Spotlight On: James Caliendo, President & CEO, PWCampbell

Spotlight On: James Caliendo, President & CEO, PWCampbell

2022-11-15T11:16:06-05:00November 15th, 2022|Pittsburgh, Real Estate & Construction, Spotlight On|

2 min read November 2022 — PWCampbell is a fourth generation, full-range professional design-build, branding, and technology services organization, concentrating efforts on the design and construction needs of the financial, commercial and residential industries. In an interview with Invest:, President & CEO James Caliendo shared his insights into today’s construction landscape, discussing demand dynamics and internal generational changes.

What have been some highlights at PWCampbell over the last 12 months and where are your priorities moving forward?

The technology, branding and residential areas of our business have exploded. They have had their best years. Financial institutions are incorporating technology into their branches, but brick and mortar is not dead. Our high-end residential is performing very well, and the sector is secure even as inflation climbs. If you can afford to build a $2 million- to $5-million-dollar house, you are going to do it regardless of inflation. Our financial work has been good, more so with banks than credit unions. Our design build work is at a new high, and our volume base is going to be more than it has ever been. This translates to a good economic year for PWCampbell. 

Because of our growth, we had to add to our team and we did that in a very competitive high-priced market. We decided we needed professionals with more experience, especially during these times. Instead of looking for someone with five years of experience, we looked for people with 15 years of experience. That was very difficult in this time and they cost more than we thought, but we bit that bullet and brought them in. It is amazing to me seeing the difference already this year. The staff is more experienced than it has ever been and they are showing it.

We have a good mixture of experienced and young that work here. Each of our senior managers has been with us for 20 to 25 years. It is coming time that the two owners and myself hand over the reins to the new owners and senior management. The blending of age and culture has been very good for our overall operations. For example, there is absolutely no way I would have let anyone work from home. That is not me and that is not a choice I offered. As we hire younger people, this is becoming more of a mandate. They came in and made a change in our culture. We brought in Solutions 21, a company consultant to meet with us about generational changes and leadership in the modern day. It was interesting and we applied those learnings for a good result. 

What are the advantages or benefits of Pittsburgh? 

People think Pittsburgh is still a smokey manufacturing town, but if you visit there is none of that. Everyone will tell you that affordability is our biggest asset. If you want a $700,000 home in Pittsburgh, it is $1.5 million somewhere else. There has been an influx of activity in the medical and technology side, and this has brought a transformation for new housing developments. These cultural changes are white collar and are altering the blue-collar work aesthetic. I think it is great for the economy. We still maintain a hard-working attitude and ethic but are adding high growth industries. That is a winning combination.

What are your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge is getting the type of qualified people we want in the construction and design industries. Construction is booming and more companies are in Pittsburgh, so it is more competitive. Getting skilled construction workers and design professionals is our biggest challenge. In the past, we never used recruiters, but now we are working with six recruiters, and we are meeting the challenge. The market is so competitive, so as tough as it is to hire it is equally as tough to retain them. We believe fostering a long-term, good company culture keeps our people here for 10 to 20 years, and that is what the younger generation wants. Culture and companies that adapt to their personal and social needs is important to them.

How are you leveraging technology and innovation in your construction practices? 

We offer an array of branch technology solutions for the financial services industry from digital marketing, customer activated kiosks, iPad integration to all sorts of conference room technology. In many other industries, customer activation is a popular thing. Customers today can walk into a branch and have full access to information on all products and services. They print the information and eliminate the need for a bank or credit union’s brochures. Internally, like many other companies, our technology budget is exploding, and the biggest thing is cybersecurity. One of our competitors was hacked and it shut down the company. Our people must be up to date and educated so we can avoid this. Our technology security and usability are better today than it ever has been.

What is your outlook for the next couple of years?

We are heavily impacted by governmental regulation on financial institutions. Most of our business is with banks and credit unions. Rates overall are up, and some haven’t prepared for this and there is uncertainty. The regulatory environment is tightening up. The banking industry gets painted by broad brush that they are all fraudulent or greedy, but these community banks are well run and good to their customers. Uncertainty and the regulatory environment changes are a double hit, and the financial industry will slow down. We have to open in new markets to keep our volume stable, expand our residential and commercial construction, and bring our technology products to other industries.

Our technology will help banks and credit unions to reduce costs. We aren’t looking to do a lot new, but we want to spread our footprint to achieve the volume we need. The other challenge is consolidation of banks, and it will continue. There used to be 12,000 banks 25 years ago, but now there are more like 4,900. The pool has shrunk, so we have to keep getting better at all we do.

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