Community Spirit Is Driving Force at Ryan
In the nearly 30 years since Ryan Cos. opened an office in Phoenix—the third outside of Minnesota and the first outside of the Midwest—the firm has become enmeshed into the fabric of the state while continuing to develop and self-perform at a high level.
The company found significant success in 2018, seeing a greater than 100% increase in revenue in 2018 to $273 million. But Ryan Cos. also further bolstered its community credentials in 2018, providing no-fee services on a 40,000-sq-ft family resource center for community caregiver St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix.
Chuck Carefoot, senior vice president for the Southwest, says Ryan’s investment into the fabric of the Arizona community was integral to being positioned to take on some of the most high-profile projects through the recession and then finally landing the biggest project in the state post-recession: the $900-million, multibuilding, 2-million-sq-ft Marina Heights development in Tempe, completed in 2017. He cites the 190,000-sq-ft Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, the $50-million, 200,000-sq-ft FBI headquarters in North Phoenix and the $250-million Maricopa County Court Tower—all of which were completed from 2010 to 2012—as establishing and strengthening the company through the recession as other firms were scrambling for work.
“Our growth is happening in part because we have a reputation of being steady and consistent and putting the complete focus on our customer,” says Carefoot. “We went through our fair share of pain in 2007, but the people we were able to hire through the recession is part of our ability to attract great people today. We were one of the few to have that good fortune.”
In 2018, the company completed the 271,000-sq-ft regional headquarters for health care firm McKesson. In 2019, the company has several high-profile projects on tap, including a 160,000-sq-ft multi-tenant structure in the Novus Innovation Corridor on the ASU campus in Tempe. The firm also performs steady work for internet retailers, including Amazon.
For these achievements and others, Ryan Cos. was named ENR Southwest Contractor of the Year.
Home Away From Home
Ryan Cos. may be based in Minneapolis, but according to Carefoot, it is an Arizona company, too. And, as a graduate of Arizona State University and one of the first Ryan employees hired in Arizona, he says ties to the Southwest distinguish the company from other national organizations who do work in the Southwest.
“We are by and large the second-largest office in Ryan’s national portfolio, and we are a leader here more than in any other market outside of Minneapolis,” he says. “I have worked hard to represent Ryan as an Arizona company. Arizona is a great, independent place to be. It is not the same as every state, and it is different than Minnesota.”
Molly Ryan-Carson, daughter of former CEO Jim Ryan and senior vice president of real estate development and market leader for Ryan’s Southwest region, agrees. She cites John Strittmatter, Southwest region chairman, as integral to the Phoenix office’s success in that he provided a road map for expansions into other cities.
“The Phoenix office is the third office opened in Ryan and it has always had a special place in my heart. John Strittmatter, who opened this office and came from Minnesota, gave us one of the best examples of how you ‘pod’ Ryan culture into another office,” she says.
Ryan-Carson adds that part of the company culture is being involved in the community in action, means and spirit. She says all employees are required to volunteer in the community, adding that in 2018, Ryan Cos.’ Phoenix office donated more than $150,000 to local charities
“We are a service industry. Our job is to make cities, states and places better, and you don’t get to do that without being part of that community. We give a lot, but we better keep giving because there is a great need for it,” she says.
Steve Attwood, chief operations officer for St. Vincent de Paul, says Ryan Cos. walks the talk about community. The family resource center for the volunteer service organization was the first capital project for the group in more than 25 years, he says, adding Strittmatter told him the first time they spoke about the project that the company would waive its fee.
“Not only did they waive their fee, but they also absorbed some costs, in my opinion,” Attwood says. “I would recommend Ryan Cos. to anybody.”
Deliver and improve
Community involvement remains integral to Ryan Cos., but the heart of the firm is developing projects and building things for clients. Ryan-Carson says the company likes to find a balance of third-party construction work and “about 50% working for ourselves.” She adds that desire for balance stretches to even saying “no” to a customer because they constitute too large a percentage of their third-party construction activity in order to not get overcommitted.
“We develop, we build, we property manage, we find financing. We can’t get lazy. It keeps us nimble and in front of our clients more,” she says.
Heidi Kimball, senior vice president, Sunbelt Holdings, says they seek Ryan out regularly because the two companies have faith in each other’s quality and delivery standards. Sunbelt Holdings controlled Marina Heights land and regularly develops major projects throughout Arizona.
“We know that they share our values and that both sides have to win in order for a project to be successful,” she says. “We also know they build a very quality project. We don’t have to worry about enforcing standards because we hold the same goals.”
Carefoot says although the firm is recognized as a leading broker-contractor, it sought to expand its workforce and strengthen the self-performing aspect of its services through the recession.
“We have taken it upon ourselves to hire and groom a pool of laborers and carpenters that are Ryan employees,” Carefoot says.
Kimball adds that the quality staff of Ryan Cos. helps bolster the trust and delivery factors that also extend to the subcontractors the company hires.
“We will do everything we can to take care of subcontractors that take care of us. We pay on time. We will act in the manner we expect our subcontractors to act. People have choices about which projects they want to be on. You cannot get a quality subcontractor to be on your job when they have other options unless they know they want to work with us,” says Ryan-Carson.
Dan Puente, president D.P. Electric, says his company began working for Ryan 15 to 20 years ago, adding that the two companies have developed a strong bond. D.P. Electric provided services on the McKesson headquarters, for example, and is currently working on an Amazon fulfillment center for Ryan.
“Our experience with [Ryan] is they are very partner oriented. You feel you are valued and part of their team. They approach projects in a very productive manner. It is just refreshing,” Puente says. “There are a lot of GCs out there but very few of them built in the same mold. They want to hear from us. They are very fair and honest, but at the same time, they hold us accountable. They are a great group of people and a good partner. We would do anything for them.”