,” says Ray’s son, Tyson, who took over the role of company president from his father last year. Since that transition, Ray, who is 67, focuses on community engagement and business development. He also continues with his role as chairman of the board and mentors key managers at the office.
“He’s always been focused on giving back and helping others. And we both believe in building for people who care about their buildings—the end users,” says Tyson. “What Ray’s passionate about goes hand in hand with [the mission of] his clients.”
Some of Ray’s favorite recent projects include a student center for Western State University in Gunnison, the Academic Office Building for the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, a student center expansion for Colorado State University in Pueblo and TriLakes Health Pavilion in Monument. He says he’s also “extremely proud” of Nunn’s projects for Focus on the Family and the Navigators, both in Colorado Springs.
“When I started the business doing so much work for nonprofits and religious organizations, people sought us out and gave us opportunities in those areas,” Ray says.
Building a Reputation
After graduating from the University of New Mexico’s engineering program, Ray spent the first three years of his construction career with Hensel Phelps in Greeley, Colo., where, Tyson says, “he came straight out of school and couldn’t read drawings, and a rough superintendent tried to run the college boy off.”
Hensel Phelps gave Ray a foundation in construction, and he fell in love with the industry. He moved to Colorado Springs to work for GE Johnson in the mid-1970s, where he spent seven years working on projects in Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado. He was promoted to vice president and, a year later, left to start Nunn Construction in 1983. He was just 33 years old.
“He’s always had this I-can-get-it-done attitude,” Tyson says.
Ray attributes that to being raised in the ranching business in New Mexico. “You were your own boss and learned to work real hard. It was instilled in me by my dad to have my own business. It had been planted in my brain since I was a little kid,” he says.
Ray and his wife, Nancy, ran the fledgling Nunn Construction on their own for the first few years. Their first project was a small addition to a church in 1984. Today, Nunn Construction employs 50 people from its main office in Colorado Springs and another 10 out of a small satellite office in Cortez, near where Nunn recently started four projects, including a large expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital.
“Integrity is the first thing that comes to mind” in thinking about Ray, says Jim Cook, a principal at LKA Partners. The Colorado Springs architectural firm has worked on several projects with Nunn over the years, including Vista Ridge High School, Elizabeth High School and Woodland Park Middle School, one of Nunn’s first big projects. “He’s a really honest man, and he puts that into his business; he’s fair in respect to schedules, time and cost, and has a very good team and top-notch people,” Cook says.
LKS Partners co-president and principal Jim Strange agrees. He recalls meeting Ray when they worked together on a pool addition at Rampart High School in the early ’80s. “Ray had just started his new company, and he had his little boy, Tyson, on his hip. It was a very interesting, complex project, and right off the bat I knew he had a great work ethic and business model.”
“When an owner of a project has any doubts about the quality of work, Ray will take remedial action, at any cost, to make sure [the project] is done correctly. This makes him stand out, and owners really appreciate that,” says longtime friend and colleague Berry Scovel. The two met 40 years ago when they worked together at GE Johnson on 1900 Grant, a high-rise in Denver. After Scovel retired from GE Johnson, he went to work at Nunn Construction.
“He supports his employees and does anything he can to help them, both professionally and personally, because he genuinely cares for them,” Scovel says.
Ray has worked hard over the years to balance his career with volunteer roles in organizations that are important to him. He was elected to the board of directors for the Colorado Springs Chamber, is an active member of Rotary Club Colorado Springs and worked on the advisory board at the Salvation Army for 15 years.
Ray has also served on the Foundation Board for the Colorado Springs Better Business Bureau and for Pikes Peak Hospice. “Our organization has benefited greatly from his strong business skills, including as a key member of our facilities committee,” says Martha Barton, Pikes Peak Hospice president.
Nunn Construction has been a member of the Associated General Contractors of Colorado for many years, and Ray has worked on the board of directors for seven years, including as chairman, vice chairman and a member of the AGC/C Management Committee, among others.